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 there. During one of
these attacks the gatehouse was fired and later had to be rebuilt as
the current keep. The castle passed to the Lacys of Weobley
They 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. This was highly ornate,
much more ornate than the later French versions as found at Lassay,
and Tiffauges. It also appears in the 1440's 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 rounte down to the River Teme towards Wales. The medieval market town of Ludlow is
also still largely encompassed by its town walls.
not join me at other Lost Welsh Castles next Spring?
Please see the information on tours at Scholarly
Paul Martin Remfry