The House from a circa 1900 postcard
Built / Designed For: William the Conqueror
House & Family History: Rockingham Castle started out as a fortress built by William the Conqueror on the location of an earlier fortification. In 1095 the Castle went down in history when the English bishops sided with William II in a dispute with the archbishop of Canterbury. The council held at Rockingham to settle the dispute was one the first recorded assemblies of state. Later, Rockingham became an important royal hunting lodge where many Norman kings held court, including King John, who was a frequent visitor to the Castle. At the end of the 13th century Edward I was the last monarch to carry out repairs; it was during these alterations that the entrance towers were changed from square to curved shapes. In 1530 Edward Watson leased the Castle from Henry VIII; the Watsons restored the Castle and made significant alterations that transformed Rockingham into a comfortable country house. In 1646 the Keep was destroyed by Parliamentarians, who attacked the Castle during the Civil War. After the Civil War the Watsons repaired most of the damage and continued to live in the House. In 1695 the Yorkshire estates of the 2nd Earl of Strafford were inherited by his nephew, Thomas Watson of Rockingham Castle, who moved to Yorkshire and there helped to create the great dynasty at Wentworth Woodhouse. Watson family descendants still live today at Rockingham Castle. Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to Rockingham during the 19th century and wrote a large portion of "Bleak House" during his stays, drawing inspiration for Bleak House's Chesney Wold from Rockingham. Dickens often performed in his own plays in the Long Gallery at the House.
Collections: Rockingham contains a fine collection of English 18th, 19th, and 20th century paintings.
Garden & Outbuildings: The grounds contain a 400-year-old elephant hedge.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. III, 1820.
Country Life: L, 44, 76, 102, 1921.
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Current Seat / Home of: James Saunders Watson; Watson family here since the 16th century.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home