Walter de Lacy, a trusted member of the household of William fitzOsbern arrived in England with the conquering army of William in 1066. FitzOsbern was rewarded for his loyal part in William's victory with an Earldom over the lands of Hereford. After three years of local resistance, fitzOsbern was able to claim his Earldom and planned to keep his new acquisition secure by developing a string of castles along the border of England and Wales. To assist in this plan, he followed the model of patronage and favour set by William the Conqueror himself and began to distribute areas of his lands to his trusted men, in order to keep their loyalty and support. Thus, Walter de Lacy, fitzOsbern's second in command seems to have acquired the lands of South Shropshire - and from there, he appears to be linked with the earliest developments around Ludlow Castle. Walter's sons, first Roger and then Hugh built the earliest surviving parts of the Castle that we can still see today, and the de Lacy family retained lordship until the end of the 13th century.
The Castle Fortress that the de Lacy's built, occupies a finely judged defensive position. Guarded by both the rivers Teme and Corve, Ludlow Castle stands prominently on high ground, able to resist attack from would be invaders from over the Welsh border. Stone was readily available, being quarried from the castle's own site, and water was obtained from a deep well - sunk from what is now the Inner Bailey, down to the level of the River Teme.
Return to top
The Mortimer family also arrived in England in the wake of William the Conqueror in 1066, and originally held land at and around Wigmore, near Ludlow. Their story is a colourful picture of ambition, power, rivalry and various attempts to claim the throne. Most of them were called Roger or Edmund, which adds to the colour and confusion of their tale - but here are just some of the treacherous deeds the Mortimers instigated:
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Ludlow Castle was held by the Crown, except for a brief time during the Civil War and the Commonwealth. It enjoyed great status as the centre of administration for the Marches shires and for Wales - court sessions and the Prince's Council were held here. This led to massive refurbishment of the buildings and the castle became styled more in the way of an Elizabethan stately home.
The story of the murder of the two young princes in the Tower of London is well known, but before they met their untimely and mysterious deaths, Prince Edward and his younger brother Richard had spent most of their childhood years at Ludlow Castle. Prince Edward was at Ludlow when he received the news of his father's death and he acceeded to the title of Edward V. However, he was never crowned, for when he and his brother arrived in London, they were immediately imprisoned in the Tower and soon after murdered. Their uncle, Richard, then became King Richard 111, and although his guilt has never been proven, posterity has settled the blame for their deaths on Richard's shoulders.
Elder son of Henry Tudor, brother of Henry V111, Prince Arthur died at Ludlow Castle on April 2nd, 1502. He had been staying there with his new wife, Catherine of Aragon on honeymoon. Prince Arthur's heart was buried at Ludlow. His wife returned to London where she later became the first of Henry V111's six wives. Her divorce from Henry sparked the English split from Rome and launched the turbulent years of the Reformation.
Daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry V111, Mary (later Queen Mary 1) spent three winters at Ludlow Castle as a young girl.
In July, 2003, Ludlow Castle was proud and honored to welcome Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on the first visit of a reigning British Monarch to the Castle for many hundreds of years.
A fanciful story or based in historical fact, the truth of the matter is not exactly clear, but the Fitzwarine Romance makes a good tale.
Walter de Lacy was in conflict with Joce de Dinan. Walter and one of his knights, Arthur, were captured and held as prisoners at Ludlow Castle.
Arthur fell in love with the beautiful young Marion de Bruer - one of the ladies of the Castle.She helpfully arranged for Arthur and Walter to escape from their imprisonment. But, Arthur returned to the Castle to see his lover Marion and whilst they met secretly in her chamber, soldiers of Walter de Lacy followed him into the Castle and slaughtered the entire garrison.
Marion was distraught. She killed her treacherous lover with his own sword, then threw herself out of a window, and suffered a broken neck.
Ludlow was an important and busy castle, thronging with important nobles, officials, priests, servants, cooks, bakers, weavers, herbalists, grooms, chambermaids, clerks, tutors, porters, farriers and so on and so forth. Many of these people would have lived within the castle walls, some would have come in just for various commercial, business or maintenance activities as required.
Inside the family home, now called the North Range (see map on Virtual Tour Page) private living rooms would have been kept warmly cosy with roaring fires. Beautiful woven tapestries on the walls would keep away draughts and also added lovely visual decoration. A letter of 1631 says that 'hanginges 12 feet high and 60 yards long' furnished these rooms. Rush matting on the floor covered the stone flags and wooden floorboards of the upper stories. This was cleaned out just once a year and replaced with fresh new rushes at the end of May - this practice was widepread and gives rise to our modern expression 'spring cleaning.' Floors were regularly sprinkled with herbs to try to keep them smelling sweet.
Herbs were also used for cooking and for their powers of healing; a large variety were grown in the castle grounds. Books called 'Herbals' gave advice on growing and using herbs. One was called the 'Canon of Medecine' and was written by a Persian medic called Avicenna. He mentions lavender, sage, rosemary and thyme among many others.
The castle kitchens would have been very busy all year round and a huge fire burned in the 16ft wide fireplace, even during the heat of summer. Huge joints of meat were roasted on spits, turned by a young boy called the 'turnspit.' The castle baker baked all the bread in the kitchen bread ovens for the lord, his family, his guests and his staff. The kitchen staff not only fed the population of the castle on a daily basis, but they also provided luxurious banquets for special occasions - Roger Mortimer for example, was famed for his lavish entertaining.
Documents show that throughout the 16th and 17th centuries many troupes of travelling actors, musicians and entertainers were employed at Ludlow Castle. 'The Lord of Sussex' Players' and the famous 'King's Men' both performed for the residents and officials at the castle, but we can only speculate at what plays, masques and revels they presented. Undoubtedly, the popular plays of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, John Webster would have been in the repertoire.
Sir Phillip Sidney, who became famous for his courtly poetry during the Elizabethan age, was son of the Lord President of Wales, based at Ludlow Castle. The playwright Phillip Massinger and the poet Thomas Carew, were both relatives of Ludlow Council officials. George Herbert, the medieval poet, and his brother Edward - Lord Herbert of Chirbury are both direct ancestors of today's Castle owner John Herbert, 8th Earl of Powis.
John Milton wrote his masque, Comus, a fictional, stylised account of the Bridgewater family, to be presented before John, Earl of Bridgewater, Lord President of Wales at Ludlow Castle. There was a celebratory performance at the castle of Comus in 1984, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Milton's premiere.
The tradition of literary performances continues at Ludlow Castle today, when Ludlow Festival stages a Shakespeare play each summer in the Inner Bailey.
Fairs and feast days were highlights for both the peasants and the nobles. On holy days (holidays) such as Christmas and Easter, everyone attended mass and then enjoyed feasting and festivities. Trade fairs and special market days, often held on the feast days of saints were also occasions for fun and frolics. Merchants came from distant lands to buy and sell goods, and alongside the trading came the many and varied entertainments - drama, music, acrobats, minstrels and balladeers.
May day, midsummer's eve and harvest were also celebrated with special events.
Yuletide Fools - At Christmas time the Festival of Fools (jesters) was very popular entertainment. A fool was elected to be a mock bishop. He was dressed up in fake vestments and led people to church, where he delivered a mocking service in gibberish nonsense and sang rude songs!
Goto British Pathe website here
Content Managed by Ludlow Castle © 2007 using .