Ludgershall Castle was built in the late eleventh century by Edward of Salisbury, Sheriff of Wiltshire. The location was strategically important as it sat upon a major Medieval trading route between Marlborough and Winchester (the latter was the capital of the Kingdom of Wessex). To the immediate south of the castle was a pre-existing Saxon settlement that had existed since at least 1015 when it was bequeathed in a Royal will to Godwine the driveller.
The castle was built re-using the earthworks of an Iron Age fortification. These existing defences consisted of an oval enclosure protected by a double ditch and bank. In 1100, following the death of Edward of Salisbury, Ludgershall reverted to the Crown. Shortly after, Henry I appointed John the Marshal as the custodian and he converted the castle into a ringwork-and-bailey fortification. The ringwork itself was built to the north of the existing defences and hosted the high status buildings, most of which were built in stone. The existing oval enclosure to the south became the castle's bailey and was used solely for livestock and ancillary functions.
During the Anarchy, the civil war between Stephen and Matilda over the English throne, Ludgershall was under the stewardship of John FitzGilbert. He originally supported Stephen but in 1139 switched his allegiance to Matilda. He fought at her side at the Rout of Winchester and was instrumental in covering her retreat. Following the action, she briefly stayed at Ludgershall as she fled west away from Stephen's forces. Matilda was allegedly so exhausted that she was carried in a litter prompting her enemies to suggest she ‘travelled in a coffin’.
Ludgershall Castle was upgraded in 1210 by King John who used it regularly both as a stopping point into the West Country and as a hunting lodge for the adjacent Royal Forest of Chute. Henry III added a Great Hall in the 1240s but this was to be the last major upgrade. Nevertheless the castle continued to be regarded as a Royal manor and was periodically granted to members of the Royal family with its long list of owners including Queen Philippa (died 1369) and George, Duke of Clarence (died 1478). However, by the end of the fifteenth century the castle had ceased to have any real role especially as the importance of Winchester had declined relegating Ludgershall to a backwater. In the 1540s the castle buildings were largely demolished and the grounds were landscaped into a garden. The castle's tower was retained as an ornamental feature.
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Ludgershall Castle consists of the remains of a stone Tower and the low lying foundations of the adjacent buildings as well as substantial earthworks. A Medieval cross can also be seen nearby.
Ludgershall Castle Layout. The earliest castle was built within the perimeter of an Iron Age fortification. Around 1100, a northern ringwork was added along with high status buildings. The southern enclosure was converted into the castle's bailey at this time and used predominantly for livestock. The southern portion of the earthworks have been damaged by modern housing, creation of a farm track and quarrying. The central section the castle was landscaped and is now occupied by Castle Farm.
Tower. The tower was built in the late-twelfth century. It was originally faced with ashlar but this stonework has been robbed revealing the flint core. The tower survived the landscaping of the sixteenth century as it was retained to serve as a garden feature.
Market Cross. This originally stood at the centre of the Market Square and dates from the early to mid-fourteenth century.
Ludgershall Castle was built in the late eleventh century around earthworks of an Iron Age fort. It passed into Crown ownership in 1100 and was converted into a ringwork-and-bailey fortification. It later served as a hunting lodge for the adjacent parks and nearby Forest of Chute ultimately becoming a favoured Royal residence of both King John and Henry III.
Ludgershall Castle is found on Castle Street, just off the A342. The site is signposted and there is a small parking area for visitors. The Market Cross is found on the A342 High Street, a short distance south of the castle.
High Street, SP11 9SP