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Wigmore Castle

The Mortimers were a powerful medieval dynasty who held large tracts of land in Hereford, Shropshire and Wales. During the 14th century they were claimants for the English throne and a thorn in the side of several English monarchs. At the height of their power they held numerous castles and intermarried with princely Welsh families. Wigmore Castle became the main Mortimer power base. 

Wigmore Castle is an excellent example for the study of the reasons for Norman castle building in this part of England. These were:

  • initially to subdue the Saxon population;
  • to hold the territory against the Welsh;
  • to build a personal power-base for the Marcher Lords;
  • as a gaol for keeping hostages.

A castle was not only a power-base for the lord, but also a symbol of his prestige and influence. Should the lord become too powerful, however, he would pose a threat to the monarch. Wigmore and the Mortimers are proof of the difficulties a medieval king would face in controlling his barons

The Mortimers Castle

From shortly after the Norman Conquest until the early 15th century, Wigmore was home to the powerful Mortimer family, who were responsible for the castle.

The Mortimers rebuilt the castle in stone in the 12th and early 13th centuries.  The inner part of the gatehouse and the D-shaped east tower are the main survivals from this period.

In the early 14th century, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March (1287-1330), added more towers to create high status lodgings with fireplaces and window seats.  He also added a large porch to the gatehouse.  Further works were carried out in the 15th century.

Mortimer used his influence with the queen to gain land and power and was, in effect, the ruler of England for three years.  But, in 1330 Edward III asserted his independence, arrested Mortimer and had him executed for treason.

In 1329, Roger Mortimer held a lavish tournament at Wigmore, attended by the young King Edward III and his mother, Queen Isabella, who was also Roger's lover.  In 1327 Roger and Isabella deposed Edward II in favour of the young Edward III, then aged 14.

Croft Castle

Home to the Croft family for nearly 1,000 years, Croft Castle is a place of power, politics and pleasure. It nestles in peaceful Herefordshire countryside at the heart of a 607-hectare (1,500-acre) estate of woodland, farm and parkland.

Stroll through the parkland up to the Iron Age hill fort and view 14 of the old counties or explore the miles of woodland trails and find over 300 veteran trees. In the castle see the fine Georgian interiors as well as the beautiful family portraits and learn more about the people who have made Croft so special.

Managed by the National Trust

Hopton Castle

Located in south Shropshire, close to the borders with Herefordshire and Wales, Hopton Castle (from hop a valley and tun a settlement), has a  fascinating history. The settlement was well established by the time of the Norman Conquest.

The castle became notorious during the Civil War between Parliament and King Charles I. It was then owned by the Wallops, Parliamentarians in a largely Royalist county. A small garrison of about 30 was commanded by Colonel Samuel More who wrote a famous diary of the month-long siege by Prince Rupert's forces in 1644. While there are various versions of what happened, it seems clear that most of those in the Castle, having finally surrendered, were killed and thrown in 'a muddy pit'.

The whole site was attacked by bombardment and mining and it is not known how much was left standing

Brampton Bryan Castle

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, Brampton Bryan castle is open one day a year - in august on Scarecrow Sunday

The Harley family have lived in Brampton Bryan in Herefordshire for 700 years and the public can visit the castle on their estate on Sunday.

The castle was the scene of two sieges during the Civil War when a Harley ancestor fought off the Royalists.

Stapleton Castle

Stapleton castle was most likely built by either Hugh Fitz Osbern or his son, Osbern Fitz Hugh during the anarchy of King Stephen's reign.  In 1143 Roger Port of Kington castle acquired the fortress of Presteigne which pertained the barony of Burford or Richards Castle as it was otherwise known.  In reply either Hugh or Osbern built Stapleton castle which was in effect the siege castle of nearby Presteigne.  However the lords of Richards Castle failed to retake Presteigne and the Stapleton castle became the caput of their barony in the west.  

In 1223 Osbern Fitz Hugh's successor, Margaret Say, received the right to hold a market at the fledgling village which clustered beneath the castle's protective walls. Margaret's third and final husband was Robert Mortimer of Essex who founded the line of Mortimer of Richards Castle.  Their grandson, another Robert Mortimer, was present with the fighting men of Stapleton in December 1282 when Prince Llywelyn was killed and his army routed at Llanganten.  Robert's son, Hugh Mortimer, fought against the Scots at Caerlaverock in 1300 before being murdered by his wife Matilda in 1304.  Unfortunately Matilda also killed most of the barons of Richards Castle and Stapleton as well and this led to the remaining lords of the district pursuing her through the courts for her poisoning activities.  Matilda, being a relation of the queen, always received royal protection and so escaped her pursuers until the old king died in 1307.  Matilda failed to see the beginning of the new reign, undoubtedly being killed by the vengeful Marchers in the lawless interregnum between the death of King Edward I and the succession of his son, King Edward II.  

Stapleton castle then passed through Hugh and Matilda's daughter Margaret to the Cornwalls, illegitimate descendants of Earl Richard Plantagenet of Cornwall, the second son of King John.  In 1415 their descendant John Cornwall fought with distinction at Agincourt and for many years afterwards the walls of the fortress were festooned with the armour Sir John looted from the fallen French.  In 1643 Sir Michael Woodhouse found Stapleton castle was not strong enough to be properly defending and fearing that the nearby Parliamentarians at Hopton and Brampton Bryan castles might put a garrison in the place had it 'defaced'.  So ended the life of another ancient castle.

Today the ruins show that the castle was once rectangular with a powerful gateway to the west which is still largely standing on one side.  The castle was later much rebuilt into an elegant house.  The photograph shows the Elizabethan house standing over the remains of the twelfth century masonry castle which can still be made out under the tree. Much of the rectangular tower to the left of the photograph collapsed in 1999.

The castle is private property and potential visitors should contact the owner, Trevor Griffiths at Stapleton Castle Court, Stapleton, Presteigne, Powys, LD8 2LS.

Downton Castle

Downton Castle is an 18th-century country house at Downton on the Rock, Herefordshire, England, about five miles west of Ludlow, Shropshire. It is a Grade I listed building

The estate was acquired by Richard Knight (1659–1749) a wealthy ironmaster of Madeley, Shropshire, and in due course passed to his grandson Richard Payne Knight, who created the new house in a Gothic revival style.[1] Knight, an enthusiast of the ‘picturesque’ style, commissioned landscape artist, Thomas Hearne to produce several drawings of the grounds.[2]

The original south-facing entrance front has a central square tower, six bays to the left terminating in an octagonal tower and five bays to the right flanked by a square tower, the whole resembling a medieval castle with embattled parapets.

In 1824 Charlotte Knight, daughter and heir to the estate, married Sir William Rouse-Boughton of Downton Hall, Stanton Lacy, Shropshire, (about 6 miles to the NE of Downton Castle) the 10th of the Boughton Baronets. She bequeathed the estate to their second son Andrew, who in 1857 changed his name to Rouse-Boughton-Knight. He was High Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1860 and at that time began improvements and extensions to the house which included a new entrance and porch, a north west tower, and a chapel. Terraced gardens were created in 1865 by WA Nestfield. In 1881 the family were resident with a retinue of twelve servants.

Charles Andrew Rouse-Boughton-Knight died at the house in 1947.

18th century castle built by the Knight family.  Not open to public

Richard's Castle

Richard's Castle standeth on the top of a very rocky hill, well wooded. The keep, the walls and the tower yet stand but are going to ruin." (John Leland, Itinerary, c. 1538)

The castle can be found on top of a high hill to the north-east of the modern village of Richards Castle. It is situated next to the 12th century church of St. Bartholomew. From this height the castle had commanding views over the valley to the south.

Foundation and history of the site

1052: Richard's Castle is thought to take its name from Richard, son of Scrob or Scrope, a Norman favourite of Edward the Confessor. Richard, son of Scrob, had settled in Herefordshire by 1052. It is thought that he laid the first foundations for his castle around this time, which would make Richard's Castle one of only four pre-Conquest castles in England.

1086: Richard's Castle was first mentioned in the Domesday Survey under the name of Aureton (modern day Orleton). Even though it was in another Hundred, the church of Orleton is only two miles south of Richard's Castle. 

Richard, son of Scrob left his castle and lands to his son Osbern fitz Richard, who held them at the time of the Domesday Survey.

c. 1200: The importance of the castle increased as it came into the hands of a branch of the de Mortimer family. Unfortunately, its importance as an independent Marcher Lordship began to decline as the seat of the Wigmores was only seven miles away and Richard's Castle began to become redundant.

1216: King John granted Richard's Castle a charter allowing the lord to hold a weekly market and yearly fair there. However, the proximity of Richard's Castle to Ludlow and Wigmore and its remoteness for commerce combined to make Richard's Castle less and less important as a centre of power.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle, the finest of medieval ruined castles, is set in glorious Shropshire countryside, at the heart of this superb,bustling black & white market town.

Walk through the Castle grounds and see the ancient houses of kings, queens, princes, judges and the nobility - a glimpse into the lifestyle of medieval society.

The Castle, firstly a Norman Fortress and extended over the centuries to become a fortified Royal Palace, has ensured Ludlow's place in English history- originally built to hold back unconquered Welsh, passing through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet,Duke of York. It became Crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as 'the very perfection of decay' by Daniel Defoe.

Since 1811 the castle has been owned by the Earls of Powis, who have arrested further decline, and allowed thismagnificent historical monument to be open to the public. Today the Castle is the home to Ludlow's major festivals throughout the year and open for all to enjoy.

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