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Pictures of Leeds

in the county of Kent

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Under a cloudless sky, its moated waters glistening in the sunlight, Leeds Castle looks every inch the romantic place it was when given by Edward I to his wife Queen Eleanor, it became the Royal couple's favourite country retreat.

Leeds Castle, together with the Norman church dedicated to St.Nicholas have dominated this attractive village for centuries. Both have played a fundamental part in the lives of villagers, some of whom throughout the ages have depended upon Leeds Castle Estate for their livelihood. Lying amidst the beautiful countryside of the North Downs Way, the village shows a core of delightful houses and pretty cottages fronted by colourful, flower filled gardens. It is though and always will be, the historic castle that draws the endless flow of visitors who find their way to this precious corner of England.

The castle is frequently called 'the ladies castle' this is largely due to the fact that it has nearly always been owned by Royal women. It was claimed by Queen Isabella after the death of her husband, Edward II, she began living there in 1327. Richard II gave the castle to his Queen, Anne of Bohemia, and Joan of Navarre was given the castle by Henry IV when she became his Queen. Henry V's wife Catherine was the last Queen to own the castle outright.

Henry VIII made changes to the castle, and his daughter Princess Elizabeth was held prisoner in Leeds Castle before she became Queen. Following the Civil War in which the castle appears to have played no part, it slowly fell into a state of disrepair with little notice taken until the 19th-century when in 1822 it was purchased by Fiennes Wykeham-Martin, and it is he who developed the castle into the glorious historical treasure chest we see today.

The castle is now owned by the Leeds Castle Foundation Trust which was set up in 1974, and is open to the public on most days throughout the year.

The church of St.Nicholas has administered to the spiritual need of the village since Norman times, and maybe before. There is a theory that the church was built on the site of a large Augustinian Priory, certainly in 1879 evidence of two Saxon windows was uncovered together with stone walls under the floor of the Nave. The church possesses a quite spectacular tower, not tall but substantially stubby with walls of up to 8ft thick. Inside the church there are decorative columns, a beautifully restored rood screen dating from the 15th-century and impressive memorials to residents of the village who lost their lives during the two World Wars of the 20th-century. The church occupies a lovely hillside location, and in the peaceful tree-lined churchyard you can see tombs and graves from past centuries.

For a romantic day out and a trip into England's rich historic past you can do no better than visit the pastoral village of Leeds, which is a short distance from Maidstone and is within easy reach of the town of Ashford, and the Dover - Folkestone Heritage Coast.

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