The Mortimers in Mortimer Country , North Herefordshire
Warlike, ambitious and powerful, the Mortimers bestrode the medieval stage. Inextricably linked with the great events of their time, their story is the tale of a turbulent England racked with dissension, rebellion and open warfare at home and abroad. Following in the footsteps of William the Conqueror they came from Normandy and established their power base on the border between England and Wales. As Earls of March they played a major part in the story of England. Although the main male line died out in 1425, it was a direct descendant of the Mortimers who became King Edward IV in 1461.
As the Normans moved into Wales they established control of much of southern and eastern parts of the country pushing the native Welsh ever further north and west. The Welsh March controlled by the Normans extended from Chester in the north, through Shropshire, and Herefordshire to Chepstow in Monmouthshire, then across South Wales to Pembrokeshire. It was an area over which Norman lords and Welsh princes fought for control and the English king exercised no authority.
Use this page to find out about the Mortimer's in North Herefordshire
- the top places to visit
- the Mortimer Castle at Wigmore
- The Battle of Mortimers Cross and
- the memorial at Kingsland
Top 10 Mortimer Family locations to visit in Mortimer Country, North Herefordshire
1. Wigmore Castle - a Mortimer Family home ca.1080 - 142 - A large tower dominated the castle, which was situated close to the border area between England and Wales which was fought over for many centuries. Lords of the Welsh March, like the Mortimers had many special privileges, including the right to make war, to hold courts, and to receive certain revenues otherwise reserved for the king of England.Wigmore served as the Mortimers' base for numerous military incursions into Wales, and was besieged in 1155 and perhaps also in 1264.
2. Wigmore Church - St. James - was founded as a collegiate church by the powerful Mortimer family. It lies on the site of an earlier Saxon building. The building has a very early Norman nave. Herringbone masonry is visible on the outside of the north wall.
3. Pembridge Church - scene of wedding
4. Leintwardine Church- Mortimer chapel - St Mary Magdalene– large 13th and 14th century church with Saxon and Norman foundations. Monument to General Sir Banastre Tarleton.
5. Orleton Church - medieval heads - St. George – Norman nave and excellent 12th century carved font.
6. Kingsland Church - stained glass. Battle of Mortimer's Cross site - St. Michael and All Angels – large Norman church with intriguing little 14th century chapel.
7. Pipe Aston - 12 century tympanum - St Giles–tiny Norman gem with a perfectly preserved tympanum.
8. Presteigne - Mortimer chapel and shield
9. Ludlow Castle - Mortimer chapel and domestic block
10. St. Laurence, Ludlow - Mortimer shield and 19c. representation
Top 10 Mortimer History Events
1. Wigmore Castle - Ralph Mortimer in control of castle by 1086 , and has lands in 13 English counties
2. Wigmore Abbey - Hugh Mortimer founds the Abbey with Augustinian monks. It would become the burial place of many Mortimer lords.
3. Welsh Royal Family - Roger marries Gladys, daughter of Llywelyn the Great
4. Battle of Evesham - Another Roger helps Prince Edward escape to Wigmore from Simon de Montfort. Edward kills Simon de Montfort at the battle of Evesham and returns with de Montfort’s head to Wigmore Castle.
5. Abdication of a King - Roger, justiciar of Ireland, has an affair with Queen Isabella, and sets her 14 year old son on the throne as Edward III.
6. First Earl of March - Roger's new title, and he marries his daughters to the nobility before his execution. Tombs at Much Marcle, Bristol, Warwick.
7. Knight of the Garter - His grandson fights at Crecy, has all Mortimer lands restored, and becomes one of the first knights of the Order of the Garter.
8. English Royal Family - Edmund marries Phillipa, granddaughter of Edward I, and brings the Mortimers into the English Royal family.
9. Defeat by Glyndwr - Uncle Edmund is defeated by Glyndwr's forces at Pilleth (Bryn Glas), and in captivity marries his daughter.
10. Victory at Mortimers Cross - Edward IV and Richard III, the Yorkist kings were grandsons of Anne Mortimer, linking Mortimer ancestry to the throne.
The Mortimer Castle at Wigmore
Wigmore was one of many castles founded along the Welsh Marches after the Norman Conquest, and it retained its military significance until the English Civil War.
A large tower dominated the castle, which was situated close to the border area between England and Wales which was fought over for many centuries. Lords of the Welsh March, like the Mortimers had many special privileges, including the right to make war, to hold courts, and to receive certain revenues otherwise reserved for the king of England.
Wigmore served as the Mortimers' base for numerous military incursions into Wales, and was besieged in 1155 and perhaps also in 1264. It retained its strategic importance throughout the later medieval and Tudor periods, and during the Civil War it was deliberately destroyed by its then owners, the Harleys, to prevent its use as a base by the Royalists.
The Mortimers and the Wars of the Roses
The last time that Wigmore Castle was involved in important national events was during the Wars of the Roses, when the Lancastrians were fighting with the Yorkists for supremacy during the ineffectual reign of Henry VI.
The Battle of Mortimers Cross - 2 February 1461
This iconic event on Candlemass day, was the inspirations for one of Shakespeare's most famous quotes
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.
- Richard III (1.1.1), Gloucester, later to become King Richard III
The opening lines of Shakespeare's play are a reference to Edward's battle with the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross on February 2, 1461. As Edward's Yorkist forces reached Mortimer's Cross, three suns appeared in the sky (an illusion known as a parhelion). Edward proclaimed that the suns were a sign from God -- a manifestation of the blessed Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost -- affirming that he would be victorious. Edward won the battle and adopted the "Sun in Splendour" as his livery badge. Note also that "sun of York" is a play on words: Edward IV is the son of the Duke of York, Richard Plantagenet.
source: Mabillard, Amanda. Quick Quote: Now is the winter of our discontent Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000.
Richard Plantagenet, son of the Duke of York and Anne Mortimer, was heavily involved in this struggle. On both his maternal and paternal side he could trace his descent directly to Edward III, having therefore a good claim to the throne. However after several years, much political intrigue, several battles and Richard's death, it was his son, Edward Mortimer, who defeated Owen Tudor, great-grandfather of Henry VIII, at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross (only two miles from Wigmore Castle) in 1461.
On March 3rd of that year, Edward Mortimer was crowned King Edward IV. This is when Wigmore Castle became a royal demesne.
February 2nd, 1461
After spending Christmas in Gloucester, Edward, Earl of March heard of his father’s death and started preparations to fall back on London. But then, news of the Earl of Pembroke’s hostile army caused him to change his plans. In order to block Pembroke’s advance and stop him from joining up with Queen Margaret’s main army, Edward marched north with his five thousand men to Mortimer’s Cross where he crossed the River Lugg and drew up in battle order. It was still early morning when Edward arrived and as dawn broke on 2 Febuary, 1461 a strange meteorological phenomenon called a parhelion occurred: three suns were seen to be rising. Edward declared it to be a sign from God of victory and later took it as his emblem, ‘the Sunne in Splendour’.
The Lancastrian army was only about four thousand strong and did not originally want to engage the Yorkists. At about midday, perceiving they had no choice but to fight if they wished to cross the Lugg, the Lancastrians went on the offensive and attacked. The Earl of Wiltshire’s ‘battle’ (division) led the first assault, and pushed the men of Edward’s right wing straight back across the road, where they broke and scattered. Pembroke the engaged Edward’s center but was repelled and when Owen Tudor tried to encircle the Yorkist left wing his ‘battle’ was routed. Edward then repelled Pembroke a second time and the battle was won. By this time Owen Tudor’s men were already in full flight. The remnants of his men were pursued a full seventeen miles to Hereford where Tudor himself was captured and executed.
In total four thousand men are said to have died. The battle was certainly bloody if this is the case, as the two armies combined came to just nine thousand souls…
Annual reenactment at Hampton Castle
Memorial at Kingsland
The memorial to the battle of Mortimer's Cross reads:
"This pedestal is erected to perpetuate the Memory of an obstinate, bloody and decisive battle fought near this Spot in the civil Wars between the ambitious Houses of York and Lancaster, on the 2nd Day of February 1461 between the Forces of Edward Mortimer, Earl of March, (afterwards Edward the Fourth) on the Side of York and those of Henry the Sixth, on the Side of Lancaster.
"The Kings Troops were commanded by Jasper, Earl of Pembroke. Edward commanded his own in Person and was victorious. The Slaughter was great on both Sides, Four Thousand being left dead on the field and many Welsh Persons of the first distinction were taken prisoners among whom was Owen Tudor (Great-Grandfather to Henry the Eighth, and a Descendent of the illustrious Cadwallader) who was afterwards beheaded at Hereford. This was the decisive battle which fixedEdward the Fourth on the Throne of England who was proclaimed King in London on the Fifth of March following."
source: Toria Forsyth-Moser, 2003
For comprehensive information about the Mortimers, visit the Mortimer History Society's website
And here is some extracts from BBC Countryfile article about Mortimer Country in October 2014