History at Home
Image: Boscobel House and The Royal Oak

Hidden gems

We care for over 400 historic sites across the country – and each one has its own amazing story to tell about England’s past. Some are world-famous, but many are rather less well-known.

Here, we’ve picked out some of our favourite hidden gems. They might not be household names, but from castles to Civil War hideaways, and from glorious gardens to graceful abbeys, they’re some of the most fascinating places in our care – and each one is well worth a visit.

Image: Aldborough Roman Town (copyright Historic England)

Aldborough Roman Town, North Yorkshire

The capital of the Romanised Brigantes, Britain’s largest tribe in the early Roman period, Aldborough’s treasures include a section of the original town wall, mosaic pavements and a museum with an outstanding collection of Roman finds.

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Image: Barnard Castle  (copyright Historic England)

Barnard Castle, County Durham

Set high on a rock above the River Tees, this 12th century fortress belonged to Richard III and offers fantastic views over the Tees Gorge, as well as an attractive sensory garden.

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Image: Boscobel House and The Royal Oak

Boscobel House and The Royal Oak, Shropshire

King Charles II took refuge in this picturesque hunting lodge in 1651 after Civil War defeat, famously hiding for a day in an oak tree whilst Cromwell’s soldiers searched for him below. Latterly a thriving Victorian farm, the site boasts a host of resident farm animals.

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Image: Kirby Hall

Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire

One of England’s greatest Elizabethan and 17th century houses, with a delightfully restored Elizabethan garden, Kirby Hall is now semi-ruined but retains much of its rich decoration.

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Image: Kirkham Priory  (copyright Historic England)

Kirkham Priory, North Yorkshire

Founded 900 years ago on the banks of the River Derwent, Kirkham Priory was home to Augustinian Canons until its dissolution in 1539. In World War II, secret military research was conducted in its grounds.

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Image: Pickering Castle  (copyright Historic England)

Pickering Castle, North Yorkshire

This splendid and remarkably well-preserved 13th century castle was used as a royal hunting lodge, holiday home and stud farm by a succession of medieval kings.

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Image: Roche Abbey  (copyright Historic England)

Roche Abbey, South Yorkshire

Beautifully set in a valley landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown in the 18th century, 12th century Roche Abbey has one of the most complete ground plans of any English monastery and the Gothic transepts still remain to their original height.

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Image: Wrest Park

Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

A magnificent 19th century French chateau style house set in an outstanding restored landscape garden originating in the 17th century. Wrest Park’s grounds reflect three centuries of English garden design, including one of the few remaining early 18th century formal gardens.

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Image: Yarmouth Castle  (copyright Historic England)

Yarmouth Castle, Isle of Wight

Once one of Henry VIII’s most sophisticated coastal fortresses, Yarmouth Castle was designed to guard the western entrance to the Solent and prevent capture of the Isle of Wight as a prelude to larger assaults on the south of England.

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