The castle was built on two islands in the middle of a man-made moat, which was created by Edward I in the 13th century by diverting the river Len.
The surrounding estates were farmed to supply food for the castle's tenants and the needs of the royal court when they stayed here. Medieval and Tudor royal courts were huge, often numbering hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people.
The estate was largely self-sufficient, but enormous amounts of food were brought in and consumed when the royal court was in residence. When Henry VIII (1491 - 1547) travelled to France in 1520 to meet with François I (1494 - 1547) at the Field of the Cloth of Gold tournament he stayed here on his way. He took a huge supply of food with him that included the following:
· 2,000 sheep · 800 calves · 312 heron · 13 swans · 1,600 fish · 1,300 chickens · 17 deer · 700 eels · 3 porpoises · 1 dolphin
Grapes and hops were also grown to make wine and beer. An estate vineyard is noted in the Domesday Book and wine is still produced from grapes grown on the estate.