Stokesay is one of the first fortified manor houses in England: almost all the surviving house was completed by 1291. Its walls and moat (the former demolished in the 1640s) outside, and strongrooms within, provided a degree of security, though in reality its military appearance was superficial: it could never have withstood a serious siege, as the expansive windows on both sides of the hall make clear. Meanwhile the symmetry of Stokesay’s layout – with a tower at each end of the residential complex and a regular sequence of gables and windows in the hall between them – bears witness to the taste, wealth and importance of its owner.
Stokesay Castle is a remarkable survival, a fortified manor house which has hardly altered since the late 13th century. The house was built by Lawrence Ludlow, a leading wool merchant of his day, who created a comfortable residence combining an aesthetically pleasing design with some defensive capabilities. In doing so, he took advantage of the newly established peace on the Welsh border following Edward I’s defeat of the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Last. This enabled him to build a large hall, comfortable solar, or private apartment, with windows on the outside world, without fear of attack.
Castles of Wales
Plan of Stokesay Castle (from Wikimedia Commons).
The three-storey north tower is reached by a 13th-century staircase in the hall, which leads onto the first floor. The first floor was divided into two separate rooms shortly after the construction of the tower, and contain various decorative tiles, probably from Laurence’s house in Ludlow. The walls of the second floor are mostly half-timbered, jettying out above the stone walls beneath them; the tower has its original 13th-century fireplace, although the wooden roof is 19th-century, modeled on the 13th-century original, and the windows are 17th-century insertions.