The Lord Leycester, founded as alms-houses for ex-servicemen by Robert Dudley a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, have raised £4.5 million over the past three years to start a “once in a century” restoration and improvement project. The work has now started and will continue throughout the next year with a grand opening to the public planned for summer 2023.
History of King James I visit to The Lord Leycester, Warwick.
One of the highly anticipated moments of our restoration so far has been the reveal of the commemorative seal of King James I of England (and VI of Scotland). The Lord Leycester played host to the King when he visited Warwick in 1617, on the 50th year of his accession to the throne in Scotland (he only became King in England in 1603). This year saw an expensive tour for the King and many of his noblemen as he made his way north from London and landed in Edinburgh after around two months, the King spent some time in Scotland visiting different towns before returning to London several months later. It was on this return journey that James I visited Warwick.
This King was due to be hosted by Sir Fulke Greville, Earl of Warwick. James I had given Greville Warwick Castle in 1604, which at this point was in a ruinous state. Greville had ambitions of restoring the castle – which he did, but not until after the famed visit of James I in 1617. As a result, Greville hosted the King at the Great Hall of The Lord Leycester. The King had a known relationship with the Patrons of The Lord Leycester, having given Robert Sidney the title Viscount L’Isle in 1605 – a title the family still holds today. It was a great honour for both the town of Warwick and The Lord Leycester to host the King which they did with a lavish three-day banquet. With no expense spared this huge celebration put the town in debt for 10 years!
The Lord Leycester still has two physical reminders of that event. The first is a custom-built chair for King James I – tradition tells the story that the chair had to be custom built for the King as standard chairs were too narrow due to the vast amounts of padding, he wore under his clothes! The second reminder is the commemorative seal mounted on a wall in the Great Hall, covered since the restoration programme in the 1960s.
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant
The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded almost £2 million for this exciting four-year renovation and income generating project. The National Lottery grant is being used to transform the historic Warwick landmark into a modern visitor attraction that tells both the story of the heritage buildings, and of the residents past and present, who have lived there. Plans include exciting new interpretation throughout the buildings, garden and online, that will enable visitors to explore the heritage through guided tours, trails and displays.