Blenheim Palace: its history, gardens, architects and ties to the Churchill family

Once home to Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is one of the UK's most impressive stately homes. Find out more about its history, previous occupants and how to visit today

Published: September 23rd, 2022 at 3:15 pm

Blenheim Palace is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, paired with beautifully landscaped gardens, and is one of the most popular and best loved stately homes in the UK. It's also full of history, having been home to the Churchill family since it was first gifted to the 1st Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne.

Advertisement

Where is Blenheim Palace?

Blenheim Palace is located in Woodstock in Oxfordshire.

Who owns and lives at Blenheim Palace?

Blenheim Palace has remained in the Churchill family, and now plays host to Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill. She has lived at Blenheim Palace all her life, having grown up there as the youngest child of the 11th Duke of Marlborough.

Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill is an interior designer, author and founder of Woodstock Designs.

She was interviewed by Emma Manners, Duchess of Rutland, all about the history of Blenheim Palace and what it's like to live there in an episode of the Duchess podcast.

'My motto is retain and restore, rather than rip out and replace,' she told Manners. 'It’s my duty to look after such a wonderful and beautiful home. It’s a part of our heritage. We’re very lucky to be a part of it.'

Who are its previous owners and occupants?

The Blenheim Palace estate has played host to some interesting characters – and even more interesting stories – over the years. Henry II's mistress Rosamund Clifford lived on the Blenheim Palace estate, and Elizabeth I was imprisoned by Mary I here as well. It is famously also the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

History of Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal and non-episcopal (residence of a bishop) palace in England. It was built by the first Duke and Duchess of Marlborough in the 18th century, and is instantly recognisable for its Baroque architecture.

More like this

It takes its name from the 1704 Battle of Blenheim, built as a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in gratitude for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim earlier that year. It has remained in the Churchill family ever since and was the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, who went on to become the UK's prime minister.

It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Who designed Blenheim Palace and its gardens?

Although the Duchess of Marlborough was a fan of the architecture of Sir Christopher Wren, the Duke commissioned Sir John Vanbrugh to design Blenheim Palace. It is said to have been organised following a meeting at a playhouse, as Vanbrugh was a dramatist – but an untrained architect. He worked alongside Nicholas Hawksmoor in designing the early stages of Castle Howard, near York. The Duke of Marlborough commissioned the pair to create a similarly European Baroque-style building in Woodstock.

Vanbrugh was also responsible for planning the gardens of Blenheim Palace, which included an avenue of elms planted in the positions of Marlborough's troops at the Battle of Blenheim.

In 1764, he 4th Duke of Marlborough later commissioned the landscape architect Capability Brown to redesign and naturalise the landscape. The Great Lake was one of Brown's introductions during this time and has become one of Blenheim Palace's most famous features.

Can you visit Blenheim Palace?

Blenheim Palace, along with its park and gardens, are open to the public throughout the year.

Today, you can visit Blenheim Palace's State Rooms to see the famous Marlborough Tapestries (the 'Victories' Series') and the Long Library, which is home to more than 10,000 books.

The public have free access to approximately 5 miles of public rights of way through the park area without the need to pay an entry fee.

How to get to Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is just 20 minutes from the city of Oxford. It is easily accessible to those coming from London or Birmingham, where it is approximately an hour and a half by car.

However, if you choose to travel by train, bus or bike to Blenheim Palace, you are eligible for 30% discount.

The Blenheim Palace estate hosts events throughout the year, including cinema screenings, concerts and exhibitions.

We included Blenheim Palace in our round-up of the best mazes in the UK.

We also included Blenheim Palace in our list of the best dog-friendly stately homes in the UK.


Upcoming events at Blenheim Palace


Autumn Fest

Date: 1st-2nd October

Blenheim Palace Events

To welcome the Autumn season, Blenheim Palace will transform into a market filled with 50 independent stores selling local and handmade pieces alongside artisan food stores for a delicious lunch. Tantalising cuisine, unique items, live music and fun games make this a fantastic family day out. Advanced booking is recommended.

Advertisement

Buy tickets to Blenheim Palace's Autumn Fest

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content