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Once the stronghold of the turbulent Mortimer family, Wigmore Castle was later dismantled to prevent its use during the Civil War. Now it is among the most remarkable ruins in England, largely buried up to first floor level by earth and fallen masonry. Yet many of its fortifications survive to full height, including parts of the keep on its towering mound.
Wigmore Castle was one of the most important castles in the turbulent history of the Welsh Marches.
Founded in 1067 by William Fitz Osbern, Wigmore Castle was a major centre of power for over 500 years, and played host to several kings and queens. Held by the Mortimer family from about 1075 to 1425, it passed to the Crown and was later sold to Sir Thomas Harley in 1601.
The castle fell into ruin after being deliberately demolished during the Civil War
Wigmore has an overgrown appearance that once characterised many ruined sites.
When conserving the site in the 1990s, English Heritage deliberately retained its wildness, as the castle had become home to rare and unusual species including lesser horseshoe bats and wild flowers like ploughman's spikenard. Accumulated debris was allowed to remain, and the grasses, ferns and flowers growing on the walls were carefully lifted up and replaced as 'soft-capping' to protect the walls from rain and more destructive plants like trees.
Wigmore castle was a major centre of aristocratic power and control for the surrounding area throughout the medieval period.
The castle was sited on a steep, narrow ridge ideal for defence. It was further strengthened with deep ditches and a series of strong walls. It was divided into three main parts. The outer bailey, housed stables, granaries and other storage buildings. The inner bailey, defended by a deep, double ditch, and two walls, was the main residential area of the castle. Above this loomed the heavily defended shell keep, with very thick walls and a tall tower set on a motte.
To the north and west, the castle was surrounded by deer parks, and nearby were fishponds, a dovecot and a rabbit warren to provide sources of fresh fish and meat. The flatter land in the valley was farmed and about a mile to the north lay Wigmore Abbey, where the Mortimers were buried.
The castle was founded in about 1070 by William Fitz Osbern, earl of Hereford and a close associate of William the Conqueror. The original Norman castle at Wigmore had reinforced timber walls on top of large earthworks. After Fitz Osbern's death the castle passed to the Mortimer family, who rebuilt it in stone.
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