Ludlow Castle (Shropshire)Charles Maturin
Ludlow Castle (Shropshire), Ludlow
Mea, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

About

Built on a promontory and overlooking the River Teme, Ludlow Castle is a ruined Norman fortress in Ludlow. It is thought to have been built after the Norman Conquest for Walter de Lacy, and in 1301 the castle was acquired by Roger Mortimer. The Mortimer family held the castle for over a century, but it became a royal castle in 1461 when Edward IV became king. After being abandoned following the Civil War, Ludlow Castle eventually fell into ruin, and was described by Daniel Defoe as “the very perfection of decay”. As well as touring the castle ruins and grounds, climbing to the top of the gatehouse tower affords stunning views of the Shropshire Hills (a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, AONB).

Gothic heritage

Nineteenth century Irish author, playwright, and clergyman Charles Maturin is perhaps best known today for his Gothic novel Melmoth the Wanderer. Published in 1820, Melmoth is a multi-layered narrative about its eponymous character Melmoth, who has sold his soul in a Faustian pact with the devil in exchange for a longer life. Each nested layer reveals fragments of Melmoth throughout history, and in ‘The Lovers Tale’ section of the novel, Melmoth himself narrates the story of the Mortimer family and Ludlow (or Mortimer) Castle.

Detailing the history of “the seat of a family who boasted of their descent from the age of the Norman Conqueror”, this section later imagines the restoration of the Mortimer family to their Castle. Melmoth briefly appears within his own narrative as a stranger following the ruin of the Mortimer heirs, and it is in the castle grounds that Elinor Mortimer comes face to face with Melmoth and his “preternatural existence”. 

Other Literary heritage

The town of Ludlow features in Shakespeare’s Richard III due to its connection with the war of the roses, with Ludlow mentioned as the place from which Edward is to be retrieved from. E. A. Housman’s poem “The Recruit” also mentions St. Laurence’s Church, and his ashes are buried in the church grounds.

Further information

As well as Ludlow castle, Ludlow town is also home to St. Laurence’s Church which traces its history back to the Normans, and was then expanded and rebuilt in1199. The church was also given a five-star rating in Simon Jenkin’s England’s Thousand Greatest Churches. Also beginning in Ludlow is the Mortimer trail: a long distance walk that explores the area dominated by the Mortimer family through a journey acrosses marshes, forest, limestone tops and the valleys of the rivers Teme.

Interesting fact

In the zombie apocalypse novel World War Z, published in 2006, Ludlow is designated as the capital of Wales.

For Visitors

You can find more information about visiting Ludlow and Ludlow Castle at the following links:

https://www.ludlowcastle.com/

http://www.shropshirehillsaonb.co.uk/

https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Mortimer+Trail