The first reference to Ludlow Castle in literature was in 1138 but its date of origin still remains uncertain. Firstly I feel it should be pointed out that Ludlow is certainly one of the most picturesque English towns I have ever visited, the castle is just the icing on the cake. The town of Ludlow was in the corner of Stanton Manor which was held by the de Lacy family since 1066. The castle was one of a line of Norman castles that were built along the border with Wales to hold back the unconquered Welsh. The castle was probably built by Walter de Lacy, and during the 12th century the castle changed hands several times. Eventually in 1240 when the last male de Lacy died the castle came into the possession of Geoffrey de Geneville, a French baron from Champagne. Geoffrey spent much of his time in Ireland and passed the castle onto his son Peter in 1283.
The castle was refurbished and came into the hands of Roger Mortimer through his marriage to Peter de Geneville’s daughter. Mortimer was one of a group of barons who dethroned Edward II in 1326. Mortimer was made earl of March (the area that straddles the Welsh border). However he made many enemies during his time at Ludlow and was eventually deposed and executed by rivals in 1330. Later the family regained power and royal favour and entered the mainstream of national politics.
When the last male Mortimer died in 1425 the castle passed to his sister’s son Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Richard was the leader of the Yorkists in the War of the Roses and Ludlow was his seat of power, which in turn led to the attack and sacking of the castle by the rival Lancastrians in 1459.
In 1461 when Edward IV became king Ludlow castle became crown property. In 1473 the king sent his son also named Edward to be brought up at Ludlow as London was ravaged with plagues and violence at the time. The young prince was accompanied by nobles who, under the presidency of Bishop Alcock (the prince’s tutor) formed a Prince’s Council. This council assumed responsibility for the governing of Wales though up until the 1530s this control was limited. The ‘Acts of the Union’ brought Wales further under English control and Ludlow was essentially the capital of Wales from the 1550s onwards, and the castle became more of a centre of administration rather than a palatial home.
During the English Civil War of 1642-46 Ludlow castle was a Royalist stronghold. It was attacked by Parliamentary forces and was surrendered before the castle was destroyed. After 1669 the castle was abandoned as government policy was to centralise control of England and Wales from London. It was looted in the aftermath and the government even considered destroying it in the 1760s, however instead they leased it to the Earl of Powis. It was kept under the control of subsequent earls until it was passed over to English Heritage in the 20th century.
Ludlow is an incredibly impressive and unusual ruin, there is almost something playful about its nature and the views from its turrets are breathtaking. A visit to Ludlow Castle, the town itself and nearby Stokesay Castle is highly recommended.
GPS: 52.36712, -2.72299