Stokesay Castle – A 12th Century Castle That Still Stands Strong

There are some creations by humans that truly stand the test of time. And Stokesay Castle is one of them. Nestled in a serene valley in Shropshire, close to the Welsh border, Stokesay Castle was constructed during the 1280s by Laurence of Ludlow, an incredibly wealthy wool merchant. Today, it presents a remarkably charming collection of 13th-Century towers, a splendid great hall, and a 17th-Century gatehouse – the only main extension added into its structure since the late 13th Century.

Stokesay Castle History

Stokesay Castle Inside, by Andrew Mathewson, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

The majority of what you see at Stokesay Castle today was erected during the 1280s and early 1290s. Laurence of Ludlow, a prosperous wool merchant who had earned a lot of money, acquired the manor in 1281 and immediately started constructing an exceptional residence. This ambitious project was likely near completion by 1291, as Laurence obtained permission to fortify his house.

Laurence of Ludlow, who tragically drowned in 1294 while shipping wool to the Low Countries, was the original builder of Stokesay Castle. His descendants remained the owners of Stokesay until 1498, when the last male, Ludlow passed away. Estate surveys reveal that Stokesay’s holdings had 120 acres of arable land, six acres of meadow for hay, a wood, two watermills, and a dovecote.

Following the Ludlow era, they had several owners and were ultimately sold to Dame Elizabeth Craven and her son William, who later became the first Earl of Craven in 1620. Despite the outbreak of the Civil War later in the century, Stokesay Castle remained away from all the destruction.

Throughout the years, the castle endured some wear and tear until 1869, when John Derby Allcroft, a prosperous London glove manufacturer, acquired the estate. Under his ownership, the castle underwent restoration in 1875, bringing about a look and feel change. 

In 1986, a conservation agreement was established between Jewell Magnus-Allcroft and English Heritage, which was entrusted with Stokesay’s preservation during her lifetime and assumed ownership upon her passing in 1992.

Stokesay Castle Inside

Stokesay Castle Inside, by Chris Gunns, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

The Stokesay Castle has a remarkably preserved great hall, which remains unchanged for over seven centuries. The exquisite timber roof and staircase, featuring steps crafted from whole tree trunks, show how well it has been made. The north tower, adjacent to the great hall, has an original medieval tiled floor and some wall paintings. These offer a glimpse into Stokesay’s historical life as a residence.

Within the solar or private apartment block, there is a beautifully made mantlepiece with beautiful depictions of fruit, flowers, and figures. Although it was originally painted with vibrant red, green, and gold paint, you can still see some remains of these colours and understand the history behind it. Stokesay’s imposing south tower, the most fortress-like section of the site, is an independent structure accessible via a secure stairway. The tower’s cleverly designed lobed octagonal shape gives it the appearance of a fortified gatehouse when viewed from the outside.

Stokesay’s 17th-century timber-framed, intricately carved gatehouse is a sight to behold. Upon closer inspection, you might see representations of Adam and Eve, an angel, and the renowned Stokesay Dragon.

Stokesay Castle Interesting Facts

Stokesay Castle is not only an interesting place to visit, but it also has some interesting, equally intriguing facts.

  • The castle derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon term “stochez,” signifying a cattle farm, in combination with the surname of the De Says family, who held ownership of the land since the 12th century.
  • This castle is among the rare few in England that permit dogs on leads in the grounds. However, dogs, with the exception of guide and hearing dogs, are not permitted inside the castle.

Stokesay Castle Nearby Places to Stay

Nestled in a beautiful location, there are plenty of accommodation options near Stokesay Castle. These include hotels, homestays, heritage houses and more. Some options include The Stokesay Inn and B&B, The Coach House, Travelodge Ludlow, Fishmore Hall, The Raven Hotel and Restaurant, The Castle Hotel, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns the Stokesay Castle?

The Stokesay Castle was built by Laurence of Ludlow, whose family members owned the castle for several centuries. However, it was sold to English Heritage in the 20th Century.

Where is the Stokesay Castle located?

Stokesay Castle, located in Shropshire, is one of the best-preserved fortified manor houses in England.

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