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Stokesay Castle is the finest and best preserved 13th century fortified manor house in England. It offers visitors a unique glimpse into a distant age, when strength and elegance were combined.
Set amid peaceful countryside near the Welsh border, Stokesay Castle forms an outstandingly picturesque group with its timber-framed gatehouse and the parish church.
Lawrence of Ludlow, who made his fortune as a wool merchant and set up as a country gentleman, acquired the manor in 1281. Extensive recent tree-ring dating confirms that he had completed virtually the whole of the still-surviving buildings by 1291, the date of his ‘licence to crenellate’ from Edward I.
The dating also revealed that Stokesay’s magnificent openhearthed great hall, with its fine cruck-built timber roof, shuttered gable windows and precipitous staircase, has scarcely been altered since it was built. The north tower displays an original medieval tiled floor and remains of wall painting, while the south tower with fine views from its roof contains a panelled solar chamber added in the 17th century. Its dominating feature is a fireplace with richly carved overmantel, still bearing clear traces of gold, pink, red, green and white painting.
Across the courtyard stands the truly delightful gatehouse, an elaborate example of the regional style of lavishly showy timber-framing, with charming carvings of Adam and Eve. This was built in 1640, a few years before Stokesay’s only known military encounter, when it surrendered without fighting during the Civil War.
An audio tour will help you to imagine Stokesay as the centre of medieval life. Its grounds include cottage-style gardens, a tearoom open from April to October, and a gift shop.