Address: Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP

Website

Phone: +44 (0) 1993 810530

Blenheim Palace History

Blenheim Palace is a country house in Woodstock, north of Oxford.

It has, for over 300 years, been the home to the Dukes of Marlborough.

The story of Blenheim starts with the extraordinary career of John Churchill. At an early age, he was a pageboy to the Royal Family, and over time became one of Europe’s greatest military generals and a diplomat. His main victories for the nation were in the Wars of Spanish Succession, with one of these being the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. He was much admired, gained extraordinary wealth and married Sarah Jennings, who was a close friend of Queen Anne. Churchill became the 1st Duke of Marlborough.

In recognition of his military victories, it was agreed that the nation would provide a suitable residence for him and the land near Woodstock was chosen. The new building was designed by John Vanbrugh. The rent was set at a copy of the French Royal Flag to the Monarch on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim.

The Duke gradually fell out of favour with the Establishment, but payments were still made by the government. In 1712 his wife fell out with Queen Anne and payments ceased. The couple went into exile and only returned to England after the death of Queen Anne in 1714. George I was now on the throne. 

With government money having ceased, Marlborough had no alternative but to use his own money to finish the building. In 1717 Marlborough became ill and died five years later in 1722, The project was now in the hands of his wife.

Over the years the estate continued to grow, with Capability Brown overseeing vast landscaping work in the gardens.

Whilst the 1st Duke was extremely wealthy, for the 150 years or so, his descendants were forced to sell treasures and estates in order to pay for the enormous upkeep of the place. Towards the end of the 19th century, the family was virtually bankrupt. 

This all changed when, in 1896, the 9th Duke of Marlborough married American Railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. The marriage was seen more as a business arrangement as the Duke received the vast wealth needed to save the Palace, whilst Consuelo received the title ‘Duchess of Marlborough’, which her mother had craved for her.

The Duchess eventually left her husband in 1906 and they divorced in 1921.

The residence was the birthplace of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, indeed the Duke’s father had also been called Sir Winston Churchill.

It was made a World Heritage Site in 1987.

Today, still home to the Dukes of Marlborough, the estate is open to the public.

 

Blenheim Visit

Blenheim Palace is a great place to visit and a good day out. It’s the typical stately home like Chatsworth or Castle Howard and was designed by architect John Vanbrugh.

Apart from the Palace building there’s the Great Lake, Queen Pool and river, Lavender Garden, Rose Garden, Secret Garden and Italian Garden, Water Terraces, Temple of Diana, Temple of Health, Arboretum, Grand Cascade, Boathouse, Butterfly House, Hedge Maze, Bladon and Grand bridges, Column of Victory, Rosamund’s Well and the Adventure Playground. For visitors, there’s a pantry, deli, café and restaurant together with the Courtyard shop and the Garden shop.

For those wishing to visit the attractions in the grounds and who would prefer not to walk, there’s a free land train.

Blenheim Palace may be most famous for being the birthplace of former Prime Minister and wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill. 

The downstairs rooms are typical state rooms, grand in every sense, with one area dedicated specifically to Churchill. The upstairs rooms have been turned into a series of film sets, one room connected to the next, which together tell the story of Blenheim from the time it was built. It has had royal connections and these impact on the scenes at times. The displays are a combination of a proper film setting, animated models that move slightly and screen film. It finishes with a film of the present Duke of Marlborough. It’s informative and tasteful.