LUDLOW CASTLE, SY8 1AY
Postcode: SY8 1AY
Lat/Long: 52.3674N 2.7237W
Notes: Castle is a major tourist attraction and is well sign-posted. No dedicated car parking but ample options around Ludlow including on-road pay and display) directly outside castle entrance.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Substantial remains of a major medieval Border fortress. The Keep remains to full height with access to the ramparts for visitors. The castle also boats a rare circular chapel albeit in a ruinous condition.
1. The de Lacy family, who built Ludlow Castle, also constructed other fortifications along the Border Marches including Longtown Castle.
2. Roger Mortimer’s power was centred on nearby Wigmore Castle.
Once the capital of Wales in all but name, Ludlow Castle has seen its fair share of action having been besieged during the Anarchy, attacked by Edward II, sacked by Lancastrian forces during the Wars of the Roses and assaulted by Parliamentary forces in 1646.
HISTORY OF LUDLOW CASTLE
Ludlow, which formed part of the manor of Stanton, has probably been fortified since the eleventh century. Although the first reference to the castle is not found until 1138 (there was no mention in the Domesday book of 1086), the land was granted to the de Lacy family in the years following the Norman invasion and it seems probable, given its proximity to the troublesome Welsh border, a castle was constructed at this time given its superb defensive position. The first actual reference in the historical record though is during the Anarchy when it was besieged by King Stephen.
Situated on the Welsh border, Ludlow was frequently at the centre of the power struggle between the Norman Lords of the Border Marches and the native Welsh. In 1224 the castle hosted the peace negotiations between Henry III and Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (the Great). Whilst this peace didn’t last, the subsequent invasions of Edward I did bring stable conditions to the border which enabled the castle to be upgraded into a palace rather than just a fortified military base. The castle passed through marriage to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, extending his powerbase further across the Midlands. Dissatisfied with the weak and ineffectual Government of Edward II, Roger rebelled against the King and this led to Ludlow being attacked by Royal forces in 1322. Ultimately Roger prevailed though and achieved the overthrow of Edward II in 1326 effectively became the de facto ruler of England until he met his own downfall at the hands of Edward III. Ludlow nevertheless remained a property of his heirs.
The last male Mortimer died in 1425 and the castle passed to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Richard was at the forefront of the Wars of the Roses resulting in Ludlow being sacked by a Lancastrian force in 1459; keen to show that Richard was incapable of protecting his servants and retainers, Ludlow was effectively treated as an alien foreign town and suitably decimated. Richard later died during the Battle of Wakefield (1460) but his son, Edward, successfully defeated Henry VI at the Battles of Mortimer’s Cross (1461) and Towton (1461) and became Edward IV; at this point Ludlow became a property of the Crown.
In 1473 Edward sent his son, Prince Edward, to be brought up at Ludlow under the care of Anthony, Earl Rivers. At the sametime he formed the Prince’s Council which later became the ‘Council of the Marches’. Edward IV died unexpectedly young in 1483 and his son, now Edward V, departed from the castle on his way to London for his coronation. He was intercepted by his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and subsequently deposed – one of the Princes in the Tower whose fate remains uncertain.
The arrival of the Tudor dynasty in 1485 started to herald changes in the English/Welsh relationship. Henry VII was keen to centralise power and started dismantling the historical framework where barons could raise their own armies and this included downgrading the prominence of the Border Marches. In 1534 Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry was appointed to the ‘Council of the Marches’ and, having been granted significantly greater powers, turned Ludlow into what effectively became the capital for Wales; this prompted a flurry of building work at the castle to support the legal, administrative and ecclesiastical functions associated with such a role. Ludlow remained the centre of Welsh politics until 1641.
During the Civil War Ludlow was held for the King and, as Royalist fortunes waned, the castle was besieged in 1646 by a Parliamentary force under Colonel John Birch. The castle ultimately surrendered and subsequently avoided slighting. Nevertheless the castles prominence now declined; following the Glorious Revolution of 1689, functions of Government were increasingly centralised in London and the castle drifted into disuse and ruin. In 1811 the castle came into the ownership of the Earls of Powis (from Powis Castle) who, with various state aids, have helped maintain the castle.