Holdenby House in Northamptonshire first came to prominence in 1583 when it was built by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor and favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Holdenby was the largest private house in Elizabethan and was built by Sir Christopher to honour his beloved Queen Elizabeth , even refusing to live in it prior to Good Queen Bess’s first visit.
It was during the era of the House of Stuart that Holdenby House really came in to its own, though not always for great reasons. When Sir Christopher Hatton died just a few years after the completion of Holdenby, the house was bought by Queen Elizabeth’s successor, King James I.
While King James I enjoyed the house and used it as a place of entertainment, for his son and successor, King Charles I, Holdenby House became a prison. After his defeat in the English Civil War in 1647, Charles I was held at Holdenby for approximately five months and though the King tried on numerous occasions to escape his prison, Oliver Cromwell sent Cornet Joyce to seize Charles and send him to safer custody and await his eventual execution.
Following the English Civil War, Holdenby House was sold to a parliamentarian, Adam Baynes, though the Restoration was to come in 1660 and the estate reverted back to royal ownership.
Holdenby House would see another change of ownership during the Stuart era, this time in 1709 during the reign of Queen Anne. The house was bought by the Duke of Marlborough, a favourite of Queen Anne, and has since descended down the female line of the family to its present owners, the Lowther family.
Holdenby House and its gardens are now regularly used as a unique wedding venue as well as to host prestigious meetings, conferences and events including the Northamptonshire Food Show.
It seems that Holdenby House has come a long way since the days it was used as a King’s prison!