Stokesay takes it name from the old English vill of Stoke which belonged to the Say family.  They were lords of Clun until the 1150s and were descended from Cadwgan ap Bleddyn, the king of Powys and founder of Powis castle.  Tradition says that after Laurence Ludlow bought Stokesay from the Says, some time before 1284, he built the castle.  Unfortunately, yet again, science says differently.  The woodwork on the upper levels of the north tower and in the hall has been dendrochronologically dated to around 1262 although several pieces of wood within the hall were earlier, viz, 1118, 1151, 1192, 1218, 1230, 1241, 1242 and 1245.  As the woodwork was made to fit the tower and shows no sign of reuse it seem reasonably secure that the masonry under the woodwork predates this.  In short, the woodwork suggests that something existed on the site from the early twelfth century and that the north tower and hall block were standing by the mid thirteenth century.  Laurence himself died in 1294, when he drowned as his ship sank as its woolen cargo had become sodden in a storm.  The castle was slighted after a determined siege during the Civil War.

The hub of the castle is the peculiar 3 storey heart-shaped tower, sometimes called the south tower, whose woodwork was totally refurbished in 1641.  This is obviously the keep of the fortress and was joined to a sub-rectangular ward by high curtain walls, of which the east portion has totally gone.  Between the equally irregular 3 storey north tower and the keep was the hall block, 79' long, which has survived intact from the thirteenth century.  This makes up the bulk of the castle remains although a wooden gatehouse of 1641 survives to the east.  The whole thing was surrounded by a water filled moat and had a pond to the south as well as other earthworks which point towards further water defences.  North of the castle is the early Stokesay church.

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