St Laurence, Ludlow is a beautiful 15th Century church located in the historic town of Ludlow, Shropshire.
Ludlow is accessible by train and the A49, approximately 33 miles from Worcester to the east, and close to the Welsh border to the west.
The church has a history dating back to the origins of the town, and also has connections to some of the most famous people of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Often called ‘The Cathedral of the Marshes’, it was given a 5 star rating by Simon Jenkins in his book ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ and on visiting, it is easy to see why!
The site of St. Laurence’s, Ludlow has long been revered, originating in the Bronze Age when a burial mound was created. This is also where the origin of the name ‘Ludlow comes from.
There has been a church on this site since the late 11th century and the founding of Ludlow by the Normans.
It was situated on a high point in the town, and when you visit you can see today’s tower still dominates the medieval town and surrounds.
Today’s church mostly dates from the 15th Century, however parts of it still remain from the rebuilding of the original Norman church at the close of the 12th century.
Ludlow was a wealthy town by the late middle ages due to the success of its wool trade, and the church benefited from this with a in-depth rebuilding in the 15th century, completed by 1471 and giving us the church we see today.
The Perpendicular Tower reaches a height of 135 feet (41 metres) and commands wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
The Great West Window
As you enter the church from the South Porch, directly to your left is the Great West Window, dating to 1859 by Thomas Willement.
It depicts many of the people associated with the nearby Ludlow Castle
The Castle has history dating back to the 11th century, and the 15th and 16th centuries found it at the center of events that changed the course of history.
Ludlow Castle became the place where in which the heir to the throne was skilled in Kingship, and as the Prince of Wales, commanded the council of the Marshes.
Depicted along the bottom of the window are Richard, Duke of York, his son Edward who became Edward IV in 1461, and two ill-fated Princes of Wales, his son Edward, and Arthur Tudor.
Richard, Duke of York
Richard based his family at Ludlow Castle at the height of the Wars of the Roses in 1459.
Richard had his own claim to the throne, as he was descended from the 1st Duke of York, Edmund, a son of Edward III.
King Henry VI of Lancaster was weak and often mentally ill and for large parts of his reign was unable to govern. Richard was named Protector of the Realm, and eventually parliament declared him to be heir presumptive to Henry.
This angered Henry’s Queen Margaret of Anjou greatly as they had a son, Edward of Westminster and she was determined to protect his birth right of succeeding his father.
Richard remained at odds with Margaret of Anjou, and eventually the animosity came to a head with the Queen’s army marching on Ludlow.
Richard was forced to flee with his eldest sons, leaving his wife and younger children to the mercy of the Queen.
Eventually Richard’s cause came to a brutal end at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 when
he was killed along with his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland.
Richard and Edmund’s heads were displayed on Micklegate Bar in York in an act of revenge and both were buried at Pontefract.
His son Edward IV had both reintered at the family church of Fotheringhay with his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) acting as the chief mourner.
Richard may not have become King, but 4 months after his death, after winning a decisive victory against the Queen’s army, his second son Edward became King Edward IV.
Edward was indebted to his cousin Richard, Earl of Warwick who has supported him in his battle to the throne. Their relationship deteriorated after Edward married for love, a women called Elizabeth Woodville who had been married to a Lancastrian Knight.
The Earl of Warwick was humiliated as he had been negotiating a marriage to a French Princess for Edward, and eventually rebelled against him
Edward was a skilled battle commander and warrior, and eventually defeated the Earl of Warwick, and finished the Lancastrian threat by defeating the Margaret of Anjou’s forces at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Margaret’s son and only hope, Edward of Westminster was killed in the fighting.
The last 10 years of Edward’s reign passed relatively peacefully, and he died in 1483 at the age of 41. He left his Kingdom to his son, Edward, Prince of Wales and as he was under age, left him to the care of his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
His son never became King, (I wrote a bit about that here) but Edward still founded a dynasty of Kings through his daughter Elizabeth.
He is the grandfather of Henry VIII, and great grandfather to the formiddable Elizabeth I.
If you are keen to read more detail about Richard and Edward, please visit my Wars of the Roses series of posts, under Plantagenet
For more photos of Ludlow, please visit my Flickr
Next post: St Laurence, Ludlow: Part Two – Ludlow’s Princes of Wales