Katherine Parr: Where She Lived

Country Lady to Queen

Chapter 2 : Mistress Burgh (1529 - 1534)

At the age of about sixteen, Katherine set out on a long journey to the northern part of Lincolnshire, to marry Edward Burgh. The journey, of some 135 miles would probably have taken around 10 days to two weeks, depending on the route taken, and the time of year. The obvious route, which we can follow today is up the Great North Road (the A1). A detour may have been made into Northamptonshire to visit other family members. There was a whole cluster of cousins, the Vaux, the Cheyneys and the Throckmortons settled in that county, not far from the road north.

On reaching Newark, the party would have had the choice of turning off the Great North Road to visit Lincoln, which, with its Cathedral and Castle was a major town. Given that the itinerary followed by Henry VIII on his Northern Progress in the 1540s stopped at Lincoln, before proceeding to Gainsborough, we may infer that that is the route used at the time. Otherwise, Katherine's party would have continued north, turning off the Great North Road, as the modern traveller does, onto what is now the A1133 to Gainsborough.

When Katherine arrived in Gainsborough she is likely to have felt quite at home in the delightful modern manor house, Gainsborough Hall, that had been built by her new husband's great-grandfather, some sixty years earlier. For the modern visitor, the area is quite built up, but in the 1520s the whole area was still heavily forested.

Old-Gainsborough-Hall-cropped
Gainsborough Old Hall, Gainsborough, Lincs. The family home of Katherine Parr's first husband.

Katherine lived for some time with her in-laws, but then her husband, Edward, was granted the Stewardship of the Manor of the Soke of Kirton-in-Lindsey. It was granted in survivorship (ie both parties retained the position until the death of the second) with his father Sir Thomas Burgh. Katherine and Edward would have travelled the twenty or so miles to the north-east of Gainsborough to take up residence.

Today, there is a direct road between Gainsborough and Kirton, but even now it winds and twists, and five hundred years ago it was probably a difficult journey. Katherine may have been relieved that her in-laws could not visit too easily.

Kirton, set on an escarpment, overlooks the Lincolnshire Wolds. There is no trace of the house she would have lived in, the only current building of the time being the Church of St Andrew, where, no doubt, she and Edward would have worshipped.

Church-of-St-Andrews
The Parish Church of St Andrew's, Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincs, where Katherine would have worshipped with her first husband, Edward Burgh.

First Widowhood (1533 - 1534)

On her widowhood in 1533, after four years in Lincolnshire, it is likely that Katherine journeyed across the Pennines to Sizergh Castle, Kendal to stay with her relative, Katherine Neville, Lady Strickland.

Solar-Tower-Sizergh-Castle
The Solar Tower, Sizergh Castle, which would have contained the main living accommodation in Katherine Parr’s day.

This would have been an arduous journey – further up the Great North Road, then either west to the south of the Pennines on what is now the A65, or north to Richmond, and then across on the route that is now the A66, or possibly even over the fells on what is now the A684. If she took this latter route (which is highly recommended as the views are fabulous) then she might have broken her journey at Snape Castle, home of her distant cousin, Sir John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer.

Katherine’s time at Sizergh would have been her first sojourn in a castle – dating from the 1300s it is significantly older than her previous homes.Her life there is likely to have encompassed visits to Kendal, the ancestral home of her father, although falling into disrepair by the 1530s. She may well have worshipped in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Kendal, where her grandfather’s tomb can still be seen.

Holy-Trinity-Church-Kendal
Holy Trinity Church, Kendal. The Parr Chapel is to the right.