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Ludlow Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Luderaue; Ludelau

In the civil parish of Ludlow.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO50867459
Latitude 52.36716° Longitude -2.72299°

Ludlow Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and mural towers bounding the site. Enclosure castles, found in urban and in rural areas, were the strongly defended residence of the king or lord, sited for offensive or defensive operations, and often forming an administrative centre. Although such sites first appeared following the Norman Conquest, they really developed in the C12, incorporating defensive experience of the period, including that gained during the Crusades. Many enclosure castles were built in the C13, with a few dating from the C14, and Ludlow Castle is not alone in having begun as an enclosure castle and developed into a tower keep castle. At Ludlow, the large existing gate tower was converted into a tower keep in the early C12, providing more domestic accommodation, as well as defence.
Ludlow Castle occupies a commanding position at the steep-sided western end of a flat-topped ridge overlooking the valleys of the River Teme and the River Corve. The adjacent town of Ludlow, which was established by the mid-C12, lies to the south and east of the castle. The defences surrounding the medieval town are designated separately. The castle was probably founded by Walter de Lacy in about 1075 and served as the 'caput' (the principal residence, military base and administrative centre) of the de Lacy estates in south Shropshire until the mid-C13. During the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign the castle was for Matilda until 1139, when it was besieged and captured by Stephen. The de Lacy family recovered the castle in the C12 and retained it, apart from occasional confiscations, until the death of Walter de Lacy in 1241. Ludlow Castle features in an 'ancestral romance' called 'The Romance of Fulk FitzWarren', written in the late C13 about the adventures of a C13 knight. Other documentary sources indicate that when the castle was in royal control it was used for important meetings, such as that held in 1224 when Henry III made a treaty with the Welsh prince, Llewellyn. Following the death of Walter de Lacy in 1241 the castle came into the possession of the de Genevilles, and in the early C14, the castle passed through marriage to Roger Mortimer. Between 1327 and 1330 Roger Mortimer ruled England as Regent, with Edward II's widowed queen, Isabella. Mortimer had himself made Earl of March in 1328. In 1425 the Mortimer inheritance passed to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who made Ludlow a favoured residence. His eldest son, who assumed the title of Earl of March, claimed the crown as Edward IV in 1461. Edward IV's son Edward was created Prince of Wales in 1471, and in 1473 was sent to Ludlow, where the administration of the principality known as the Council in the Marches was established. Both Edward and the Council remained at Ludlow until Edward IV's death in 1483. Ludlow Castle continued as an important royal residence and in 1493 the Council was re-established at Ludlow with Henry VII's son and heir, Prince Arthur as Prince of Wales. In 1501 Arthur was installed at Ludlow with his bride, Katherine of Aragon, and it was at Ludlow that Arthur died in 1502. In 1534 the Council in the Marches received statutory powers both to hear suits and to supervise and intervene in judicial proceedings in Wales and the Marches, and from that time until 1641, and again from 1660 to 1689, Ludlow's principal role was as the headquarters for the Council and, as such, the administrative capital of Wales and the border region. Milton's mask, 'Comus', was first performed here in 1634 before John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater, in celebration of the earl's new appointment as Lord President of Wales. On the dissolution of the Council the castle was abandoned and left to decay. Lead, window glass and panelling were soon removed for reuse in the town. In 1771, when the castle was leased to the Earl of Powis, many of the buildings were in ruins.
Since the late C18, the buildings have undergone repair and restoration at various times, as well as some further deterioration, with some rebuilding and replacement of stonework. Extensive archaeological excavations were undertaken by William St John Hope between 1903 and 1907. Recent archaeological investigations have included works in the area of the curtain wall to the south-east of the site, (extended when a section of the wall collapsed, and was later rebuilt) investigations relating to the former porter's lodge, and recording of the solar block. The castle is now open to the public.
Ludlow Castle, the standing structural, earthwork and buried remains of an enclosure castle, converted into a tower keep castle in the C12.
The castle is defined on its northern and western sides by a substantial bluff created by the River Teme. In its initial phase, beginning circa 1075, the southern and eastern sides of the castle were bounded by a deep, steep-sided rock-cut ditch, about 25m wide. The resulting elliptical enclosure, which later became the INNER BAILEY of the enlarged castle, measures approximately 70m by 80m. Rock quarried from the ditch and the bluff was used to build much of the adjacent curtain wall, the four adjoining mural towers and the gatehouse. Three of the four towers are open at the back and would originally have contained wooden scaffolding supporting look-out and fighting platforms. The fourth tower, known as the POSTERN TOWER, on the western side of the enclosure, has small ground-floor postern doorways on its north and east sides. All these buildings are thought to have been constructed by 1115.
Also originating in the first building phase of the castle is the gatehouse, situated at the south-eastern part of the enclosure; this is rectangular in plan and was originally three storeys in height. Remaining in the ground-floor of the building is part of a wall arcade, thought to be late-C11, with ornamented capitals. In the early C12 a fourth storey was added to provide more domestic accommodation, thus converting the gatehouse into a tower keep, known as the GREAT TOWER. In the later C12 the original gatehouse entrance passage was blocked (the location of the former arch remains visible on the south elevation) and an archway was cut through the adjacent part of the curtain wall to the north-east, reached by a stone bridge. This archway was partially infilled and a smaller arch constructed in the C14. Within the ditch, adjacent to the original entrance passage, are the remains of abutments which supported a timber bridge. Access to the upper floors is by a spiral stair to the east, reached by an ornamented doorcase, the Tudor arch having a trefoiled lintel flanked by cusped panelling and trefoiled lintel, which also gives access to rooms in the Judges' Lodgings (see below). On the first floor, the hall, with a chamber and garderobe to the west. In the second half of the C15 the north wall of the Great Tower was rebuilt and internal floors added to create new rooms lit by enlarged windows.
In the C12 and C13, the construction of a walled enclosure in the south-west section of the inner bailey, adjoining the Great Tower, known as the INMOST BAILEY or 'Great Court', provided greater security and privacy for those living in the Great Tower. Within this court a well was dug to provide a reliable source of water; the well, surrounded by a low wall, is reputed to be about 36.6m deep but was partially filled in 1908 and is now only about 18.3m deep.
Located in the north-eastern sector of the elliptical enclosure of the inner bailey are the remains of the CHAPEL OF ST MARY MAGDALENE. This was built in the first half of the C12, probably by Gilbert de Lacy, and was remodelled in the C16, probably in two phases. In the first phase, thought to have been undertaken circa 1502 for the installation of Arthur, Prince of Wales, a first floor was inserted in the circular nave, together with additional openings, including a first-floor doorway which gave access to a passage linking the chapel with the Great Chamber Block to the north. In the second phase, during the presidency of the Council in the Marches of Sir Henry Sidney (1560-86), the original presbytery and chancel were taken down and a new chancel, or chapel, built, stretching as far as the curtain wall. The crenellated circular nave, which measures 8.3m in diameter internally, survives to its full height as a roofless shell, and contains much original carving to the round-headed order arches of the door openings, with chevron and billet mouldings, and to the internal blind arcade with a variety of capitals and moulded arches. The original presbytery and apse were found when the chapel was partially excavated between 1904 and 1908, and survive as buried features within the reduced walls of the late-C16 structure.
In the second half of the C12 a large OUTER BAILEY was created to the south and east of the original castle. This quadrupled the size of the castle and led to the truncation of some of the streets in the Dinham area of the town. The entranceway into the castle was now from the east, through the town's newly established market place. Originally, the outer bailey defences consisted of a curtain wall, with two adjoining rectangular mural towers, a two-storeyed GATEHOUSE and an associated barbican, as well as a substantial outer ditch, which defined the southern and eastern sides of this enclosure; although largely infilled during the landscaping of the area in the late C18, some evidence is likely to survive as a buried feature. A documentary source indicates that in the late C16, as part of the major repair and rebuilding programme undertaken by Sir Henry Sidney, a new stone bridge was built; the remains of this later bridge, together with the evidence of earlier bridges, will survive as buried features. Of the two mural towers, only the one to the north of the gateway survives as a standing structure. This, together with the adjacent section of the curtain wall forms part of the CASTLE HOUSE built in the C18; this building is listed at Grade I and is excluded from the scheduling. Protruding from the curtain wall defining the western side of the outer bailey are the remains of a semi-circular tower, known as MORTIMER'S TOWER, possibly built in the early C13. This originally consisted of a ground-floor entrance passage, with two floors above, and was used as the postern entrance to the outer bailey until the 15th century. Another semi-circular tower built next to the curtain wall, on the eastern side of the outer bailey to the south of the gatehouse, no longer survives as a standing structure, but its foundations are believed to survive as buried features. On the western side of the outer bailey, to the south of the inner bailey ditch, there is an UNDERGROUND CHAMBER that was used as an icehouse, but may have been built as a magazine for the storage of arms and ammunition.
In the south-west corner of the outer bailey are the remains of ST PETER'S CHAPEL, originally a free-standing rectangular structure, founded by Roger Mortimer to celebrate his escape from the Tower of London in 1324, following his rebellion against Edward II. The chapel served as the Court House and offices of the Council in the Marches, for which an adjacent building to the west was constructed. The south-east corner of the chapel is now attached to a wall which completes the enclosure of the outer bailey's south-west corner. In the north wall of the chapel is a blocked two-light window, enlarged at the bottom when a floor was inserted for the court house; a second original window towards the eastern end now contains a first-floor blocked doorway.
At the end of the C13 or in the early C14 an extensive building programme was initiated, replacing existing structures within the inner bailey with a grand new range of domestic buildings, built along the inside of the north section of the Norman curtain wall. The construction of these new buildings indicates the changing role of Ludlow Castle from military stronghold to a more comfortable residence and a seat of political power, reflecting the more peaceful conditions in the region following the conquest of Wales by Edward I. The first buildings to be completed were the GREAT HALL and the adjoining SOLAR BLOCK (private apartments). The Great Hall, which was used for ceremonial and public occasions, consisted of a first floor over a large undercroft, reached through a moulded pointed arch in the south elevation. The Hall was lit on both south and north sides by three pointed-arched windows with sunk chamfers and 'Y' tracery formed of paired cusped trefoil-headed lights, under hoodmoulds; these originally had seats, now partially surviving. The central south window was converted to a fireplace, replacing the louver which formerly covered the open fire towards the east of the Hall, its position indicated by elaborate corbels. At the west end, a series of openings lead into the Solar Block, only one of these (that to the north) being of the primary phase. The Solar Block is thought to have been begun as a two-storey building, and raised to three storeys shortly afterwards, at which time the adjacent NORTH-WEST TOWER was raised, with the new CLOSET TOWER being built in the angle between the two. Each of the three floors of the Solar Block extended into the North-West Tower, with each being linked to a room in the Closet Tower. All three floors of the Solar were heated, the ground floor having a fireplace which originally had a stone hood; the first-floor room has hooded fireplace, on nearly triangular-sectioned jambs; the room above has a plainer hooded fireplace. The windows include original openings with 'Y' tracery and trefoil-headed lights, similar to those in the Hall, and a ground-floor mullioned window probably dating from the late C16. The Hall and Solar were served by a kitchen and pantry built against the wall of the inmost bailey, the footings of which survive.
In the early C14 two additional buildings containing more private apartments were constructed by Richard Mortimer. The three-storeyed GREAT CHAMBER BLOCK was built in about 1320 next to the Great Hall to balance the Solar Block to the west of the Hall. The connecting four-storeyed GARDEROBE TOWER, which projects from the curtain wall of the inner bailey, was also probably built about the same time. As in the Hall and Solar blocks, the floors are now lost but features in the walls remain to indicate layout and function. The main entrance to this block is through a recessed doorway in the south-west corner, with a pointed two-light window above. The undercroft was heated, and is lit by two two-light windows with stone side seats in the south wall. The tracery of the eastern of these windows has been lost. The first-floor main room, or 'Great Chamber', contains a grand hooded fireplace carried on a fourfold series of corbels; to either side of the fireplace are large head corbels with leafwork. The Tudor transomed and mullioned window probably replaced an earlier window. The upper room also has a large hooded fireplace, and was lit principally by a large trefoil-headed window with head-stopped hoodmould in the southern wall.
Following the establishment of the headquarters for the Council in the Marches at Ludlow, new buildings were constructed and many existing buildings changed their use. Within the inner bailey the main room in the Great Chamber Block became the council chamber, with additional chambers above. A new adjoining residential block, now called the TUDOR LODGINGS, was built to the east. This replaced earlier structures of which traces remain, and consisted of two sets of lodgings both being of three storeys with attic rooms above. The south wall of this block cuts across openings in the east wall of the Great Chamber Block. Between the lodgings, projecting from the south wall, is a circular stair tower, entered through an ogee-headed arch. The windows in the south elevation are mullioned; several have been blocked. In the north wall of the western lodging, at ground-floor level, is an opening with double trefoil head, having a divided light above. Otherwise, the features of this range are plain, with pointed door openings, and straight lintels to fireplaces. As the power of the Council grew, further domestic accommodation was needed. To the east of the entrance within the inner bailey, a three-storeyed range, known as the JUDGES LODGINGS, was completed in 1581. On the south side, this building extends the curtain wall upwards, with two gables, and piercing for fenestration, the earlier arched entrance to the inner bailey becoming visually part of the newer building, with rooms above; stone arms set immediately over the archway dated 1581 commemorate the Presidency of the Council of Sir Henry Sidney. Rooms set above the arch leave a gate-passage leading through a second archway to the inner bailey, and giving access to both the Great Keep and the Judges' Lodgings. The rooms above the gate-passage appear to have been accessed by the embellished Tudor-arched doorway in the Keep at the north end of the passage. The north side of the Judges' Lodgings, within the inner bailey, has a polygonal stair turret (which originally had a pyramidal roof), with mullioned and transomed eight-light windows set regularly to either side. Within, some indication is given of the arrangement and appearance of the rooms by the survival of numerous fireplaces of red sandstone backed by brick set in herringbone pattern. The adjoining building to the east, originally two-storeyed, is thought to date from the C17. A number of ancillary buildings, such as a laundry (to the east of the Judges' Lodgings), and a brewhouse (in the inmost bailey), were also constructed at the castle about this time, though these no longer have upstanding remains. The south-west corner tower, enclosed by the inmost bailey, became known as the OVEN TOWER, a large oven having been installed at this time at ground-floor level, with residential rooms above. In the outer bailey, to the south of the gatehouse, are the remains of the PORTER'S LODGE, built in 1522, which now contains the castle shop. The PRISON, adjoining to the south, was also built in 1522. The STABLE BLOCK, adjoining further south, was completed in 1597, and does not have internal features.
In the late C18, when the castle was leased to the Earl of Powis, the establishment of paths included the creation of a sunken walkway through the south-western portion of the outer bailey and two arches through the adjacent parts of the curtain wall. In the area immediately to the south of the castle, ground disturbance and landscaping associated with the construction of Dinham House and adjacent outbuildings have significantly affected the preservation of the south-western part of the outer bailey ditch and this area is therefore not included in the scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

Ludlow Castle, situated on its rocky promontory over the river Teme, is one of the great Welsh border castles, and its extensive remains span the entire medieval period. It was begun about 1085 by Roger de Lacy, but the round Norman chapel, one of the earliest chapels in the county, was built in the 1130s by a rival claimant, Sir Joyce de Dinan, who temporarily ousted the Lacy's from their home. The outer defences, including the outer bailey and gatehouse, were constructed about 1180, the round towers added a century later, and most of the other buildings within the enclosure - the great hall, great chamber and service rooms - were built in C14 and embellished in the Tudor period. After the Lacy line died out in 1240 the castle was held by Roger Mortimer and five generations of his descendants, becoming royal property in 1461 when one of the line was crowned as Edward IV. (PastScape)

Ludlow Castle was built as a major fortress in the defensive frontier with Wales, and was used as a base for assembling military campaigns in the 12th and 13th centuries (Faraday 1991, 17). The inner gate of the castle was aligned to the south and it is probable that a rural settlement (called Dinham) lay south of the castle, where an early chapel and a market green have been identified (Renn 1987, 58). The shape of plots in this area may be evidence for a rural settlement (Conzen 1988, 264). It is also possible that there was a small rural settlement at Galdeford in what was later the eastern suburb of the town (Faraday 1991, 1).
The castle at Ludlow was built in the late 11th and originally consisted of a ringwork, which was extended with an outer bailey in the late 12th century. The study of the castle through architectural survey and excavation has been ongoing since the early 20th century, and a number of areas have been investigated at differing levels of detail. The entire structure has been surveyed in outline (Hope 1909a), and five distinct medieval structures have been studied in more detail, some with limited excavation in order to reveal structural features: the "Great Tower", the late 13th century "Solar Block", the "old pantry", the early 12th century chapel of St Mary Magdelene and the 14th century chapel of St Peter. A number of areas have been excavated within the inner and outer baileys, but medieval evidence is limited. The structure of the castle forms a substantial ruin, and the entire monument survives as an impressive feature in the modern townscape. The component is defined to include the ditch of the outer bailey (now a public garden) and the scarping of the natural slope on east and north. (Dalwood 2005)

The great tower started as a gateway. The gate passage is equipped with an arcade on both sides and may have functioned as a waiting area for people going into the chamber over the gate passage which may have acted as a court room (in both the sense of a legal court room and a place to show noble display, take homage etc.), an adjacent chamber, with attached latrine, is equipped with two large cupboards which may have functioned as stores for court records. The great tower was later converted into a private residential tower and these presumed court functions made have been partly moved out into a court house in the outer bailey and into the great hall within the inner bailey.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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