“When I came last to Ludlow…”


This week in her Black & White series, Cee gives us a free hand, and says we can post our favourite B & W images. Here is one of mine: Dinham Bridge over the River Teme, with Ludlow Castle above. For those of you who do not know England, Ludlow is a scenic market town in South Shropshire. All looks so tranquil here, and the town itself ever has a sleepy air.

Historically, though, Ludlow was an important border stronghold commanding the Welsh Marches to the west, and repeatedly the scene of bloody battles and political intrigue down the ages.

The castle is almost a thousand years old, having its beginnings on the crest of the hill in around 1075. The outer fortifications were added a hundred years later, and the castle continued to expand and become ever more grand over succeeding centuries.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the castle’s claims to fame is that it was here in 1501 that fifteen-year old Prince Arthur Tudor, son of Henry VII and thus Henry VIII-to-be’s older brother, spent his honeymoon with sixteen-year old Catherine of Aragon, and that Arthur caught a fever and was dead within the year, thus leaving Catherine to be betrothed to Henry.

Nearly thirty years later when Catherine was embroiled in Henry’s ugly attempts to be rid of her so he could marry Anne Boleyn (he demanded an annulment on the grounds that it went against biblical teaching for a man to marry his brother’s wife) she claimed that nothing had happened between her and Arthur at Ludlow; that their marriage was never consummated.

So much for Ludlow-past as a honeymoon destination.

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But the castle has older more grizzly mysteries associated with it. They relate to the Wars of the Roses mentioned in the previous post. Ludlow Castle was one of Richard Third Duke of York’s key strongholds until it was lost to Lancastrian forces in 1459 at the Battle of Ludstone Bridge – the next bridge downriver from the one in the photo. Three years later in 1461, when his son defeated the Lancastrians and became Edward IV, the castle was restored to the Crown, and it was during Edward IV’s reign that both castle and town grew in political prominence.

And it was in Ludlow Castle where Edward IV’s sons, Edward and Richard, spent much of their childhood, and whence they were taken in 1483 to the Tower of London. Their father had died, and Edward aged twelve had been pronounced Edward V, but was not yet crowned. His father’s brother, Uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester, aka Richard Crookback and soon to be Richard III, was Lord Protector.

Then came news that Edward IV’s marriage had been proved invalid. His young sons were declared illegitimate, and Richard quickly had himself crowned. The boys, thereafter referred to as the Princes in the Tower,  were never seen again. Behind them only argument remained – did Richard III have his nephews murdered? Did the two small skeletons, later unearthed in the Tower,  belong to young Edward and Richard? When I think of them in the brooding Tower of London, which incidentally was then a royal palace and not a prison, it still gives me a pang. I sense their feelings of loss and displacement, a pining for Ludlow, ‘the hill beside loud waters’**, the forests and wide Shropshire vistas below the battlements; just the place for growing lads.

If Richard did kill the boys in a bid to secure his claim to rule, it didn’t do him much good. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485  after only two years as king. His remains were buried in the church of a Franciscan Friary in Leicester, and in 2012 were re-discovered with much fanfare during an excavation of the site, which by this time lay buried under a city car park. Leicester University scientists then set out to prove the identity of the skeleton, an exciting piece of forensic archaeology and genealogy which is detailed at this link.

After Richard came Henry Tudor who won the day at Bosworth Field, the last significant conflict in the Wars of the Roses. So ended the Plantagenet Dynasty, and so began the Tudor Dynasty with the coronation of Henry VII – which is pretty much where this post began.

These days Ludlow Castle is a prime tourist attraction. It is privately owned by the Earls of Powys, and has recently been subject to much restoration work. If you can’t visit in person, then follow this link to do a virtual tour. But if you do get a chance to go there, the town itself is also a treasure. You will not be disappointed.


copyright 2016 Tish Farrell


*  “ When I came last to Ludlow…” from A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad  LVIII

** The name Ludlow is said to derive from the Old English meaning ‘the hill beside loud waters’



My Treat Today In Ludlow

A Five-Hundred-Year Old C.V.

48 thoughts on ““When I came last to Ludlow…”

  1. Beautiful photos Tish – very evocative. And a great story. I’ve forgotten what little I knew of British history and all the wives and intrigue. Poor Catherine. Was she one of the beheaded ones?

    1. No, not beheaded. She died of natural causes, or at least that’s to say of probably being too long housed in rather shabby accommodation. Poor woman.

  2. I’m never disappointed when I come over here. Interesting history. I know of this English history but it’s always refreshing to read it all over again. 🙂

  3. The photo of the bridge and castle is astounding Tish. So dramatic to go along with your story. As I think I have mentioned before on your blog, it’s hard for me in ‘young’ Canada wrapping my head around buildings that are a thousand years old. We have one nearby that’s over 100 years old. 😉

    1. Thanks, Sue. It is an amazing vista, and makes its own astoundingness. Btw I think for some reason I called you Jude in my comment. I was having a total confusion moment. Sorry!

  4. Lovely images and post; they work so well together. I recently re-read Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’ and found myself sympathizing with Richard III. But then again, I do love a good conspiracy theory.

      1. That’s how I feel. Until I re-read the Tey book I’d forgotten how compelling her argument seems. I guess the truth will never be known; and it is nice to have a mystery to ponder.

  5. It’s good to see Ludlow still exists in the blogosphere although Jude has migrated. A great encapsulation of English history, ancient grizzly bits, and the photos, the first too particularly, are infused with ominous light. Your historical posts are my inspiration when I tackle things like the rebuilding of Warsaw: your history always sounds like the stuff of personal experience, not like something plucked from Wikipedia and half-digested.

  6. I couldn’t decide where to go this summer…now, you’ve given me ANOTHER option…dang! Love the look of the castle. The photo is exquisite!

  7. This is very interesting. It is odd how the grisly history of many castles is at odds with our current romantic love of them.

      1. I found some of the castles in Ireland really creepy – some of those dungeons are horrific.

  8. Oh, these mysteries and treasures you have on easy reach! I am fascinated with all this history still “alive” in many of these places.

    1. It’s interesting how easily we take the past for granted here in the UK. We acknowledge the aesthetic, grand (or ‘quaint’) qualities, but it does seem to take a bit of an effort to really ‘tune’ into it. Perhaps it is all too complicated to embrace. Too much of it, and too disturbing too. A very eminent historian once told me that you need to provide people with a familiar or personal analogous situation to help them make the mental shift back to the past. That has always struck me as an interesting approach.

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