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
Sat 5 Jul - Sun 31 Aug 2014
Hear tales of the Stokesay Giant, heroic knights and brave princesses within the fairy tale setting of Stokesay Castle.
Knights and Princesses Academy
Tue 29 & Wed 30 Jul 2014
Join our academy for budding knights and princesses, with hands on medieval fun. Transform yourself into a courtly Lord or Lady with tips on everything from curtsies to combat.
Siege Challenge for Kids
Tue 05 & Wed 06 Aug 2014
Stokesay is under siege, and it's your job to defend it! Find out how by listening to tales of the Civil War, then put your learnt skills to the test in drill and battles - it's a fun-filled challenge for all junior warriors!