Once a palace, Holdenby house was built
in 1583 by Sir Christopher Hatton to entertain Elizabeth
I. He described it as the last and greatest
monument of his youth. When he died in 1591 he had
amassed huge debts. He was broke and pennyless. The
palace passed to the Crown to pay off those debts and
became a popular choice for King Charles
I who stayed there on a regular basis. For his
successor and son, James
I, it became a prison after his defeat in the
Civil war against Cromwell. Before the King could escape
he was removed by 500 of Cromwells soldiers and taken to
a safer place before being executed.
Holdenby Palace was the largest private house in England with 123 huge windows but was soon to become just an eigth of its size. The Palace was sold to a parliamentarian, Adam Baynes, who reduced the palace down to a single wing on the orders of parliament after the death of of the monarch James 1st.
What can be seen today is the kitchen wing of the former palace. After a brief return to royal ownership, the house was bought by the Duke of Marlborough in 1709.
Near this town is the ancient royal house of Holmby, which was formerly in great esteem, and by its situation is capable of being made a royal palace indeed. But the melancholy reflection of the imprisonment of King Charles the First in this house, and his being violently taken hence again by the mutinous rebels, has cast a kind of odium upon the place, so that it has been, as it were, forsaken and uninhabited. The house and estate has been lately purchas'd by the Dutchess of Marlborough; but we do not see that the house is like to be built or repair'd, as was at first discours'd; on the contrary it goes daily to decay.
It has been passed down the
female line to its present owners, the Lowthers. A huge
20 acre grade 1 listed Elizabethan and Victorian garden
is open to the public and the house is now the setting of
many corporate functions and weddings. Interestingly, the
Lowthers can trace their history back to 940AD and have
produced more members of Parliament than any other family
in England. It's possible they had a member of parliament
in the castle when Northampton castle was home to
Falconry displays take place
on each Sunday during the summer months. The trainers are
knowledgeable and eager to answer any questions. You can
even have your photo taken holding the birds. It's not
often anyone can get the chance to get this close to
birds of prey so it's well worth the visit.
The serialisation of Charles Dickens Great Expectations starring Gillian Anderson, Ray Winstone and Douglas Booth to mention just a few, was one of the BBC's big dramas over the Christmas period of 2011. Holdenby House featured as the exterior of Satis House, the home of Miss Havisham.
Holdenby’s beautiful exteriors and interiors have both been used to great effect for a number of Film & TV productions from the feature film of Biggles to TV series, The Woman in White & Take a Girl Like That. The house was also featured in a recent Channel 4 production about Winston Churchill and appeared in David Dimbleby’s series, How Britain was Built.