More Local History

photograph of Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle
Within the parish of Broomfield lies Leeds Castle, which has been described as 'the most beautiful castle in the world'.

Leeds Castle probably dates from Anglo-Saxon times, some evidence suggests that one of King Ethelbert's councillors erected a castle on the site in 978AD. No mention is made of such a castle in the Domesday Book, which suggests that whatever structure existed at the time was unoccupied and therefore untaxable.

Indeed, the idea of Leeds Castle having been built as a fortress - as is the case with Dover, Rochester and Tonbridge castles - would appear to be senseless as, for military purposes, Leeds holds no strategic position and defends nothing but itself. Perhaps it was for this latter reason that Robert de Crevecoeur erected a fortified donjon in 1119 where the present castle stands.

Further details of the Castle's subsequent history, its acquisition by the crown, its two sieges, its return to private ownership and, on the death of its last owner the Hon. Lady Baillie, its passing into the hands of a Foundation Trust may be found on the Leeds Castle website.

A photographer's dream, Leeds Castle has featured in films such as Kind Hearts and Coronets, in several television series, adaptations of the works of Shakespeare and has also had its share of famous visitors - Queen Elizabeth visited in 1981.

photograph of HM The Queen's visit to Leeds Castle

Segovia has visited, Pavarotti has performed there and, in 1978, American, Egyptian and Israeli politicians used Leeds Castle as a secure venue for peace talks.

Leeds Priory

Elsewhere in the locality exist the remains of Leeds Priory, founded by Augustinian monks in 1119, on land provided for them by Robert de Crevecoeur the then owner of Leeds Castle.

Robert, a religious man, invited some Black Canons of the Augustinian Order (so named for the colour of their robes) to come over from France and take up residence close to the castle - where they could say Mass for his soul.

It is possible that Baroness de Crevecoeur quickly began to tire of having her slumbers disturbed by the chanting of the monks at 4 o'clock each morning because Robert soon decided to move them. They were offered a plot of land some distance from the castle - where they could continue to pray for Robert's soul without disturbing anybody's sleep but their own.

On this extensive tract of land they built a Priory which flourished for over 400 years until its dissolution in 1539 by Henry VIII's henchmen under orders from Thomas Cromwell. Up until its dissolution the Priory supplied priests to the Church of St. Nicholas in Leeds village, which was situated on a hilltop a quarter of a mile away from the Priory

There is little left on the site of this once magnificent group of buildings, but the village abounds in stone walls with, here and there, traces of monastic architecture embedded in unlikely places, bearing evidence to the fact that the locals were quick to avail themselves of the abundant supply of free building materials providentially supplied for their use.