Buckden Towers

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Buckden Towers


Buckden Towers.jpg
Entrance to Buckden Towers
Type: Fortified manor house
Grid reference: TL192677
Location: 52°17’39"N, 0°15’9"W
Village: Buckden
Built From 1175
Condition: Used as a Christian retreat

Buckden Towers, formerly known as Buckden Palace, is a 12th-century fortified manor house, located on High Street in Buckden, Huntingdonshire.

Buckden Towers was once a palace of the Diocese of Lincoln, and later the place where Catherine of Aragon was detained by King Henry VIII after their marriage was dissolved.


Although it is often stated as being built in the 15th century, the first (wooden) Palace was actually built in the late 12th century, when records show it as being used to house the Bishops of Lincoln. Subsequently the wooden structure was replaced by more substantial buildings and a tall brick tower was added in 1475, protected by walls and a moat, and surrounded by an outer bailey.

Many noble visitors have come to the building, willingly or otherwise. It hosted King Henry III in 1248, Edward I in 1291, and Richard III in 1483. Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, came in 1501.

From July 1533 to May 1534, Catherine of Aragon was detained here - Henry VIII’s first Queen, Catherine was held during "the King’s Great Matter", namely his divorce form Catherine. In May 1534, the discarded queen was transferred a few miles away to Kimbolton Castle, where she died in 1536. She would eventually be buried in Peterborough Cathedral.[1]

King Henry VIII himself stayed here with his fifth queen, Catherine Howard, in 1541, during a summer tour of England before Queen Catherine's coronation. It was during this tour that Catherine would be accused of committing adultery with Thomas Culpeper which led to her beheading for treason in 1542.[1]

On 16 July 1551, Henry, Duke of Suffolk and his brother Lord Charles died here from the sweating sickness. They had come to Buckden to avoid the sickness at Cambridge.[2]

In the 1630s the Bishop of Lincoln John Williams (later Archbishop of York) held state at Buckden, entertaining his neighbours with lavish displays of hospitality.

The antiquary Edward John Rudge published a history, Illustrated and Historical Account of Buckden Palace, in 1839.[3]

Parts of the complex were demolished in 1832 on the orders of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The Victorian House now present on the site was built in 1872.

The building was sold, and bought by the Roman Catholic Church. The Claretian Missionaries acquired the site in 1956 to use as a Junior Seminary; the Junior Seminary closed in July 1965. Since then the Towers complex has been developed by the Claretians as a Retreat and Conference Centre. Also located on the site is the Catholic Parish Church of St Hugh of Lincoln, which stands on the site of the great chamber of the mediæval palace and was originally built as the chapel for the Junior Seminary. The grounds, but not the buildings, of the Towers are open to visitors at all reasonable times but dogs are not permitted.


The Towers are a scheduled monument and a Grade I listed building.[4]

Little now remains of the bishops' moated palace except the great tower, the inner gatehouse, part of the battlemented wall, which used to surround the inner court within the moat, and the outer gate and wall.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Buckden Towers)


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1] Buckden Palace Page on Cambridge Military History Website, accessed 10 January 2015
  2. Strype, John, Ecclesiastical Memorials, vol. 2 part 1, Oxford (1822), 491
  3. Dictionary of National Biography, Vol 49 : Rudge, Edward
  4. Buckden Towers – Heritage Gatehouse