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Stokesay Castle

Visited September 2012

Location Craven Arms, Shropshire
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Craven Arms- 3/4 mile
Parking Yes
Facilities Toilets, Gift Shop, Tea rooms


Stokesay is a fortified manor house, dating back to the 1280's, and has been pretty much untouched by time. Apart from the addition of a gatehouse in the 1700's, the castle buildings are as they were in the time of the builder, Laurence of Ludlow.






Laurence was a rich man, he had made his fortune in the wool trade, and when he bought the land at Stokesay he planned to show off his wealth by constructing an impressive home, with all the grandeur of a castle, but without the actual defences. The castle, though fortified, would never had stood up to a real attack- its main purpose was decorative. However, the moat and tower would have provided some protection against robbery- Laurence would have needed a stronghold for his hoard of cash, which would have mainly be kept at home in a time before banks.







Laurence would have built his home for style and comfort. His great hall was especially impressive, to visitors in both his time and the present day. The roof was built with three large wooden arches, with two horizontal beams above them. The wood used to construct both the roof and the stairs was very high quality, with the stair treads being cut from whole tree trunks. This may account for the fact that most of the wood in the great hall is the original, very few pieces have been replaced.


Above the hall are two more floors. The second floor is larger than the first due to the extra floor space where the building overhangs- the floor is supported on three sides by wooden brackets, giving the exterior its distinctive look. If you look carefully down at the floor of the overhang, you can see daylight through the boards. Although it has clearly survived for many hundreds of years, it was disconcerting to walk on the floor, just in case this was the day that the whole thing should choose to collapse on! There are bats nesting in the roof of this room, which was very exciting for the children, but we did not actually see any (they were probably asleep!)


Next to the hall is the solar block- the private living quarters of the owners of the castle. The solar has ornately carved wooden panelling and fire mantle. This is a 17th century addition, but has survived in good condition despite the gradual neglect of the castle and its subsequent use as a granary and storehouse in the 1800's.





The other part of the castle which was also a 17th century addition is the gatehouse. Serving no defensive role at all it was purely decorative, and remains today the most photogenic part of the castle. For that reason just about every tourist coming to Stokesay seems to want to have a photo of themselves standing next to it. Therefore get there early if you want to take pictures without other tourists in them. In the rooms on the ground floor of the gatehouse is the cafe, they serve a good range of food and drinks, with seating both inside & out , depending on your preference (and the weather).


The final part of the castle is the tower. Although Stokesay is not a typical defensive castle, the tower is the most castle-like feature, including the obligatory narrow spiral staircase to the top. There is a good view of the gatehouse, and out across the nearby lake.


Once you have gone back out through the gatehouse, there are some steps leading down to the (now empty) moat- this can be walked all the way around. There is plenty of green space at this castle for the children to let off steam, and teamed with the climb up the tower, the bats and the lovely gardens it was an enjoyable trip for all concerned.







More info: English Heritage Stokesay Castle

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