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King’s Houses or King John’s Palace is a small unassuming ruin that sits in a remote field in the middle of Nottinghamshire.
But, once upon a time, this was a great house that was home to eight English monarchs throughout the middle ages!
It also has a connection with the famous heroic outlaw Robin Hood. “Bad” King John was one of his adversaries, along with the Sheriff of Nottingham and he is meant to have saved some prisoners held here.
Whether you’re on the Robin Hood Trail or just interested to find out more information on this ruin; here’s a complete guide with tips for visiting!
What is King John’s Palace or King’s Houses?
Today, what’s left of King John’s Palace is a series of ancient ruined walls.
This is thought to have formed part of a magnificent medieval palace called King’s Houses. It is said to get its current name from “Bad” King John.
However, no one knows why or how this happened over time as records show he only visited here once for nine days on a hunting trip!
This part of Clipstone used to be called King’s Clipstone as there used to be a royal residence here that was well appointed.
This was until the monarchy explored and built-in different areas. It is a shame that very little remains of this once great house.
But, numerous excavations have revealed more about this amazing palace and the kings that resided here.
King John’s Palace history
The first record of King’s Houses in Clipstone was around 1164, during the time of Henry II.
The first building work took place in 1176 when he spent £500 for the work to be carried out – this was A LOT of money back then and is approximately £400k in today’s money!
Henry also created a deer park around Clipstone. This wasn’t just for hunting or sport, it was for feasting and for making political deals.
In fact, Richard I “the lion heart” met King William of Scotland here and Edward I held his parliament in King’s Houses.
Over time, the palace was visited by 8 kings from Henry II to Richard II!
These were all part of the powerful House of Plantagenet who ruled over England from the 12th to 15th century.
What we can see today is the ruin of the Great Hall but it was thought to be much larger than that.
From recent excavation work, it has been determined that beyond the hall, there was a gatehouse and chambers for the king and queen plus rooms for members of the court.
There were also many chapels, large kitchens, and stables that could hold over 200 horses. On the grounds was a fishing pond used by the kings with pike and roach fish.
It remained a royal centre until the 15th century but by 1525 it was recorded to have “great dekay & ruyne” in the stonework and timber. By the 18th century, it was left as the current ruin.
The Robin Hood connection to King John’s Palace
Although the Royal Sherwood Forest we know now is only around 450 acres near Edwinstowe, back in medieval times it stretched over 100,000 acres!
Clipstone used to be part of Sherwood Forest during those times. As we know, the legendary Robin Hood used Sherwood Forest as his stomping ground to hide from the authorities with his merry men.
The band of outlaws would protect villagers from attack and hold up tax hungry noblemen passing through Sherwood Forest too.
This was all during the reign of “Bad” King John who ruled as a consort for Richard the Lion Heart while he was on crusade.
According to legend, King John is meant to have ridden out from King’s Houses in pursuit of Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest.
When Robin Hood heard of this, he decided to break into King’s Houses while King John was away and released all the prisoners held in the dungeon here.
Where is King John’s Palace located?
This makes it a great addition for any Robin Hood fan if you were on a day trip to Sherwood Forest!
It is easiest if you have your own car to drive to King’s Clipstone and visit the site. It’s a highlight stop on the Robin Hood Trail (more on that below).
There is a number 16 Stagecoach bus service that runs from Mansfield to Clipstone or you can include it as part of a walking route around the area.
It takes around an hour to walk from Sherwood Forest. King John’s Palace is also part of the Robin Hood Way walking trail, a whopping 105-mile walk from Nottingham Castle to Southwell Minster.
Travel tips for visiting King John’s Palace
- The ruins stand on a field in King’s Clipstone and are actually on private land although there are no signs that say so.
- Don’t enter unless you have permission. You can view the ruins from the roadside and there is a small information sign that tells you a little more detail and findings of recent excavation works
- They do have regular events here in the summer like the “picnic at the palace” and a King’s Clipstone Beer and Cider Festival. So, make sure you see what’s going on before you visit.
- There is a small lay-by that is FREE to park on the B6030 Mansfield Road for cars. From here it’s a short 5 minute walk to visit the ruin.
Are you on the Robin Hood Trail?
The Robin Hood Trail is a fun road trip around Nottinghamshire that is perfect for fans that want to follow in the footsteps of the world-famous outlaw.
It covers spots like Nottingham Castle, Sherwood Forest, Edwinstowe, and some churches, woodlands, and towns that have connections with Robin Hood and his merry men.
This road trip is a great way to experience Robin Hood country and makes for a great day trip itinerary too.
I went on the Robin Hood trail myself while I was here and ticked off nearly every spot on the list.
As a history lover and fan of the tales, I absolutely LOVED it. I even went to the Peak District to see Little John’s Grave.
Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood’s Tree
Sherwood Forest is just a few miles away from King’s Clipstone and it’s the legendary home of Robin Hood.
The area has just had a brand new multi-million-pound visitor centre built on the site that has a gift shop and café.
Although there isn’t much information about Robin Hood at the centre anymore, there are some statues of him dotted about and some Robin Hood activities.
You also have to visit Robin Hood’s Tree or the Major Oak. It’s thought to be over 1000 years old and a hiding place for him and his band of merry men. Click here to find out more.
A five-minute walk from Sherwood Forest will take you to the charming village of Edwinstowe.
Nicknamed Robin Hood’s Village, it has a huge connection with the outlaw. According to legend, Robin Hood and Maid Marian were married at St Marys Church.
In line with ancient practices, Robin and Marian married under the door of the archway. Inside the church is also a fantastic Robin Hood display so this is a great alternative to the visitor centre which is lacking.
If you carry on into the village you can visit the Robin Hood and Maid Marian statues outside the library.
There are countless ballads and tales that place Robin Hood in the centre of Nottingham, after all, he did claim that the Sheriff of Nottingham was his arch-enemy!
He is thought to have escaped the castle jail, entered the city in disguise, caused mayhem with the sheriff’s men, and won the Golden Arrow competition here.
Thousands of tourists visit Nottingham each year to follow in the footsteps of Robin Hood and there are a number of attractions to find him there too.
No visit would be complete without a visit to the statue that honours him outside of the castle walls – make sure you pose for a photo!
There is also Nottingham Castle and you can take a cave tour to see the old jail.
The Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub is nearby that he is thought to have hidden inside and a number of attractions dotted around the city that he has connections with too.