Rockingham is a small village in north Northamptonshire. Its main thoroughfare is lined with 15th to 17th century cottages built from local red ironstone, with thatched or stone slate roofs mined from the nearby Collyweston quarries.
Rockingham Village © Travel About Britain
Rockingham's mighty castle dominates the settlement, which began life as an ancient hill fort overlooking the Welland valley. Iron Age and Roman remains have been discovered in the locality and it is likely that the Saxons had defensive fortifications here.
William the Conqueror built a large fortress at the top of the hill, which later became a royal residence. It was much visited by English Monarchy, including King John, who came to hunt in the nearby forests, covering much of Northamptonshire at that time. Elizabeth I gave the castle to the Lord Chief Justice and his son-in-law Edward Watson, who fully restored it. The estate has been in the Watson family since that time.
Rockingham Castle Gateway © TAB
The entrance gate, with its twin round towers, is part of the original fortification from Edward I's era, although most of the internal buildings are of Tudor origin.
Many interesting treasures can be found within, including artifacts belonging to King John and Henry V. It was believed that King John hid his jewels in the grounds but recent excavations failed to find anything. A large collection of important 18th-c English paintings are on display along with some good period furniture.
The attractive gardens which surround the castle are blessed with magnificent views across the Welland valley. The site of the keep is now a rose garden backed by terraces and hedges, including a famous 400-year-old lumpy bumpy hedge of yew. A wild ravine garden, further down the hill, contains over 200 varieties of trees and shrubs.
Thatched Cottages in Rockingham Village © Travel About Britain
It is believed that the village was established to provide dwellings for the workers at the castle. The settlement was designated a Borough in the 12th-c and later a "Towne" by Royal Charter of Elizabeth I. Much of the original village was destroyed during the Civil war and the 13th-c. St Leonard's Church was severely damaged. The church was rebuilt in the 19th-c. and contains a large work commemorating the 1st Earl of Rockingham.