Stokesay Castle (Shropshire, England)
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Actually a fortified manor house built by Lawrence of Ludlow in the late 13th Century, but with a gatehouse as gorgeous as that I don't mind letting that pass...
Stokesay Castle was built in the 1280s/1290s by wealthy wool merchant Lawrence of Ludlow as a secure home close to where he conducted much of his business, and also as a personal estate to derive income from.
It remained in the Ludlow family until the end of the 15th Century, when it passed onto the Vernon family through marriage. After the Vernon grandson bankrupted himself and ended up in debtors prison, he sold the castle in 1598 to Sir George Mainwaring who then in 1620 sold it onto Dame Elizabeth Craven. Elizabeth's son, William Craven, had little interest in the estate and by the 1640s had leased it out to Charles Baldwyn and his son Samuel. It was during this period of ownership (1640/1641) that the gorgeous gatehouse was rebuilt in its current form.
During the civil war William Craven was a Royalist supporter and Stokesay Castle was garrisoned in support of the king, the only time it was ever put into military use (I wonder how secure they felt with that timber gatehouse protecting them?) However the castle surrendered in 1645 without any apparent fighting when the Parliamentarians gained the upper hand in Shropshire, and unlike many castles it escaped the war without being slighted in any substantial way. The only damage inflicted was the deliberate pulling down of the curtain walls to moat level, but otherwise the buildings and estate were left intact.
From the early 18th Century the castle was mostly in the hands of tenant farmers and by the early 19th century it was being used to store grain, farm machinery, and general bits and pieces associated with farm manufacturing. Fortunately in the 1830s the contemporary Earl of Craven took the unusual step (at the time) of restoring/conserving the buildings that were still present and by the 1870s the castle was a popular site for tourists of the 'romantic style' to visit.
In the present day in owned and under the guardianship of English Heritage, is Grade I listed, and a scheduled monument.
Despite the fact that it is not what you would conventionally consider a castle, Stokesay Castle is one of my local favourites. I keep mentioning the gatehouse, but it's such a distinctive and defining feature of the castle that it's the first image that comes to mind when I think of Stokesay Castle. In terms of size it's fairly small, and it's very easy to see that it was never built with any serious defensibility in mind. That said, it's well worth a visit.
Nearby sites include Ludlow Castle, Wigmore Castle, and Clun Castle.
The pictures in this post were taken in April 2017.