Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

One of a line of Norman castles built along the Marches, Ludlow Castle commanded a good defensive position, with steep slopes to the north and west, overlooking the Rivers Teme and Corve. Although the exact date of construction is unknown, the earliest building - the curtain wall of the inner bailey, the four flanking towers, and parts of the gatehouse keep - has been dated to late 11th century. During the early 12th century, the gatehouse was extended and converted to a four-storey keep, containing a living hall and private solar. Norman windows can still be seen at the top of the original interior. Later that century, the original entrance to Ludlow Castle was blocked off and a new entrance arch was made in the adjacent curtain wall. Towards the end of the 15th century, the north wall was rebuilt, and floors constructed within the hall created rooms that were lit by larger windows.

Replacing some earlier buildings on the site, the North Range was completed in the 1320s, it's unusual crescent shape being determined by the curved Norman curtain wall. The most important structure in this range was the Great Hall, a huge room measuring some 60ft (18m) by 30ft (9m), with an undercroft beneath. In the northwest flanking tower, the Solar Wing was located to provide guest accommodation. This building was later known as Prince Arthur's chamber as, in 1501 he and Catherine of Aragon lived there for four months. On the other side of the Great Hall was the Great Chamber Block which would have contained the living quarters of the Lord and Lady of the castle, the Garderobe Tower (just outside the curtain wall), and a separate Great Kitchen. In the 16th century a block of Tudor lodgings were built, adjacent to the Great Chamber.

A wonderful example of a Norman chapel has survived in part at Ludlow Castle. The Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, probably first built in the early 12th century, had a circular nave with an extending rectangular chancel. Although much alteration took place over the years, it is a delight to see some of the original decorative work still exists. Apart from the Chapel, the only other example of a curved structure at Ludlow Castle, is the semi-circular, 13th century building of Mortimer's Tower on the western perimeter wall.

For the first 200 years, Ludlow Castle was owned by the De Lacy family, and then came into the possession of the Mortimers until 1461, when it became Crown property. During the next 350 years it remained largely a Royal castle, but had fallen into a state of decay by the mid 18th century. From that time until the present day, Ludlow Castle has been fortunate to come under the care of the Earls of Powis and, with careful and continual restoration work, has become the lovely romantic ruin seen today.


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