Stokesay Castle is quite simply the finest and best preserved fortified medieval manor house in England. Set in peaceful countryside near the Welsh border, the castle, timber-framed gatehouse and parish church form an unforgettably picturesque group.
Lawrence of Ludlow, a wealthy local wool-merchant wishing to set up as a country gentleman, bought the property in 1281, when the long Anglo-Welsh wars were ending. So it was safe to raise here one of the first fortified manor houses in England, 'builded like a castle' for effect but lit by large domestic-style windows. Extensive recent tree-ring dating confirms that Lawrence had completed virtually all of the still surviving house by 1291, using the same team of carpenters throughout: more remarkably, the dating also revealed that it has scarcely been altered since.
Stokesay's magnificent open hearthed great hall displays a fine timber roof, shuttered gable windows and a precipitous staircase, its treads cut from whole tree-trunks. It is flanked by the north tower, with an original medieval tiled floor and remains of wall painting, and a 'solar' or private apartment block, and beyond this the tall south tower - the most castle-like part of the house, self-contained and reached by a defensible stairway.
The solar block contains one of the few post-medieval alterations to the house, a fine panelled chamber. Its dominating feature is a fireplace with a richly carved overmantel, still bearing the traces of original painting in five colours. This was added in about 1641, at the same time as the truly delightful gatehouse: an example of the Marches style of lavishly showy timber-framing, bedecked with charming carvings of Adam and Eve.
A few years later, in 1645 Stokesay experienced its only known military encounter, surrendering without fighting to a Parliamentarian force. So the house remained undamaged, and sensitive conservation by Victorian owners and English Heritage have left it the medieval jewel which survives today.
- The great hall unaltered since it was built in 1291
- Unique carvings on the gatehouse and above the fireplace in the solar room, like this 'grotesque' Flemish design
- Our complimentary audio tour bringing the castle's long history to life
- A stroll around the beautiful moat walk
Before You Arrive
Events At Stokesay Castle
The Merchant of Venice
Fri 29 Aug 2014
Professional outdoor touring theatre company Rain or Shine are set to delight family audiences once again this summer with their production of Shakespeare's classic comedy - The Merchant Of Venice.