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Sherborne Old Castle was built as a fortified palace by Roger de Caen between about 1122 and 1137. As Roger de Caen was both Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England, the building was a mixture of a bishop's palace and a castle fit for the second most powerful man in England.

It consists of a curtain wall with three fortified gatehouses, surrounding a largely domestic building arranged around the four sides of a cloister like courtyard.

Following the death of Henry I, Roger's patron, the castle passed into the hands of the crown. It was extensively modified and extended in the 1270s by Edmund, Earl of Lancaster, the second son of Henry III.

In 1355 the Bishops of Salisbury regained ownership, and it remained church property until the dissolution.

In 1592, Elizabeth I gave the castle to Sir Walter Raleigh, who demolished the Great Hall and embarked on an extensive building program to update the rest of the building.

However he lost his fortune in an expedition to Guiana in search of Eldorado, and was unable to complete the works. So he ended up living in an old hunting lodge he had refubished on the other side of the lake.

The estate passed to the Digby family who, over the years, turned the hunting lodge into the fine stately home that is now known as Sherborne Castle.

The old castle withstood two sieges during the Civil War, but was then largely destroyed by the Parliamentarians to prevent it being used militarily again.

For opening times, admission prices, etc. please see English Heritage's official site, detailed below