Monday, 26 January 2009
Wigmore Castle was founded by a good chum of William the Conqueror, William Fitz Osbern, in Herefordshire, just after the Norman Conquest around 1070.
To visit the castle you’ll need to park on the other side of the village in a designated carpark and walk through the church yard and further onto the castle.
William the Conqueror seized the castle after Fitz Osbern’s son had joined a revolt and gave it to another of his supporters Ranulph de Mortimer. From this time onwards Wigmore became home of the famous Mortimer family.
In 1155 the castle was besieged by Henry II after the Mortimer’s had fallen out with the Crown, not for the first or last time.
The Mortimer family continued to strengthen the defenses over the following centuries in their position of Marcher Lords defending the area for the restless natives.
Roger de Mortimer, mentioned before regarding Ludlow Castle, held a tournament nearby in 1328 when he was regarded as the most powerful man in England. Edward III had Roger executed for killing his dear old dad. However the Mortimer family soon regained Wigmore through marrying into the royal family.
After the last of the male Mortimers died out in 1424 the castle eventually passed to Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York.
Richard's son Edward, Duke of York probably used Wigmore as a base before the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in 1461, later being crowned as Edward IV in 1462.
After the Civil War the castle faded into history and became a romantic ruin.
Ironically the ruinous state of the castle helped to preserve it. In 1999 Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage said of the unusual approach of conserving the ruinous site rather than clearing the site of undergrowth and exposing any buried buildings:
“Wigmore Castle's spectacular ruins will continue to dominate their wild and windswept hilltop for many generations to come.
Instead, we have kept the promise I made three years ago that the Castle would remain untouched and the spirit of the place intact. I want every visitor to feel they are discovering for themselves Wigmore, the magical, evocative and mysterious ruin which invites exploration, vivid with wild flowers and sustaining a remarkably rich and flourishing wildlife."
If you want to actually want to ‘see’ the castle I’d recommend visiting in winter or spring as I seriously doubt you’d be able to see anything once the trees and undergrowth have grown.
I can recommend the Ye Olde Oak Inn with its choice of Hobson’s real ale. On my visit one of resident cats hogged a stool by the real fire whilst another fell asleep on the radiator. It’s nice to see a proper pub in an historical village. Sadly, all too often nowadays, these places are being lost forever. Use them or lose them. It will be too late to start moaning about the disappearance of this unique part of English culture, only to be seen in living history museums, whilst drinking awful imitation beer from a can sitting on your sofa