Part One: The de Lacy family and Ludlow Castle

Introduction

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Ludlow Castle, positioned high above the River Teme in the Shropshire town of Ludlow is a fortress that has lived through key moments of English history.

Begun after the Norman conquest of 1066, it’s walls remain much in tact and is a joy to explore.

Ludlow is located off the A49, and is accessible by train, approx 1 hour 40 from Birmingham, and 3 hours from London.

Foundation

Ludlow Castle was founded by the de Lacy family in the late 11th century, by Walter de Lacy and his sons.

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Royal apartments and Chapel

Walter de Lacy had come across to England after the Norman conquest and did well under William the Conqueror, gaining lands and fighting for him against the Welsh.

He died in 1085 after falling from scaffolding at Saint Guthlac’s Priory and his son Roger succeeded him.

When Walter died, Roger inherited a number of castle’s including Ludlow.

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Ludlow Castle from the River Teme

It is though that the castles fortifications were completed by about 1115, formed around the inner bailey of today’s castle.

It had four towers, and it was built from the stone excavated out of the site and was one of the first such castles in England.

In 1095, Roger rebelled against William Rufus (King William II) and ended up being exiled.

By the time his brother Hugh had Roger’s lands reassigned to him, a curtain wall with defensive towers was complete.

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The de Lacy Family

When Hugh died in 1115, Henry I granted the castle to Hugh’s niece, Sybil. Her husband Pain fitzJohn used it as his main base.

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View of the Great Hall and apartments from the top of the Keep

When he was killed fighting the Welsh in 1137, both Gibert de Lacy (son of Roger) and Roger fitzMiles (suitor for Pain fitzJohn’s daughter) laid claim to Ludlow.

King Stephen gave the castle to Roger fitzMiles in exchange for support, seeing his grasp on the throne was tenuous.

Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I  challenged Stephen for the throne and civil war broke out.DSC_0364

Gilbert de Lacy took the castle, and Stephen advanced on the Welsh Marches.

By 1139, the castle was in Stephen’s possession. Conflict wore on for years, and Gilbert eventually recaptured the castle in 1153.

This was about the time that building began in ernest at the castle, due to the orginal Norman castle being too small.

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Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene

The Keep was built, along with the outer bailey. The entrance to the castle was shifted to the East where it remains today.

It is thought that Gilbert de Lacy built the round chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, it is one of the few round churches in England and resembles the churches of the Templar order.

By the 13th century, the castle was in the possession of Walter de Lacy (the grandson of Gilbert)

It wasn’t smooth sailing for Walter. The castle was confiscated and reinstated numerous times de to his disagreement with King John, with it finally remaining his property in 1215.

 

By the early 13th century, most of the inner bailey had been completed.DSC_0080

By 1223, Henry III had become suspicious of Walter and the castle reverted to Crown ownership for two years.

Walter won the King’s favour by fighting for him in 1225, and was given the castle back by a thankful King.

Although he lost the castle AGAIN in the 1230’s due to debt, it was returned to him before he died in 1241.

DSC_0282Walter’s granddaughter Maud inherited the castle, and her second husband, Geoffrey de Geneville was a champion of the castle.

He defeated Simon de Montfort who had seized the castle in 1264 and built the Great Hall sometime between 1250 and 1290.

 

He successfully occupied the castle until his death in 1314 and in my opinion did well to hold it as long as he did!

If you would like to see more photos of my visit to Ludlow, please visit my flickr

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References:
Wikipedia – Walter de Lacy
Wikipedia – Ludlow Castle
Wikipedia  Roger de Lacy
BritainExpress.com – Ludlow Castle
Ludlow Castle’s website
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3 thoughts on “Part One: The de Lacy family and Ludlow Castle

  1. Ludlow is a pretty town and the castle is very imposing. Given its position in the Marches, it’s not surprising that successive kings wanted to be sure that the man holding it was loyal to them.

  2. Great post, thank you. I’ve visited Hugh de Lacy’s (Gilbert’s son) castle in Trim, Co. Meath in Ireland, which is spectacular. My photos unfortunately not as good as yours!

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