Stokesay Castle, Craven Arms

Stokesay Castle, Craven Arms

Nestled in a valley close to the Shropshire/Wales border, Stokesay Castle was built in the thirteenth century by a formidable, immensely rich wool merchant and through history has survived bankruptcy, civil war, fire and neglect and remains one of the most beautiful examples of a medieval fortified manor house in England.

Although there is records of a settlement on the site of Stokesay at the time of the Domesday Book (1086), the castle wasn’t built until the 1280’s by Lawrence of Ludlow, one of the richest men in England at that time. Because peace had been established with the Welsh in 1984, the merchant quickly took advantage and built a castle that although wouldn’t stand attack, offered some security from thieves and looked beautiful too.

Lawrence of Ludlow had great wealth and power; in his heyday he even leant the king money. However, he became unpopular when he increased levies on the wool suppliers and there was much celebration when he drowned on a ship full of wool during a storm.

Stokesay Castle continued to stay in the Ludlow family until 1498 when it passed to a wealthy Derbyshire family, the Vernons’. Unfortunately, the castle left their hands in 1591 when the original Vernon’s grandson was ruined and arrested for debt. Dame Elizabeth Craven took ownership and the castle became embroiled with the Civil War. Committed Royalists, the castle was eventually surrendered to the Parliamentarian armies without a gun being shot.

Although the castle went back to the Craven family after Charles II became king, the castle wasn’t occupied much and was let out to a series of tenant farmers and it fell into decay over the next few centuries. By the mid-19th century however, the castle received new interest for its romantic look and rich history and in 1869 a successful glove manufacturer bought and sympathetically renovated the castle and buildings over a period of years before passing to English Heritage.

Today, the castle is open for visitors to explore. Highlights include the Great Hall, little changed in 700 years, the North Tower with its original medieval tiled floor and wall painting, the private apartment (or ‘Solar’), the 17th century timber framed gatehouse with its ornate engravings and the fortress-like South Tower. There’s an audio tour to lead you around Stokesay should you wish.

If you get a bit peckish, there’s a tearoom which has a lovely log burner during winter months and outdoor seating during the summer. There’s a shop too, full of heritage-inspired goodies.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in Shropshire here.

Stokesay, Craven Arms SY7 9AH | Website

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