Leeds Castle

Kent, United Kingdom | C.1119

Photo Credit: Elena Shamis

Leeds Castle in Kent, England, 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Maidstone, is built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len to the east of the village of Leeds.

A castle has stood on the site since 1119, the first structure being a simple stone stronghold constructed by Robert de Crevecoeur which served as a military post in the time of Norman intrusions into England. In the 13th century, it came into the hands of King Edward I, for whom it became a favorite residence, and in the 16th century, Henry VIII used it as a dwelling for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The castle has been open to the public since 1976.

The castle library, pictured here, was used as a small dining room by the Wykeham Martin family from 1822, and redesigned almost a century later by Lady Baillie as a schoolroom, where her daughters received their very early education. In 1938 Lady Baillie and her designer Stephane Boudin reorganized the function of each room in the new castle, and the schoolroom was transformed into a library.

During World War II, the castle also served as a field hospital run by 10 Company Royal Army Medical Corps to treat wounded servicemen, and this library was used as a ward for recuperation. The room was emptied of its fine furniture, and the bookcases were boarded over with the books still in place. The faint nail markings left on the front panels of the bookcases can still be seen today.

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