Over the years, there have been many discussions on whether or not Ludlow Castle began its life as a fortress and ended it as a palace. It is my intention to contemplate whether this interpretation is correct or not. Based on my recent visit to the castle and from various secondary sources, I will decide the stages the castle went through in the past. I will come to a conclusion- whether it be that it did indeed begin life as a fortress and end as a palace, or whether it started as a fortress and fulfilled many other roles and did not end as a palace.
The battle of Hastings was in fact the reason why castles were invented William of Normandy came up with the clever idea of a castle as not only did they keep the enemy out, it was also a base for people involved in the battles. A castle in in fact a fortified building which is used for defence. Ludlow needed this as they were going into battle. The people of Ludlow had to decide where to place the castle. They had to ensure that it would be beneficial for them.
They came to an agreement that it had to be near a river and had to be high on a hill as if it were high on a hill they would have the advantage because they would have the better position in terms of shooting. They decided to place a castle in Ludlow as it was becoming a growing town and therefore, a good place for a castle to be placed. At first, the castle belonged to the De Lacy family. This family were extremely powerful Normans. Powerful because Walter De Lacy, who was the father of Roger De lacy, had supported King William during his invasion in 1066.
Ludlow was firstly recognised in 1138, however people suspected that it was probably built around 1086-1094. This part will be about the castles fortress stage which was during the 11th century-12th century. This si the period of time when both the inner bailey and the chapel of St Mary Magdalene was built, one of which was built as a defensive feature and the other as a palatial feature. The inner bailey contained the Keep/gatehouse, the Curtain Wall and the Towers. These were defensive as they all either kept a look out in case the enemy was near, and because they prevented others form getting into the castle.
Also, Mortimer’s Tower built in a Curtain Wall. Mortimer’s Tower was built by Roger De Lacy during the times of 1086 and 1094. This was made as a rounded shape as it made it increasingly hard to dig under and climb up. In my recent visit, they had blocked up a door that had previously been there, which of course is for defence as it stops any easy access. It also contains 3 murder holes which are essential as if the enemy had somehow gotten in, they would have been able to scold them with boiling oil or they would throw out arrows at them. Mortimer’s Tower also contained a spiral staircase.
This meant that it was easier for the defendant to attack the enemy than it was for the enemy to attack the defendant. It was a defensive feature as it didn’t take up much room. Another defensive feature was the fact that in the motte, there is sticks and nettles. The reason why there is no water in the motte is because the castle is made out of limestone and limestone absorbs water, (it’s porous) so as soon as they found that out, they had to find another use for the motte. They therefore put sticks and nettles in it so that the enemy could not reach the castle.
They also cut down all the trees around the castle as if they didn’t, the enemy could climb up them and get into the castle. Narrow windows and archways were also built as not only could the defendant avoid any arrows being shot into the castle, the small archways only allowed small amounts of people to get into the castle at one time. The magazine, otherwise known as the ice house was effective as it was firstly a place where people kept there armour before and after battle, but later on, it was a place for food to be kept in.
So in both periods of times, it was an essential part of the castle. There were also portcullis’ and crenulations present in the castle. The portcullis was important in the fortress stage as it prevented the enemy access in to the castle. Crenulations were also an important feature in the fortress stage of the castle as it protected the castle. The castle also went through a palatial stage in its life too. This stage was the time when people started to live in the castle and not just use it for battle bases.
There was a greater importance in constructing buildings such as the garderobes and the great chamber block as if people were to live there, they would need these essential buildings to live and maintain their everyday lifestyle. There were many features in the castle which portray that there were people living in the castle. Examples of these are the fireplaces and the kitchen. St peters chapel also held various marriage ceremonies. This shows that the castle was not just used for battles. As I have stated before, the ice-house/magazine used to be a place where people stored their armour.
That was in the 11th and 12th century. However, in my visit to the castle, I recall the old ice house being a place to store food. The armour has been replaced with food which therefore conveys to us that people did once live in the castle and makes us see it as a palatial stage in the castles life. I have also found out that in St Mary’s chapel, there used to be masses held there daily. In addition, there were many ovens in the kitchen which could suggest that there were a lot of people to cook for.
No only do both of these show palatial features within the castles life, the ovens position in the kitchen, or even the kitchens position in the castle suggest that great amounts of people had previously lives in the castle. By the kitchen being far away from the Great Hall, it suggests to us that they placed it there for a reason. That reason being in-case of an emergency. I. e. Fire. If there ever was a fire in the kitchen, the Lords and Ladies in the Great Hall would not be harmed one bit as they would not have been anywhere near it.
The castle contains a block of toilets. This shows that whoever did actually live in the castle, was extremely wealthy. Wealthy because they didn’t want just a normal toilet, they wanted a block of them. This shows them to be wealthy and therefore adds to the palatial features in the castle. Ludlow castle also contains a solar block. This was used frequently as it was the best room in terms of sunlight. (It lets in the most sunlight and because of this, the solar block became very popular with the people living in the bright environment.
In my opinion, this next point I’m about to reveal is what makes the castle amazing in its palatial features. Before Henry viii, Catherine of Aragon had her honeymoon at Ludlow and spent most of her time in the Solar Block. That for me is the best, most important palatial feature that Ludlow Castle can offer. Royalty has actually been present in Ludlow Castle. The Great Hall is another room that’s fit for royalty. It has 2 entrances. One for the Lords and one for the Ladies. It also contains corbels. Ludlow Castle also replaced the older, Norman windows with some new windows.
Now the new ones had mullion framing around it. This made the windows more wide and allowed more light to enter. Throughout the 1600;s, Ludlow castle was used as an Administrative Centre. The judges Lodgings, which may I add was the last building to be built in Ludlow Castle, was made during this period for 2 purposes. 1- so that the judges could stay there, and 2- so that the people who lived there could impress the queens and judges. Also, a prison was added- hence the name Administrative Centre. However, in the prisons, larger windows were added so that they could feel more comfortable and 1 more thing.
No, larger windows weren’t added so that the prisoners could escape. Bars were added on top of them to ensure that the prisoners could not get away. When Ludlow Cstle became an Administrative Centre, people thought that it was a very important place. They thought that it was so important that Ludlow nearly became the capital of Wales. A stable was also built. This was due to there being prisoners. They built the stables so that they could have a place where they could keep their prisoners locked up before their trails. During the civil war of 1642-1646, Ludlow Castle got besieged.
However, it did indeed remain strong. It was attacked by the parliamentarians. It was not at all ruined as such and proof of that is the fact that the castle is still standing today. After this period of time, no one lived in the castle permanently ever again. It was left in a ruin. It seemed that the people of Ludlow did no longer need the castle in terms of housing. The castle went through a final stage in its life. This stage is from the 20th-21st century. This is a tourist attraction. During the 19th century, the castle had many uses sports wise.
They also held public events. All of which were held in the outer bailey. Shakespearian plays take place every year for the public. Also festivals and car shows. Evidence of this is in the leaflet called, “Ludlow castle Shropshire” which it attached at the back. You can also spend the day in luxurious tea rooms which again is open to the public. (With payments) Handrails/banisters have also been added to the castle for the publics safety. The porters Lodging ha also been converted into a gift shop for the visitors at Ludlow Castle.
These past points prove that Ludlow Castle went through a 4th stage in it’s life, this being a tourist attraction. However, they are not the only pieces of evidence. Ludlow castle has also added more wider, modern windows. They did this for 2 reasons. 1- for the publics safety, so that the public are able to see things clearly and 2- so that the castles is more appealing to people. Glass tiles have also been added. Especially to Mortimer’ Tower. Each year, there are 50,00 visitors. This makes the castle very valuable and well respected.
In the keep, there were 3 murder holes used for defence. However, when it became a tourist attraction, the people who owned the castle decided to block them out the safety reasons. More evidence of the castle being a tourist attraction is the fact that signs have been put up so that visitors know where things are e. g. toilets, gift shops. The last 2 points were and still are beneficial for the tourists’ who are at the castle. After the castles stage as a ruin, people decided that if it was going to be a tourist attraction, they would need to fix things to make it look more presentable.
They have repaved pavements for health and safety reasons for both themselves and the public. Metal grids have also been added on the windows. This stops the tourists falling out and harming themselves. The current owner of the castle- Jane George Herbert, is the 8th earl of Powis. The earl of Powis who brought the castle in 1811, had a goal, an aim, a dream. This was to keep the castle in an untouched ruin. Mortimer’s Tower has tow indent son the floor. It has previously been filled in for both the publics and the workers health.