Sunday, 30 September 2012

Woodstock Hunting Lodge, Palace and Manor

Henry I of England built a hunting lodge here and in 1129 he built seven miles of walls to create the first enclosed park, where lions and leopards were kept. The lodge became a palace under Henry's grandson, Henry II, who spent time here with his mistress, Rosamund Clifford. 

Woodstock is near to Oxford and close to  important medieval routes from Northampton to Salisbury, Winchester, and Southampton, and from London to St. David's through Gloucester, Hereford, and Brecon.  It was also very close to Eynsham Abbey.

Extract from

[For the following curious and highly interesting account of the ancient Palace of Woodstock we are indebted to Mr Dunkin whose History of Oxfordshire we have before alluded to they are from his Manuscript Collections and are therefore more valuable. Ed.]


The town and manor of Woodstock (anciently written Vudestoc, i.e. woody place) constituted a part of the royal demesne from remote antiquity, and was honoured with a regal residence in the Saxon times. King Ethelred is believed to have held a Wittenagemot here, and the illustrious Alfred here translated Boethius Consolatione Philosophiae.

Succeeding kings also regarded it as one of their chief palaces, and annexed thereunto a deer-fold for the pleasure of the chase, called in Domesday-book parca silveslris bestiarum. To this Henry I. in the eighteenth year of his reign appended an enclosure for a collection of wild beasts, which he procured from foreign princes; a novelty which at that time excited so much attention as to occasion the vivarium by way of eminence, to be denominated "the Park" and misled our ancient historian, Rous, to assert that it was the first formed in England.

Tenanted by the lion, leopard, lynx and William de Montpellier's gift "the wonderful porcupine" then first seen in the country and gravely asserted by Malmsbury"to be covered with sharp pointed quills, which it naturally shot at the dogs which hunted it," no wonder this place attained celebrity; though it does not appear to have greatly differed from the Saxon deer-fold, excepting in the smallness of its dimensions, the contrivance of dens, and being bounded by a lofty stone wall.

In 1123, King Henry I. removed his court from Dunstable to Woodstock, where on Wednesday, the third day after Epiphany, riding out in his deer-fold deeply engaged in conversation between the bishops of Lincoln and Salisbury, the former suddenly exclaiming "Lord king I die" fell from his horse and being carried home speechless died on the following day. -- Saxon Chron. sub an

In 1140 during the eventful struggle for the crown between King Stephen and the Empress Maud, Woodstock was garrisoned for the latter.

Her son, Henry II, resided much at Woodstock, and on an adjoining spot constructed a residence or tower for his adored charmer Rosamond, the second daughter of Walter, Lord Clifford, which he surrounded with a labyrinth, whose mazes no stranger could possibly unthread. This lady he is believed to have first seen in one of his visits to Godstow Nunnery, soon after he attained the English sceptre, and having triumphed over her virtue, to have here secluded her from the jealous eyes of his queen; a woman of tainted reputation, much older than himself, whom he had married solely from motives of ambition. In this "bower," it is said, he spent some of his happiest hours in wanton dalliance, and by Rosamond had two sons, William Longspe, afterwards Earl of Sarum, and Geoffry, Archbishop of York. To this amour New Woodstock owes its origin; and one of the public records thus gives the history of its foundation-- "The site was a waste place without the park of the king's manor, where his men at a great distance intercommoned, until the beginning of the reign of Henry II; but when that monarch, enamored of Rosamond Clifford, often sojourned at Woodstock Palace, found the accommodation of his retinue at so great a distance as Old Woodstock, attended with serious inconvenience with the unanimous assent and consent of his peers, he granted divers parcels of the said waste to different persons for the purpose of erecting houses thereon for the use of the men of the said king." The reserved rents were trifling, and under royal auspices the town increased and improved; and for a further benefit he granted them a market to be holden on Tuesday in every week, from which his bailiffs collected toll and rendered account thereof yearly at his Exchequer.

In 1163 Henry II held a great council at Woodstock, when divers grants of lands given to monasteries were confirmed; and in July Malcolm king of Scotland here did homage to king Henry and his son. Seven years after, 1170, prince Henry then lately crowned kept his Christmas here and in 1175 king Henry and his son held another great council in the week before Midsummer, wherein Geoffry the king's son by Rosamond, exhibited a dispensation from the pope for his birth and age, to enable him to exercise the office of bishop of Lincoln, to which he had been previously elected.

Stowe asserts the decease of Rosamond occurred in 1177, a period which admits of her having been the mistress of Henry for upwards of twenty years. Contemporary historians seem to have studiously thrown this amour into shade, and Bromptpn and Knighton -- X. Script 1151 and, 2035-- simply state that she died soon after the completion of the splendid apartments constructed for her use at Woodstock. Later chroniclers however, according to Hearne, upon the slender authority of a ballad of the fifteenth century, have propagated tales of tragic pathos, touching her concealment herein from the jealous queen, until in a luckless hour that dreaded personage discovered her at the outward door of the labyrinth, and instantly pursuing, was guided into the recess by a ball of silk which Rosamond dropt at the first alarm, a part of which adhering to her garment acted as a clue. That the queen at entering her apartment was struck with amazement at her beauty, but recovering from its effects, planted a dagger to her breast and compelled her to swallow poison.

In the absence of authentic documents it must now for ever remain doubtful whether she was "discovered, upbraided, and so dealt with" by the queen as more credible writers admit. Still it is universally agreed that her decease took place during one of the king's visits to the continent, and that on his return he was so distracted at her loss, that he hastened to her grave and commanded it to be opened that he might once more see and take a last farewell of her much loved remains. He then constructed a costly tomb, covered with a silk pall over the body which her parents had interred before the high altar in Godstow Nunnery, and caused wax lights to be placed around it and kept continually burning. Thus it remained fourteen years; when in the second year of his successor, Richard I., it was destroyed by order of Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, as unfit for the sight of the chaste sisters. The nuns, however, so much esteemed their late benefactress and companion that they re-interred her bones in their chapter-house, and themselves and their successors carefully preserved her cabinet and several other memorials till the dissolution of their society in the reign of Henry VIII. Her portrait is yet preserved in the manor house of Kidlington wi th that of Lord Clifford.

Notwithstanding the bower had lost its fair tenant, Woodstock was not deserted by the king, for he knighted his son Geoffry, Duke of Brittany, in the palace on the 8th of the ides of August in the following year, A.D. 1178, and in 1186, herein entertained William, king of Scotland and gave him his cousin, the lady Ermengard, daughter to Lord Beaumont in marriage; the ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the royal chapel, and the nuptials celebrated with great magnificence.

Foot note: Henry embarked at Portsmouth, August 17 1177, for the continent to endeavour to retard his son Richard's marriage with Adeliza, the French king's daughter; and having spent six months in regulating his foreign dominions, landed July 15th following in England Hoveden. Annal. p. 320 Benedict Abbas, 61 p 230-242 
Footnote:  The following account is given from a book written in the fourteenth century-- "It bifel that she (Rosamond) died and was berid whyle the kynge was absent. When he came agen he wolde se the body in the grave. And whanne the grave was openned there sate an orrible tode on her brest between her teetyes, and a foul adder begirt her body about her middle, and she stanke so that the kynge ore none other might stande to se the orrible sight. Thanne the kynge dyde shette agen the grave, and dyde wryte theese two verssis upon ye grave --
 "Hie jacet in tomba rosa Mundi, non rosa Munda,
 non redolet sed oiet, quae redolere solet."

 King John also frequently resided here, and built a chapel for the use of the inhabitants of New Woodstock, wherein he founded a chantry in honour of "our lady" and endowed it for a chantry priest. A part of it still remains on the south side of the present church as noticed by the author of "Woodstock". Its revenues were increased by a small endowment of Henry VI.

Woodstock was visited by King Henry III in 1228 and 1235; three years after being again resident at the palace, he narrowly escaped assassination. A priest, named Ribbaud, who was either insane or feigned himself so, climbed through a window by night into the chamber of the king and queen. He was discovered while entering by Margaret Bysett, and taken to Oxford where he was torn in pieces by wild horses. Henry again resided here in 1241, and at the feast of the assumption of the Virgin invited hither and entertained Alexander, king of Scotland, and most of the English nobility, with great splendour. This monarch gave the tithe of Woodstock Park to Godstow Nunnery. Cart 15 Hen III. 7 

Edward I. called a parliament at Woodstock in 1275. A.D. 1301, herein was bom Edmund, his second son, by queen Margaret, called from thence Edmund of Woodstock.

In December, 1326, Isabella, queen of Edward II., then triumphant, caused divers royal games to be here celebrated.

Edward III. was much attached to this place and his son Edward, termed the Black Prince as well as Thomas his sixth son, were born at Woodstock. In honour of the latter event, solemn jousts and tournaments were here held, which were attended by great numbers of the nobility. The court of this monarch and his successor, Richard II, were graced by Geoffry Chaucer, a native of this place, and the first poet of the age. His house was situated at the right angle of an area before the present usual entrance to the Park, but the whole was pulled down about sixty years back, excepting a small fragment, and a portion of some outhouses now forming part of a malthouse.

Richard II. was frequently here; and in the thirteenth year of his reign, A.D. 1389, kept his Christmas at the palace, when a tournament was held in the Park, at which John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, then only seventeen years of age, was unfortunately slain by John St. John, the lance slipping pierced his body, and causing his bowels to gush out.

Most of the succeeding kings of England occasionally visited Woodstock; and Henry VI. granted a charter of incorporation in 1453, although it had previously been a borough by prescription. Henry VII. added considerably to the buildings of the palace, particularly the front and principal gate, on which was his name, and an English rhyme, importing that he was the founder. It was in this gatehouse, according to Warton, that princess, afterwards Queen Elizabeth, was imprisoned. The apartment in which she lodged remained, until taken down by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, as specified in a former number; its original arched roof was formed of Irish oak, curiously carved, and painted blue, with gilded ornaments. 

The visits of Queen Elizabeth and James I. are amply detailed in the "progresses" of those monarchs, published by Nicholls. In the civil wars of the seventeenth century, the palace was defended by Captain Samuel Fawcet with much skill and courage, who intended to have buried himself beneath its ruins, had it not been surrendered by commissioners from the king.

In 1649, after the decollation of King Charles I., commissioners were sent hither for the purpose of surveying the royal property. These fanatics profaned the principal apartments in the most improper manner. But their triumph was soon interrupted by a combination of strange events, which filled that credulous age with wonder, then believed to be caused by the Devil, but afterwards discovered to be contrived by the ingenuity of a humorous royalist, who had procured the situation of secretary to the commissioners. The details by the pen of the resident clergyman, Mr. Widdows, may be found in Plot's Nat Hist c. 8 38-45.

Cromwell allotted the building to three persons: two of them, about 1652, pulled down their portions for the sake of the stone; but the third suffered his tore main which consisted of the gatehouse abovementioned and some adjoining ruinous buildings. After the restoration of King Charles II it reverted to the crown and was inhabited by Lord Lovelace for several years.

The manor and park remained in the crown till the 4th of Queen Anne, when her Majesty, with the concurrence of Parliament, granted all the interest of the crown in the honour and manor of Woodstock and hundred of Wootton, to John, Duke of Marlborough, and his heirs, as a reward for his eminent military services against the enemies of his country, by the service of presenting, on the 2nd of August in every year, for ever to her Majesty and her successors, at Windsor, one standard or colours with three fleur-de-lis painted thereon, as an acquittance for all manner of rents, suits and services due to the crown, which custom is still scrupulously performed. The ruins of the old palace were taken down by Sarah, Dutchess of Marlborough, at the recommendation of Lord Treasurer Godolphin.
-- Dunkin's MSS. Collections for Oxfordshire.

 Other References

Thomas Miller (1839). Fair Rosamond; or, The days of king Henry ii. pp. 19–.

Agnes Strickland (1841). Matilda of Flanders. Eleanora of Aquitaine. Lea & Blanchard. pp. 269–

William Fordyce Mavor; Woodstock Blenheim palace (1820). New description of Blenheim [&c., by W.F. Mavor.. [on large paper. cm.20].]. pp. 94–

Reuben Percy; John Timbs (1826). The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction. J. Limbird. pp. 9–

Sir Walter Scott (1832). Woodstock, or, The cavalier: a tale of the year sixteen hundred and fifty-one. Baudry's Foreign Library. pp. 22–.

 Edward Francis Finden; William Finden; Sir Walter Scott; Charles Tilt, John Martin (1834). Landscape Illustrations of the Waverley Novels: Ivanhoe to Woodstock. C. Tilt. pp. 79–.

Arboricultural Journal: The International Journal of Urban Forestry
Volume 5,Issue 3, 1981

Thomas Keightley (1841). The History of England: In two volumes. Fair Rosamund Note G: Longman. pp. 555–.

The History of England. assignment from Mr. Knapton. 1757. pp. 326–.

Alison Weir (2011). Eleanor Of Aquitaine: By the Wrath of God, Queen of England. Rosamund de Clifford: Random House. pp. 171–. ISBN 978-1-4464-4902-8.

Edward Marshall (1873). The Early History of Woodstock Manor and Its Environs: In Bladon, Hensington, New Woodstock, Blenheim; with Later Notices. Visits of Becket to Woodstock: J. Parker and Company. pp. 59–.

John Henry Parker; William Grey (1842). A Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford. J. H. Parker. pp. 115–.


  1. I like this service Evolution Writers from Academic Writers. I don't have enough time write it by myself.

    1. Are you suggesting that I should use this service to compile my blog posts? I personally don't approve that students should employ such services to write their school essays for them. Why should the rich cheat their way through school by such means?