We decided to stop off in Wiltshire to the lesser known ruin of Ludgershall Castle, we visited the area a few times before but have been greeted with restoration work and fences so it was nice to revisit the castle to see it open and accessible, join us as we explore and delve into some of its history.
Ludgershall Castle was built in the late 11th century, by Edward of Salisbury, the Sheriff of Wiltshire. Edward’s fortress was composed of two side by side enclosures, the southern one of which may date back to the Iron Age. The inner fortress enclosures were set within a pair of concentric earthwork banks and ditches. The Castle is a majestic sight and well worth a stop to have a walk around. From above, it is reminiscent of Old Sarum, with a circular bank around the perimeter. Although a good portion of it has been consumed by a house and garden, enough of it remains as it has for hundreds of years.
Around 1100 Ludgershall became royal property, managed on behalf of the king by a custodian. the first custodian was John the Marshall who added the second and north inner enclosure and also strengthened the fortifications. The northern enclosure contained the most important buildings, including a stone great hall, tower, and a range of royal apartments. The southern enclosure contained secondary buildings, probably of timber, such as a farm, kitchen, and stable.
The castle is known to have been used by Queen Matilda during her struggle with King Stephen. Around the 1200s King John who was brother of crusader-king Richard the Lionheart strengthened the castle and improved the residential apartments even further. Under John’s son, Henry III, Ludgershall was transformed into a comfortable royal residence and hunting lodge.
Henry must have enjoyed Ludgershall, for he lavished attention on his building works here and is known to have visited on 21 occasions. Henry built a larger great hall and expanded the royal apartments to include both a king and queen’s chamber and two chapels.
Henry added a set of new apartments for his son, Edward, in 1251. There were two distinct parks at Ludgershall which were delegated for royal amusement – the northern one was too small for hunting but probably staged other entertainments and tournaments which could be viewed from the castle buildings and earthworks and the south park was probably reserved as a deer hunting ground.
From 1317 Ludgershall was referred to as a royal manor, and was given as a dowry to successive generations of queens and dependants. Owners included Queen Philippa and Isabella the Countess of Bedford, who was her daughter. Sometime in the 14th or 15th century the castle gradually fell out of use, and by 1540 the buildings were pulled down and the land cleared to serve as a garden. only the crumbling tower was retained, seemingly as an ornamental garden feature for a recently built manor house.
The Great Tower still stands to an impressive height, but the really impressive feature of Ludgershall is the sheer scale of the earthworks. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk around the earthworks, and in places, the ditch between the earthworks is still very deep. At its peak in the 14th century, the castle consisted of the three story tower, five residential chambers, two chapels and several other rooms, plus a great hall, all situated on the north side of a large protected area, the bailey, which was enclosed by two parallel embankments separated by deep ditches, extending nearly a thousand feet north to south.
The bailey also contained various timber buildings, of which no trace remains, but probably included kitchens, stables and servants’ quarters. Near the castle were two areas of parkland, used for hunting; a small area to the north, leading to an ancient medieval forest beyond, and a larger expanse a little way south, on the far side of the adjacent Saxon village. It’s a great place to explore and walk around the earthworks and see the expanse of the woodlands for miles around, a lovely walking trail is in Collingbourne wood just half a mile north from the castle, so there is more to do here than visit just the castle as well as a visit to the village but its fantastic to see, wander and envisage life back 1000 years ago.
Till next time!