WIGMORE AND LUDLOW
For nearly 300 years Wigmore Castle in North Herefordshire was the central base of the redoubtable Mortimer family. English Heritage, who have the guardianship of the castle, say that ‘it is among the most remarkable ruins in England, largely buried up to first floor level by earth and fallen masonry’. An artist’s reconstruction of it in its heyday shows a formidable military fortification, rather than the romantic ruins we see today.
Ralph Mortimer (d1115) is acknowledged as its owner in the Domesday Book (1086), taking over the first castle built by William FitzOsbern. Ralph was in control of many manors across some dozen English counties, but Wigmore was the family base from which his early conquest of the lands of Maelienydd in Central Wales was launched. The Mortimers were patrons of several churches In the surrounding countryside including that at Wigmore and founded an Augustinian Abbey near their castle. The castle was substantially altered and fortified in the period 1250-1330 as the Mortimers became increasing powerful and important nationally.
Soon after Roger Mortimer (d1330) married Joan de Geneville in 1301, many lands came into his possession including the great castle of Ludlow, close by, in South Shropshire. He made many changes to the castle, including building a Great Chamber block. Following his escape from the Tower of London in 1323, Roger established a new chapel of St Peter in the outer bailey. The Mortimer presence in Ludlow is still marked by stained glass in the church of St. Laurence. Ludlow and Wigmore castles were the headquarters from which the future Edward IV took his army to his victory at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross, thus ensuring that a Mortimer, albeit through the female line, sat on the throne of England.
Ludlow Castle showing the original entrance tower or keep and the outer bailey