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