I’ve been to this one several times. A great favourite in a lovely town with an annual Medieval ‘Fayre’… what’s not to love?
Castles in the Welsh Marches were always of great importance, not just strategically, but also politically and economically. Ludlow was geographically central within the region, making it a valuable power base.
The precise date of the origins is unknown, but architectural features in the Inner Bailey point to the late 11th century. The area was held by the de Lacy family from 1066. They held the Castle until the late 13th century apart from an upheaval in the troubled reign of King Stephen when it was held by their enemy Joce de Dinan. The Castle was besieged by the King in 1139.
The de Laceys held great estates in Ireland and spent much of their time there. Ludlow remained a major power base for them until the last male died c1240. The estates were divided between his daughters.
The Castle eventually passed to the de Genevilles, who probably built the range of domestic buildings in the Inner Bailey during the reign of Edward I. The area was more stable following the King’s Welsh Conquests and the Castle became more of a luxurious palace.
Roger Mortimer of Wigmore married Joan de Geneville, giving him a useful base during the rebellion against Edward II. As the leader of the rebels during the ‘Despenser War’, he became extremely powerful and was created the first Earl of March. When Edward III reached his majority, he executed his mother’s lover in 1330.
The Mortimers were able to regain favour and the last of the male line died in 1425. At this point it passed to his sister’s son, Richard of York, for whom it was an important base during the Wars of the Roses. It was sacked by the Lancastrian army in 1459 and became crown property when Richard’s son became Edward IV in 1461.
It remained a royal castle for 350 years. Edward IV sent his eldest son to be brought up in Ludlow, under the supervision of Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, brother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. The boy was made Earl of Pembroke and president of the Council of Wales and the Marches, but the eventual fate of Edward V and his brother remains a matter of conjecture. Uncle Richard III placed them in the Tower of London ‘for their own safety’…
Henry VII sent his son, Prince Arthur, to Ludlow with his new bride Catherine of Aragon. Some Tudor features were introduced at that point. Ludlow was the main administrative centre throughout the 16th century, effectively the unofficial capital of Wales.
A Royalist stronghold in the Civil War but the garrison surrendered, thus avoiding major demolition. However the castle was largely abandoned in the late 17th century and was a picturesque ruin when it was bought by the Earl of Powis. This arrested the decline and has protected it for us to enjoy today.
Really worth a visit at any time, highly recommended.