Description of Ludgershall Castle and Cross
Ludgershall Castle was set within two adjacent enclosures, surrounded by earthwork banks and ditches. A modern farm occupies the middle of the castle but the original outline of the two enclosures can still be seen. The northern enclosure was inserted or superimposed onto an earlier, southern enclosure, the banks of which are now much altered and quarried.
Throughout the castle’s history, many of its buildings were made of timber taken from the nearby hunting forest of Savernake. Only those rebuilt in stone survive today, and they have been robbed of their original facings, leaving a flint-speckled aspect quite different from their original smooth-fronted appearance. The most prominent survival is the tower, which dates from the late 12th century.
The foundations of the adjacent buildings visible today within the northern enclosure, which were excavated in the 1960s and 1970s, are those of Henry III’s building campaign of the 13th century. They include his great hall, built in 1244, and the castle’s royal apartments,. These contained the king’s and queen’s chambers, and at least two chapels. In 1251 Henry built a new great chamber for his son Edward, ‘with two fireplaces and two privy chambers’.
Along the north-east section of the northern enclosure’s outer bank – the sector occupied by the royal residential apartments – there is a wide, level platform or terraced walk overlooking the park.
In the main street of the village is the lower part of a large medieval cross. Carved into each face is an elaborate niche, and within each niche is a much weathered carving.
The east face depicts a Deposition (descent of Christ from the cross). The cross is visible with Mary and John to either side, and two smaller figures, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, are lifting Christ’s body down from the cross.
The west face shows a cave-like structure occupied by four identical figures with arms raised upwards. Outside the cave and facing them is a well-preserved figure who holds his right arm upwards, perhaps holding a rod or lance. This looks very much like a Harrowing of Hell, in which Christ is breaking open the gates of hell with a lance, or possibly blinding the devil. The subjects of the north and south faces are difficult to identify.
The cross may originally have stood in the centre of the market square, and has recently been dated to the early to mid-14th century. This coincides with the re-established of a market at Ludgershall.