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Blenheim Palace

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Featured Location Guide

"A World Heritage Site"

Britain has many fine historic houses, and a visit to Blenheim Palace will be one that stands out. It is one of the largest in Britain, is still in the hands of the original family and it is one of the best examples of a house within a landscape. It is recognised as a world heritage site.

This was a gift, by a grateful nation, for military triumph against the French and Bavarians, given to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and built between 1705 and 1724. Later it was to be the birth place and childhood home of the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, who is buried outside the grounds but not far away at St Martin's Church, Blaydon.

Before this palace was built, it was the manor of Woodstock, sometimes referred to as the Palace of Woodstock.  Henry I enclosed the deer park for hunting, Henry II housed his mistress Rosamund Clifford, "Fair Rosamund" there in a "bower and labyrinth"; a spring where she is said to have bathed remains, named after her. Queen Mary imprisoned Princess Elizabeth later to become Elizabeth _ here. It was built upon and changed many times. The manor remained in obscurity until bombarded and ruined by Oliver Cromwell's troops during the Civil War. The remains of the manor existed when the palace was being built and the architect Sir John Vanbrugh wanted to incorporate them into the landscape but the Duchess would not hear of it and they were swept away.

The Duchess used to having her own way had wanted the architect Sir Christopher Wren to build the house but the Duke commissioned Sir John Vanbrugh at a chance meeting at the theatre. Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor worked together and had recently created Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Problems over funding, the nation not being as generous as was first suggested, and difficulties between the Duchess and Vanbrugh, with the Duke away on military campaigns made it a difficult project. The Duchess banned Vanbrugh from the site in 1719 and it was finished by Hawksmoor. In the end most of the cost was covered by the Duke not the country.

Blenheim was situated in a large park with undulating ground and a stream through, the mushy brook was crossed by a mammoth bridge (above on left) that contained over 30 rooms.

Later in 1764 the 4th Duke employed Capability Brown to remodel the landscape, this involved a lot of landscaping, and the formation of lakes by damming the stream. Several lower room levels of the bridge were flooded, reducing its effective height, making it fit within the new landscape.

Money problems existed for most of the time and by the time the 9th Duke inherited the family was almost bankrupt, and his solution was to negotiate a marriage. American railroad heiress and renowned beauty Consuelo Vanderbilt. The price paid was $2,500,000 in 50,000 shares of the capital stock of the Beech Creek Railway Company with a minimum 4% dividend guaranteed by the New York Central Railroad Company. The couple were given a further annual income each of $100,000 for life. The bride later claimed she had been locked in her room until she agreed to the marriage. The contract was signed in the vestry of St.Thomas Episcopal Church, New York immediately after the wedding vows had been made. In the carriage leaving the church, Marlborough told Consuelo he loved another woman. However he now had the funding he needed to maintain the house and to live well. The honeymoon was a trip around Europe buying items for the depleted palace.

At this time the palace had a staff of 40 inside, and 50 outside.

See the gallery for more pictures

Ornamental Fountains

Today the palace and grounds are open to the public, can be hired for events, is used in many films and while the Duke retains final control over all matters in the running of the palace, the day-to-day control of commercial aspects are outsourced to Sodexho Prestige, a division of the French company Sodexho. Like his forebears John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, lives for part of the year in the palace, with his family occupying the same suite of rooms as the 1st Duke and Duchess. He has been married 4 times, and had 6 children, 4 survive. After his death the title goes to his oldest son, but the control of Blenheim and the Trust goes directly to his grandson George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill, Earl of Sunderland (born 28 July 1992) now aged 16, who is in line, after his father, to the Dukedom of Marlborough.

There are two main entrances to Blenheim Palace, one just south of Woodstock on the Oxford Road and the other through the Triumphal Arch at the end of Park Street in Woodstock. There are various other entrances that are suitable for pedestrians.

Part of the formal gardens at Blenheim Palace

What there is to see at Blenheim.

  • One of Britain's largest houses

  • Lakes and bridge

  • 2100 acres of landscape to explore

  • Formal Gardens

  • Water garden/fountains

  • Lavender Garden

  • Waterfall

  • Monument 40m high

  • Small train - train rides to the Pleasure Gardens and attractions

  • Butterfly House/Farm

  • Wildlife

  • Marlborough Maze and Model Village

  • Adventure Play Area

  • Events through much of the year

  • Exhibitions including "Blenheim Bygones" and ‘Churchills’ Destiny’ - The story of two great war leaders’

Annually they host the Blenheim International Horse Trials in the wider grounds which has a separate entrance. Four days of cross country with water jumps in the lakes, show jumping and dressage. See our diary pages for the exact date, usually during September each year.

Further information Grid



Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Ceremonial County: Oxfordshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Google



Best Times to Visit:

Blenheim is a nice place to visit at any time of year. It is picturesque with snow on the ground. Just check what facilities are open for the time of your visit.




Own         Blenheim International Horse Trials

Other useful websites:

Wikipedia    Wikimedia Images 


Nearby Locations: Blenhiem Estate Steam Sawmills - Combe Mill
Other Relevant pages:

Blenheim Palace Gallery

World Heritage Sites

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK



Planning Grid


Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

Located on the side of the A44 in Woodstock, 8 miles NW of Oxford. 12 miles from J9 of M40.


Well sign posted


Included at no extra cost with entry



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Palace building, formal gardens, other gardens, bridge, lake, monument, wildlife, waterfall/dam,  butterflies, train, landscape views, flowers, special events.

What to take:

A range of lenses.

Nature highlights:

Herons on the lake near the bridge and often beyond the waterfall, other waterfowl on the lake.


Blenheim Palace




OX20 1PX


01993 810530  or 0800 849 6500

Opening times:

Park open Daily from 9am-6:30pm

See their website for full details of opening times for the Palace, formal gardens and other attractions.

Events can be found in their What's on Section


Palace, Park & Gardens Tickets

Adults £24.90, Concessions £20.90, Children (5-16) £13.90, Under 5's Free; Family (2+2) £59.90

Choose to donate your entry fee to their charity and benefit from converting to a FREE annual pass.

Park and Gardens ticket (does not include entry to the palace)

Adults £15.30, Concessions £11.50, Child (5-16) £7.10, Family (2+2) £41.00, not available on Tesco Clubcard deals.

FREE access, over about 5 miles of footpaths, that cross the great park accessible from Old Woodstock and from the Oxfordshire Way, and which pass close to the Column of Victory.

Photo Restrictions:

No photography in the house. I have never had any problems photographing in the grounds and gardens,

Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Special parking nearer the place. Most of the grounds are able to be reached. They have a fully detailed accessibility statement showing what can and cannot be easily reached on their website.
Special Needs Facilities: A carer or companion of a disabled person is given free entry. A carer’s ticket will be issued at the entry point.
Children Facilities: Ideal site for children to visit.
Dogs Allowed: Parkland only. Dogs for the blind or hard of hearing are welcome in all areas.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Keith Park   Section: Historic Houses Key:
Page Ref: Blenheim_Palace Topic: Historic Houses Last Updated: 05/2017


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