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The Story of Woodstock Bower

In 1841, William Dickinson, my 4th great-grandfather's family lived at Woodstock Bower, in Kimberworth, Rotherham (West Riding), South Yorkshire, England. His son John was reportedly born in Masbrough, a suburb of Kimberworth.

While searching for an illustration of the place called Woodstock Bower as it was in William's time, I found a short story relating to the place, in which the author describes what it was like in the times of Henry II and how the place came to be called Woodstock Bower. You can read it below.


Henry II. born 1133. — Died 1189. — Reigned 34 years.

Once on a time there was a beautiful young lady of the name of Rosamond Clifford, so extremely beautiful, that she was commonly called Fair Rosamond. It happened that one day King Henry - the son of Matilda, and second king of England of that name - saw this young lady, and fell in love with her ; and she, as the King was young and handsome, fell also in love with him.

So the King ordered a beautiful bower to be made near a town called Woodstock, in which Fair Rosamond was to live. This bower was one of the most delightful places that ever was heard of: it was a nice little cottage, in a delicious garden, quite overgrown with sweetbriars and honeysuckles; and the groves and garden were full of singing birds, and the air was quite sweet with the smell of flowers.

But the chief wonder of the bower was, that, from without, no one could see it, it was so completely buried in the woods. The trees grew so thick about it, that they formed a kind of labyrinth or maze, through which no one could find the way, unless by following a clue or thread ; which winded along through a great, great many passages, from the outward entrance into the centre of the bower ; and this clue was very fine silk thread, so fine, that unless persons were told of it they would never be able to see it.

So whenever the King could get away from court, he used to go alone to the bower to visit Fair Rosamond, and by the clue he used to find his way in; but nobody else except himself ever passed in or out; except one servant, who used to go out at night to fetch bread, and wine, and meat, for the use of Fair Rosamond.

Now I will tell you why this curious bower and labyrinth were made.

There was a Queen at that time in England, called Ellinor, who was jealous and cruel ; and the king was afraid that if she knew about Fair Rosamond she would put her to death, and therefore he took all this care to hide her in Woodstock Bower. It was very wrong of the King to attempt to deceive the Queen in this manner, and it was very wicked in Rosamond to join him in doing so; and accordingly a great misfortune was the consequence of this great fault.

Queen Ellinor could not but observe that the King often went away from court, and nobody knew whither he was gone, and every one wondered where he could be. So the Queen watched him very closely, and, after long watching, she found that he always went towards Woodstock, but what became of him after he got to Woodstock she could never discover; for no one could either see the bower, or find his way through the labyrinth.

And so perhaps it never would have been discovered, but that Queen Ellinor happened to meet the servant who used to buy meat, and bread, and wine, for the use of Fair Rosamond; and from him she found out the secret of the labyrinth, and learned to make her way with the assistance of the clue. Having thus found the secret, Queen Ellinor watched her opportunity; and when she knew that the King was at the court, and that Fair Rosamond must be alone in the bower, she went to the labyrinth, with a dagger and a cup of poison, and laying hold of the clue, she found her way to the very centre of the bower where Fair Rosamond was sitting.

You may judge of the surprise of poor Rosamond, when she saw the Queen come in with a furious look, with a dagger in one hand, and the cup of poison in the other; but I cannot explain to you her horror when the cruel Queen told her that she was come to kill her, and that all the indulgence she could have was a choice, whether to die by being stabbed by the dagger, or by drinking the cup of poison. The poor, poor creature went upon her knees to the Queen, and wept and prayed for mercy; but the Queen continued cruel and hard-hearted : and at last the miserable Rosamond was forced to drink off the poison, and soon after died in great agony.

But in the meanwhile the Queen got away out of the labyrinth, and nobody knew that she had been there: but when the King next came to visit the bower, he was surprised and shocked to find his dear Rosamond dead; and though he did not know how her death was caused, he could not but feel that his own folly and wickedness, in keeping her hid in this bower, was the cause of her death, and he was, ever after, very much grieved for her loss.

Source: Stories selected from the History of England, from the conquest to the revolution, J.W.C, 1847. [Link]


I have been unable to find the exact location of the tower, but the place called Woodstock Bower is shown on this 1934 map (at left). At right, a recent aerial view of the location is shown:

The location is on Kimberworth Road. Woodstock Bower faced the foot of Coronation Bridge, between Kimberworth and Rotherham.

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