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Thornbury Castle Hotel. Stay in an authentic Tudor Castle near Bristol.

11/03/2024 by .
Thornbury Castle Hotel

Michael Edwards steps into Tudor Times at Thornbury Castle Hotel where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were also guests.

Edward Stafford was the man, the creator of Thornbury Castle, who dared to take Henry Vlll to court. Stafford, with an ego that matched Henry’s, lost his legal claim to be appointed High Sheriff of England by Henry and lived. Temporarily.

As England’s second richest man, Stafford, aka the 3rd Duke of Buckingham,
began his Grand Designs dream property in 1510. Although the arrival of gun powder had diminished castles’ ability to survive a siege, Stafford still desired his very own castle of crenellations, arrow slits and fairy tale towers. Today you can take 77 steps to climb the tower to the Catherine of Aragon bedchamber to sleep the night in a 10 feet wide bed.

Thornbury Castle Hotel

Thornbury Castle Hotel is a place for superlatives. That is the widest hotel bed in Britain, located in the only Tudor castle offering accommodation, in what was the last castle built in Britain. But within the outer courtyard where up to 300 staff could live, essentially Stafford’s (illegal) private army, the inner sanctum was a palace.

The Duke had inherited Thornbury Manor House but that was not enough for his massive ego. He applied to Henry to build a castle. The last such application in English history. Probably less form-filling back then than required for a conservatory today.

From 1510 until his execution for treason on 17th May 1521, Stafford invested £1,000 a year into construction. And his grand project was still not complete.

On Stafford’s death, Henry acquired the castle and stayed there, with Anne Boleyn, for 10 days in 1535. Book early if you’re planning a four poster stay in the octagonal Henry Vlll suite at The Times’ 2021 Best Romantic Hotel.

Thornbury Castle Hotel

Thornbury Castle Hotel

If the Henry Vlll suite is booked, there are another 26 regal bedchambers, often with four poster beds, dark wood chests, chandeliers, dressing tables and sumptuous armchairs. These are palatially majestic bedchambers rather than mere hotel rooms. In case we had forgotten our history, Stafford’s coat of arms is etched into the glass of our shower door.

On a 90 minute tour of the property our guide tells us that Stafford, a descendent of King Edward lll, believed he had a better claim to the throne than Henry Vlll. Stafford’s litany of titles above the entrance door and carvings of his sealed knot heraldic coat of arms continually demonstrates his ego. So arrogant was the man that he never thought that his end was nigh when Henry summoned him to London.

From Tudor times onwards, when Queen Mary returned the castle to the Stafford family, the castle declined into a state of disrepair until a Victorian renovation. Then in the 1960s chef Kenneth Bell saw the castle’s future, opening a restaurant with a few rooms. It was an attractive proposition that appealed to celebrities such as Sophia Loren and Laurence Olivier.

David Campbell, Executive Chef at Thornbury Castle’s 3 AA Rosette restaurant is building on that fine dining tradition. There is a helipad for foodies eager to fly in for dinner and an overnight stay.

Thornbury Castle Hotel

Henry Vlll would have approved of the grandeur of Thornbury’s restaurants, one has a minstrels’ gallery whilst the other has Henry’s portrait looking down on proceedings. It is doubtful that the gluttonous Henry would have approved of the food.

When Henry arrived with his court, possibly in excess of 200 mouths to feed, food was provided on an industrial scale. More primeval roasted hunks of meat than delicate braised shin of beef with roasted carrot, onion crumb, pomme puree and red wine sauce.  Equally, Henry’s chefs wouldn’t have been serving pan roasted halibut with salt cod mash, BBQ gem lettuce, brown shrimp and mussels. There would probably have been beheadings if the spiced quinoa featuring glazed carrot, feta, jumbo raisin and peanut had been served to carnivore Henry.

And as for the dessert menu, in Henry’s day the banana honeycomb accompanying the spiced mousse and chocolate for the fondant were tastes yet to make their way to England.

Thornbury Castle Hotel

Activities at Thornbury Court hark back to Tudor pastimes: a spot of archery, axe-throwing or falconry. Whilst The Goodly Garden with quince trees, strawberry trees and straw beehives set into the walls was a favoured spot for the ladies to gather and gossip. Anne Boleyn may well have been a topic of conversation. Ten months after her stay at Thornbury Castle she was beheaded and Henry was lining up his next wife. It is a pity that during her marriage to volatile Henry, Thornbury did not offer its current range of stress-relieving massages.

Ultimately, the real entertainment at Thornbury is the castle itself. Book a tour with a local historian to learn how its walls chronicle the very essence of Tudor England a story of power, conflict and beheadings.

Tell Me More About Thornbury Castle Hotel And Restaurant

Thornbury Castle Hotel, Castle Street,  Thornbury, Bristol BS35 1HH
T: 01454 281182  E:
Bedchambers begin from £299 per night. A three-course dinner from the a la carte menu is £59.


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