Ludlow castle was founded in the eleventh century as a major masonry fortress.  It proved its worth in 1102 when Earl Robert Belleme of Shrewsbury (d.1134) defied the king of England and 30,000 troops for 3 months.  On the castle's surrender Henry I gave it to Pain Fitz John (d.1137) who used it as a centre for his lordship of South Wales.  After his death in 1137 the castle was much fought over in the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign.  The medieval Romance of Fulk Fitz Warin (d.1171) of Whittington dwells for a long time on the sieges that occurred here.  During one of these attacks the rectangular gatetower was fired and later had to be rebuilt as the current keep. 

In 1139 King Stephen besieged the castle when one of his barons, the Scottish Earl Henry of Huntingdon (d.1152) was caught by a grappling iron thrown over the battlements and hoisted up the wall.  The king himself went to Henry's rescue and succeeded in cutting him down.  The argument of the ownership over the castle with Joyce Dinan (d.1167) was finally settled when Henry II (1154-89) came to the throne and confirmed the Angevin Gilbert Lacy (d.1163+)
of Weobley and Longtown in possession.

The Lacys did not prove loyal barons and the castle was repeatedly seized by the Crown until the last Lacy died in 1241, old and blind.  The fortress then passed to the Genevilles and finally the Mortimers of Wigmore.  After his successful escape from the Tower of London, Earl Roger Mortimer (d.1330), founded a chapel in the castle outer ward in remembrance and thanks for the deed.  That aside Edward III had him hanged in 1330.  The castle was besieged and taken for parliament in 1646, but was kept up as a garrison and not slighted, although after 1689 it was neglected.

The heart of the fortress is the great rectangular keep, made from the surviving remnants of the great gatetower brought down in the siege of about 1148.  This stands 4 storeys high and still maintains in its core the original gate passageway which appears to have had a Northern French style foot passage which is unusual in Britain.  This was highly ornate, much more ornate than the later French versions as found at Lassay, Tonquedec, Loches and Tiffauges.  It also appears in the 1440s keep entrance at Raglan in Gwent.  The gatehouse has been compared to the eighth century gatehouse built by Charlmagne at Aachen.  

The keep commands a polygonal eleventh century ward which has several open backed rectangular towers and mural passageways within its walls on the external sides.  Within the ward is the nave of a unique circular church with exquisite carvings.  To the north are a series of fabulous buildings of the Genevilles and Mortimers which transformed the castle into a palace.  Outside the ditch is a large outer court with an interesting D-shaped gatetower, called Mortimer's Tower.  This controlled the old route down to the River Teme towards Wales.  The medieval market town of Ludlow is also still largely encompassed by its town walls.

Why not join me at other Lost Welsh Castles next Spring?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry