Thursday’s Special ~ Creative Intervention Rescues A Ruin


Hurrah! Paula’s back at Lost in Translation, and for this Thursday’s Special she has set us the challenge of Creative Intervention. She tells us to interpret it any way we like, but please visit her post for more ideas.

So here we have the remains of Hopton Castle, an upscale medieval tower house that would be a crumbling wreck but for the creative efforts of the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust whose members toiled for 11 years to raise funds to consolidate the remains, and then spent a further five years overseeing the work.

The ruin is full of puzzles. The preservation work revealed hints of 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th century construction, but with no clear evidence for the date of the main surviving structure. It’s been suggested that the Hopton family, who owned it between the 11th and 15th centuries, at some stage deliberately set out to create a faux antique country residence much as the Victorians did with their  mock Tudor ‘cottages’. In other words, the Hoptons went in for some creative intervention of their own.

One theory is that it was a hunting lodge. The interior work of all  three floors appears to have been very grand, and definitely of ‘lordly’ quality.


photo: Hopton Castle Preservation Trust


Also, the tower was clearly not intended as a defensive structure. As you can see from the photo and the reconstruction, any besieger could simply walk up to the front door. Yet the building it replaced, the first ‘castle’ on the mound was indeed a functioning fortification – a motte and bailey castle typical of the Normans’ early conquest of Britain after 1066. Made of timber, they could be constructed swiftly, and as the need arose, later re-built and expanded into domineering stone fortresses.

But this did not happen at Hopton. The stone walls that replaced the 11th century motte and bailey appear to have been built of poor quality stone, unsuited to withstanding a siege. Meanwhile, the interior fittings and design suggest considerable expense.

So it’s a pretend castle then? A place for Sir Walter Hopton, Sheriff of Shropshire and Staffordshire, to display his wealth and status while entertaining well chosen guests for a spot of deer hunting?


Perhaps some of the answers lie in Shropshire Council’s five miles of archives that include shelves and shelves of unread medieval documents. In which case, they are likely to stay hidden. Probably forever. The on going local authority cuts mean there is little chance that the necessary scholarly research will ever be done. The archivist was one of the first people to be dispensed with, and for years before the cuts the archives were always under-resourced.

But if we don’t know much about the castle’s medieval history, we do know quite a lot about the bloody siege of Hopton in 1644, wherein Royalist forces attacked the staunch Parliamentarian Wallop family, who then owned the castle. It’s a swashbuckling tale, and you can read more about it HERE.

And you can watch the  Time Team excavation.


copyright 2015 Tish Farrell


Creative Intervention  Don’t forget to visit Paula for more interpretations of this challenge

32 thoughts on “Thursday’s Special ~ Creative Intervention Rescues A Ruin

  1. I will have to check out the video later when I have access (at home). How do you manage that? Every time, you combine fairy tale photos with a story and interpretation of your own that makes us wonder. A tough one for me – having to chose between two photos… well, maybe the first one cause of the dramatic and “creative” sky. Thank you for the lesson and a visual treat, Tish.

  2. Never heard of this place. What a nice read.
    Oh, and your second photograph is a corker.
    You don’t get green like that up here in Gauteng. Though the place is beginning to to green a little.
    It has rained on and off two days in a row and as I type it is chucking it down: typical Jo’burg storm. In fact, I ought to say nite, nite as the lightening is a bit hairy and I don’t want to risk frying the modem!

    1. Morning, Ark. It’s not surprising you haven’t heard of Hopton. It’s actually quite hard to find, and we had a map. Not too far from Ludlow though – Welsh Marches sort of area. And yes it was green. We’d had a mild winter, and nothing but rain until spring. Now I’m thinking of you with raging storms, but hope it is quieter this morning. Definitely not good to fry your modem.

    1. Yes, and as I was saying to ChgoJohn, a problem probably replicated across the country. There has been an amazing volunteer project in Shropshire recently, so it’s not all unknown. Much Wenlock apparently has the most complete set of Poor Law records in the country, and these have all been digitised. The big problem is deciphering them all. I would imagine that Exeter has some pretty amazing archives unless they were damaged in WW2?

  3. Fascinating, Tish. Imagine the historical data that would be resurrected if the proper time an manpower could be allocated to read and catalog all of your country’s medieval documents.

    1. Yes indeed, John. Our county town was once the place where the king of England held parliament, in consequence there are rolls and rolls of early medieval accounts and charters. The fact that they’re rolled has been a problem, as well as lack of manpower, and people who can read medieval Latin. But with the development of whizzy scanners, one day it may be possible to scan them all without opening them out. Old documents are also an awful health hazard with all their accumulated moulds. Oh so many obstacles, but so much history we do not know. Every town archive in the country probably has a similar problem.

  4. Amazing shots of this ruins Tish! I wonder what tales those walls would tell if they could talk? I’m not really one for history as it always have something to do with war and greed. Much the same we have going today as well, doesn’t it? So unnecessary. Wherever people are, there will always be that fight for power and so many innocent lives lost over the years.

    It must have been such a beautiful place when it was still standing. It reminds me a lot of a strategic pc game I love to play called Stronghold. Such interesting history and you explained it all so well. Thanks for sharing. 😀

    1. I quite take your point about history – so much of it is too grim. Other half and I were discussing this yesterday, and why the completely boring, ordinary history is pretty much missing – due, we decided, to being too boring to record. Humans, eh. Happy weekend to you, Sonel 🙂

      1. I am very glad you do Tish and that is a fact. History like this, especially with such stunning photography can never be boring. You had me reading everything, as well as watching the video. I loved it. 😀

        Thanks Tish and wishing you and your hubby the same. ♥

    2. History is just as much about love and romance as war and greed. Back in those days, though, resources were much more scarce. Surviving was often a battle against hunger, disease, injury and even the weather. Things we take for granted today, like bread, all had to be made yourself and daily life was a struggle and it was sometimes far easier to take from others than to struggle on your own.

  5. Tish whenever we travel abroad I am struck by how many castles, houses,and buildings carry centuries of history. The maintenance and refurbishing of so many seems like a monumental task. This one so beautiful set against it’s green backdrop.

  6. I’m always fascinated by the historical buildings in your neighborhoods, and the well told story, Tish! And when bits and pieces are shrouded in mystery, like here, it’s even more intriguing. Very enjoyable!

  7. Hello Tish! Very interesting building and area. The video is fascinating. The pictures are great, especially the one that looks through a rock window out to green grass and sheep––beautiful. 😀

  8. We visited Hopton Castle just last week, with the wind howling around us in temperatures supposedly near -10ºC!

    Having looked around, I tend to disagree with the hunting lodge theory… Certainly this place was fortified to some extent perhaps in the same way nearby Stokesay Castle is actually just a fortified manor, so with some practical function even if most of it is primarily decorative. The other mounds on site suggest other buildings of some defensible nature as well. Also, historic sources do speak of the castles (plural) of Hopton… so quite likely what we see now was just the hall/residential part of a proper, defensible castle.

    However, the 2010 Time Team excavation reveals that there had been a second tower of decent, good quality stone, along with a cellared building and a curtain wall. When a castle or church falls to ruin, that good quality stone is often stolen by locals, to be reused in other buildings – I suspect this is what happened after the castle fell in the Civil War, which is why the building of lesser quality material is the one they left standing.

    Plus, you have the other puzzle, that of no discernible service facilities like a kitchen, stores, servants’ quarters or stables – Not exactly something a high status family would be without – Since there isn’t enough room for these on the main mound, it stands to reason that many of these would be housed in the separate brick, stone and wooden buildings that are now gone.

    Lastly, you have the accounts of the Civil War siege which, if even semi-accurate, tell of 31 men holding out against an attacking force of over 500 with heavy artillery and large siege guns, for up to 3 weeks. No military force could have done that if the building(s) were indefensible… my conclusion is that there was a *lot* more to Hopton Castle than the small piece that remains today.

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