The old Palace of Woodstock

 

 

This engraving probably shows the castle as it might have appeared before King Charles’ day: even in 1551, it was described as decaying. Construction started in 1129 by King Henry I, who also built a seven mile wall all around to create the first enclosed park in England: a safe space to accommodate wildlife, to which he added exotica such as lions, leopards and porcupines from his menagerie. His grandson, Henry II, spent happy times here with his mistress, Rosamund Clifford, who gives her name to Rosamund’s Well, in the grounds of Blenheim. Many succeeding kings visited Woodstock, and Henry VII added to it, building the front gatehouse where the future Elizabeth I was imprisoned by her sister Queen Mary between 1554-8. Both James and Charles Stuart liked to hunt in the grounds. With the fall of Oxford to Parliament in 1646, sack and further decline awaited the Palace. In 1720, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough had the remaining ruins knocked down and the stones removed; Blenheim Palace was built nearby. The site of the old Palace may now be located by a stone plinth set up in 1961.