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Dudley Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Duddeleg; Dudelei

In the civil parish of Dudley.
In the historic county of Staffordshire.
Modern Authority of Dudley.
1974 county of West Midlands.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO947907
Latitude 52.51435° Longitude -2.07996°

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

There are major building remains.

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

Description

Situated in a commanding position on a high limestone ridge overlooking the town of Dudley and includes the standing, earthwork and buried remains of Dudley Castle. In c.1071 William the Conqueror granted extensive estates centred on Dudley to William FitzAnsculph. By the early 12th century a large part of his estate, including the castle, passed to Fulke Paganel who is thought to have replaced the original timber defences with stone. Due to the family's support of the king's sons in their rebellion of 1174, the castle was partly demolished by Henry II the following year. In 1194 Dudley Castle came into the possession of the de Somery family and, at the end of the 13th century, was refortified by Roger de Somery. On his death it passed through marriage to John de Sutton and remained in the family's possession until the mid-17th century. During the Civil War, it was surrendered to the Parliamentarians who demolished part of the castle's defences to render it untenable. However, Dudley Castle remained in use as a residence until the mid-18th century, when a fire within the habitable parts of the castle effectively ended domestic occupation. The motte and bailey castle was constructed by William FitzAnsculph towards the end of the 11th century and is mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086. The motte and the oval bailey to its north are surrounded and strengthened by a dry ditch to the west, north and east. A large proportion of this ditch is now occupied by the animal enclosures of Dudley Zoo and it is best preserved along the south eastern side of the bailey. The ditch is in turn surrounded on all sides by an outer court which takes the form of a level platform beyond which the ground falls away steeply, particularly to the west and east. The northern, north eastern and western boundaries of the outer court are now difficult to identify on the ground since modern buildings associated with the zoo have cut into the platform. It is thought to have originally been bounded by earthen banks which were replaced, at least along the south eastern side of the court, by a masonry wall and a gateway. These structures are believed to have been erected by the de Somery family in the late 16th century and they are included in the scheduling. During the medieval period the outer court is thought to have been occupied by the castle's ancillary and industrial structures and although there is no surface evidence for these remains they will survive as buried features. The motte is located at the southern end of the bailey and has been artificially raised. It stands to a height of approximately 9m and an excavation of part of the motte itself revealed dry stone revetments and platforms thought to be associated with its initial construction. The motte was originally separated from the bailey by a ditch which, although now infilled, will survive as a buried feature. In 1264 John de Somery was granted a licence to crenallate Dudley Castle and was responsible for constructing the stone keep on the motte and the curtain walls around the bailey at the beginning of the 14th century. The standing remains of these structures are Listed Grade I and are included in the scheduling. The distinctively planned keep measures approximately 22m east to west and 15m north to south externally and has semicircular towers 9.8m across, projecting slightly from each corner. Following the Civil War the southern half of the keep was slighted in order to render it untenable, but it was partly restored and battlements were added by Viscount Dudley and Ward in the late 18th century. An excavation on the southern side of the motte during the 1980s exposed the foundations of the keep, and its main batter (inwardly sloping wall) was found to sit over an offset stone plinth which, in turn, lies upon a wider bed of masonry askew to the alignment of the keep. The offset is considered to predate the construction of the keep and represents the remains of part of an earlier keep which was reused as the foundations of its 14th century replacement. A wall which encloses a narrow area roughly concentric to the later keep was also located and this is believed to have been constructed during the late 14th century as a defensive feature to protect the foot of the keep walls. The excavation also recovered evidence for a semicircular brick structure on the motte and this is included in the scheduling. It is thought to represent the remains of a World War II searchlight and lookout post, which illustrates the continued topographic importance of the castle's location into the mid-20th century. The bailey has a relatively level surface and measures 100m north to south and 80m east to west, an area of approximately 0.8ha. Excavations within its eastern half have recovered evidence for the early occupation of the castle, including traces of timber structures and a number of pits, but further archaeological remains relating to the castle's original buildings will survive as buried features. A 2m thick curtain wall surrounded the bailey from at least the early 14th century. Much of its eastern length has been incorporated within the later domestic buildings of the castle, whilst parts of the north and west curtain wall have been replaced by thinner walling of 16th century date. The south eastern curtain wall was demolished after the Civil War and replaced in the 17th century by a wall to the north on a different alignment. Those parts of the curtain wall which are no longer visible above ground will survive as buried features. Access into the bailey is via a gatehouse which was built into the original south eastern curtain wall. It was erected by John de Somery in c.1300, but its side walls are earlier in date and are thought to represent part of a pre-existing gateway. The gatehouse is a rectangular two storeyed structure with a stone vaulted gate passage which was defended at both ends by a portcullis. In the late 14th century a barbican was added to the gatehouse projecting south eastwards into the castle's outer enclosure. There is also a small gateway within the northern curtain wall. It is thought to date from the 16th century and was constructed to provide access into the northern part of the outer court. During the mid-14th century a building range with a chapel and domestic apartments was erected to the north east of the main gatehouse. The chapel is situated above a tunnel vaulted undercroft and occupies the southern half of the range. It has a traceried, three light window within its west wall and, in the south west wall, an ogee-headed upper doorway. To the north of the chapel are the remains of a suite of rooms which include what is thought to have been the Grand Chamber. Most of the window openings were altered in the 16th century to allow more light to enter the rooms on the first floor and the internal walls retain elaborate 16th century fireplaces. In 1533 Dudley Castle came into the possession of Sir John Dudley, who later became Duke of Northumberland. He sponsored the redesigning of the accommodation at the castle under the direction of Sir William Sharrington. A new two storeyed range of buildings, built of coursed limestone with sandstone quoins, was erected against the eastern curtain wall. Those immediately to the north of the chapel can be divided into two principal blocks, of which the southern contained the hall, and the northern block the kitchen. A further building was erected between the kitchen and the northern gateway. It has an octagonal turret with an external entrance at its north western corner which originally contained a staircase to provide access to the upper floors. The first floor hall at the opposite end of the new range is approximately 24m long and 9.5m wide and is believed to occupy the site of an earlier hall which will survive as a buried feature. Its eastern wall has been demolished, whilst the western wall retains mullioned and transomed windows. A loggia (a recessed colonnade) was constructed against the external face of the hall's western wall in the mid-16th century and it extends along much of the length of the room. A central flight of steps originally provided access from the bailey onto the loggia and, via a porch at its northern end, into the hall itself. The ground floor of the adjoining northern block was occupied by the kitchen and a large room to the south. The dividing wall retains 12th century masonry, including the remains of a semicircular arched opening. Much of the eastern wall of this block dates from the 16th century and has been built on the line of the medieval curtain wall. The standing remains of these buildings, known as the Sharrington Range, are Listed Grade I and are included in the scheduling. Excavations at Dudley Castle in the 1980s recovered further evidence of structures associated with the 16th century remodelling of the castle. The buried remains of a substantial building, which formed part of the Sharrington Range, were located between the chapel and the gatehouse. It cut through a surface which had been created by the levelling of an earlier stone building thought to be associated with the late 12th century occupation of the castle. An excavation immediately to the north of the keep recovered evidence for a building which formerly stood along the south western side of the bailey. Its position corresponds with a round headed doorway leading through the curtain wall and it has been identified as a 16th century kitchen annexe which was connected to the keep by a flight of steps. Further evidence for the buildings which originally stood along the west side of the bailey include a line of corbels and a large fireplace within the fabric of the central section of the western curtain wall. During the Civil War Dudley Castle was held for the king but in 1646 it was surrendered without a siege to Sir William Brereton. The southern half of the keep, parts of the curtain wall and the barbican were subsequently demolished to render the castle untenable. However, it continued in use as a residence and in the mid-17th century a two storey building, thought to have been a stable block and further lodgings, was erected between the motte and the gatehouse. It overlies the line of the medieval curtain wall which was demolished after the Civil War and was built flush against the south western wall of the gatehouse. Although the castle was inhabited until the fire in 1750, it is thought to have been used only infrequently for formal occasions and was maintained by a skeleton staff. In the 1930s a zoo was established in Dudley which incorporated the castle remains within its grounds. A number of the animal enclosures were erected within the castle's outer court and include several structures built to the designs of Messrs Tecton which are pioneering examples of the use of reinforced concrete. (Scheduling Report)

Excavations between 1983 and 1993 indicate that the castle was begun as a motte and bailey circa 1071-1100. The keep, barbican and curtain walls added in C13 and C14. The castle was slighted in 1647 and rebuilt in the early C17 and destroyed by fire in 1750

NB. Whilst Dudley town was in a detached part of medieval Worcestershire, surrounded by Staffordshire, the Castle and priory always remained in Staffordshire, although the castle is noted in Worcestershire Domesday along with the town.

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1264 March 16 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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This record last updated on Saturday, March 29, 2014

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