Saturday, 10 January 2009

Ludlow castle

Ludlow Castle defends a strategic crossing of the River Teme in Ludlow, Shropshire. This castle was another site that I remember tearing around in my youth with fond memories of yelling and hitting my older brother about the head with twig swords. The castle always reminds me of Dudley castle with its similar Norman, medieval and Tudor buildings.

The castle was established in the 11th century by the De Lacy family.

During the Anarchy King Stephen was supposed to have personally rescued the Scottish Prince Henry from a grappling hook thrown from the battlements by the defenders.

The original, imposing, Norman keep was the gateway was blocked in and a new gateway was built along side.

Roger Mortimer (lover of Queen Isabella and poker of Edward II fame) turned the castle in to his main power base early in the 14th century for his military campaigns into Wales. In fact Mortimer’s Tower was originally a gatehouse and was the main jumping off point into Wales.

During the Wars of the Roses the castle was taken by the Lancastrians in 1459 but changed hands back to the House of York in 1461.

Perhaps the most unfortunate inhabitants of the castle were the ‘Princes in the Tower’ Edward IV’s two sons. They were held here before they were allegedly murdered by the wicked old Richard III in the Tower of London. Another tragic inhabitant was Mary Tudor held here until 1528.

During the English Civil War Ludlow was a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by Parliamentarian forces but negotiated a surrender, avoiding the usual slighting.

The inner bailey features the an unusual circular chapel, normally associated with the Knights Templar order, that must have inspired by The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem similar to the Temple Church, London.

On an interesting footnote, the Royal Welch Fusiliers were founded at the Castle by Lord Herbert in 1689.

John Milton’s masque Comus was first presented on Michaelmas (29th September), 1634, for the 1st Earl of Bridgewater. The Earl’s children as used as members of the cast.

The castle is now owned by the Earl of Powis.

Nearby the predominately 15th century St. Laurence’s church dominates the skyline.
The impressive chancel contains the mediaeval choir stalls decorated with numerous amusing misericords. Several warn against the dangers of alcohol consumption. I sensibly chose to ignore those. The Church Inn, nearby to the church, is well worth a visit if you enjoy a real fire and real ale; a perfect combination on a cold English winter evening.
For a small fee you can ascend the bell tower but unfortunately the weather had closed in so we advised it wasn’t worth the effort. The ashes of Alfred Edward Housman, author of ‘A Shropshire Lad’, are interred in the graveyard.