Leicester Castle

Some of Leicester Castle’s structures have not survived today. However, visitors can visit the castle’s Great Hall and John of Gaunt’s cellars, two of the most significant parts of Leicester Castle. These structures are occasionally open to visitors. 

Visiting Leicester Castle


There is plenty of parking available in the area surrounding the castle. The price for parking ranges between £2-6 for three hours.


Visitors can also go for a one-hour Blue Badge guided tour for a nominal fee.

The tour of Leicester Castle's remains (the Great Hall) is at 12:30 pm for £3.

This tour can be booked through VisitLeicester.com or by ringing 0116 299 4444. 

Visitors can also access a guided audio tour for free on leicestercastle.co.uk.


From April-November each year, visitors can visit The Great Hall and John of Gaunt’s Cellars for free on the last Sunday of every month. 

These visits can be between 11 am - 3 pm. 

However, visitors can visit the Castle Gardens, which surround the structures on any day during daylight areas. Visitors can also climb up the motte which the castle stands on to see the outside of the Great Hall and Leicester city's view.

Each castle in England, be it large or small, has a story to tell about the history of the region and Britain. One such castle in Leicestershire County is Leicester Castle. If you’re a castle enthusiast, Leicester Castle is worth getting to know more about. 

This article explores the vast history of Leicester Castle. It also provides all the information a visitor would need to know, from visiting times to tour availability.

History of Leicester Castle

Leicester Castle, which is found in Leicester City's center, was built in the 11th century. It was built in the 11th century and has been used as a residence, courthouse, prison, and a venue for balls and concerts. There are parts of the structure that survive today, such as the Great Hall. 

Leicester Castle has centuries of rich history and has been visited by royalty and used as a courthouse and prison. While some parts of Leicester Castle have been lost to history, the Great Hall and John of Gaunt’s cellars remain standing today. They are intriguing sites to visit to learn more about the history of Leicester and England.

Time Line

-1068 (Beginning of Construction)

William I occupied what is today known as Leicester City. A companion of William I, Hugh de Grandmesnil, began to build the castle. It started as a simple timber tower atop a tall motte. 

1150 (Construction of the Great Hall)

The Earl of Leicester, Robert de Beaumont, commissioned and oversaw the construction of the Great Hall. The wooden palisades were replaced with a strong stone wall. Thick timber was used to form the foundation and the posts of the Great Hall.

-1174 (Possible Destruction) 

According to some records, Henry II ordered that the castle be demolished in 1174. However, it appears that some structures, including the Great Hall, survived and were improved upon in the following years. 

-1208 (Royal Visits)

In 1208, Simon de Montfort became the 6th Early of Leicester. After he improved the castle's residential rooms, he hosted King Henry III and Prince Edward in the Great Hall. 

-1265 (Criminal Court)

Decades later, in 1264, Simon de Montfort overthrew King Henry III and named himself the King of England. He granted the title of Early of Leicester to Edmund Crouchback, King Henry III's second son. 

Edmund Crouchback used Leicester Castle as a criminal court. Remains found in the castle mound suggest that the castle's gallows were used as an execution point for prisoners. 

-1300 (Royal Visit)

Leicester Castle hosted several royal visits in the early 14 century. In 1300, Edward I stayed at the castle. In 1310 and 1311, his son, Edward II, stayed at the castle. 

-1349 (Parliament Meetings)

The Castle was occasionally used for royal administrative meetings, and it hosted the Parliament in 1349, 1414, and 1426. 

-1361 (John of Gaunt’s Residence)

John of Gaunt, the third son of King Edward III, inherited Leicester Castle in 1361. He hosted many illustrious guests, including Geoffrey Chaucer (author of Canterbury Tales) and King Richard II. 

During John of Gaunt’s occupancy of the castle, a stone kitchen was built behind the Great Hall. The stone cellar survives today and is called ‘John of Gaunt’s cellar.’ 

John of Gaunt passed away in 1399 in Leicester Castle. 

-1399 (House of Lancaster Leaves the Castle)

Henry IV of the House Lancaster ascended the throne in 1399. This resulted in the Lancasters moving out of the Great Hall and into the royal residence.  

-1426 (Parliament of Bats) 

In 1426, Leicester Castle hosted a parliament known as the Parliament of Bats. Due to the hostility between some attendees, the men attending this parliament session were forbidden from carrying swords and instead brought bats. 

-1483–1485 (Richard III Stays at the Castle)

When he traveled from London to York, Richard III stayed at Leicester Castle. He returned in 1485 and rode into the Battle of Bosworth from the castle on the 21st of August, 1485. 

Richard III died in the battle, and his body was brought back to Leicester. 

-1536 – 1636 (Decline of the Castle)

Once the House of Lancaster stopped regularly living in Lancaster Castle, its facade was not maintained. 

In 1636, Charles I allowed for some parts of the castle to be sold to private parties. 

-1645 (Leicester Castle Is Attacked)

England was embroiled in a civil war between 1642-1651. In 1645, Leicester Castle was occupied by the Parliamentarians. The Royalists attacked the stone wall of Leicester Castle on March 30th, 1945, at 3 pm. 

Although the Parliamentarians retaliated with cannon shots, by 6 pm on the same day, the walls had been breached, and Royalist soldiers stormed the castle and surrounding areas. The Parliamentarians and townspeople fought the Royalists but were eventually forced to surrender.

As a remnant of this attack, bullet holes can be seen in one part of the walls that surround the Great Hall. This wall is adjacent to the area’s Turret Gateway. 

-1689 (Leicester Castle Reconstructed With Brick Frontage)

In the late 17th century, the Eastern wall of the Great Hall was reconstructed with brick frontage. 

-1670 – 1798 (Occasionally Used)

For over a century, Leicester Castle was used mainly for Courts of Assizes (criminal court proceedings) and occasionally for royal balls. 


The castle hosted a concert that is still recognized as Leicester’s most important musical event. 

-1798 (Used as a Prison)

During the Napoleonic Wars, John of Gaunt’s cellars were used as a prison for war prisoners. Some prisoners carved words and images into the walls; this graffiti can still be seen today. 

-1821 (Transformed Into a Court)

Leicester established the Leicester court in the castle’s Great Hall. The Great Hall was divided into two sections, one which housed a criminal court and the other which housed a civil court. 

It also had a grand jury room in the upper level and the holding cells in the lower level. 

-1888 (Purchase of the Castle)

The County Justices purchased the castle from the Crown in 1888, and the castle’s royal connections officially ended.

The Great Hall continued to function as a court. One of the most famous trials to be held in the Great Hall was the Green Bicycle Murder case, where Ronald Light was acquitted of the murder of Bella Wright.  

-1926 (Creation of Castle Gardens)

The areas surrounding Leicester Castle were cleared and transformed into the Castle Gardens that are still open to the public. 

-1992 (Courts Close) 

In 1992, the city and county magistrates moved to a new courthouse in Pocklington's Walk.

Leicester Castle Occupants


  • 11th century - Hugh de Grandmesnil (monarch control) 
  • 12th - mid-13th century - Earls of Leicester, including the de Beaumont family and the de Monfort family (monarch control)
  • Mid 13th century - late 14th century - Earls of Leicester, including the Crouchback family and the Lancaster family (monarch control) 
  • Late 14th century - mid 17th century - Lancaster family leaves Leicester castle, and it begins to decline (monarch control) 
  • Mid 17th century - late 18th century - Occupied by Parliamentarians but taken over by Royalists during the civil war in 1645. In 1798, it was briefly used as a prison during the Napoleonic wars. (monarch control)
  • Late 19th century - Purchased from the Crown by the County Justices. Leicester City now owns Leicester Castle.

 Images of Leicester Castle

Leicester Castle Leicester Castle
Leicester Castle Leicester Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Leicester Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Leicester Castle?

Leicester Castle was originally a timber structure. It was then extended by the use of stone and more timber. Centuries later, some parts of it were reconstructed with brick, with glass being used for windows. 

What Was the Primary Use of Leicester Castle?

Leicester Castle was the residence of the Earls of Leister. It has also hosted royal parties, parliament meetings, balls, and concerts. After briefly being used as a prison, it began functioning as a court. 

What Is Leicester Castle Used for Today?

Today, the Leicester Castle area is a scheduled monument, and the Great Hall is a Grade 1, protected building. 

It is occasionally open for heritage tours and visits. 

Location of Leicester Castle

The motte on which Leicester Castle's remains stands is at the heart of Leicester City, north of De Montfort University. To access Leicester Castle, park on Castle Street and walk up Castleview road to the structure.