A castle was home to a rich family and their servants. Since defence was the prime purpose of a castle, the living accommodation was often sparse and uncomfortable. As a result, landowners started to build more comfortable houses but these were fortified with features such as a moat that allowed it to be defended. In Shropshire there are examples of each.
Early Norman castles were often made with a raised mound of earth (motte) and a wooden palisade, only later were these replaced by stone. Some, such as Shrewsbury and Ludlow, became quite large as a result of their strategic location on the border of England and Wales.
During the Civil War, some churches were also used as temporary fortifications due to their strong construction and height. The Civil War also resulted in many of the stone castles being “slighted” (destroyed) to prevent them being used again.
Gazetteer of Sites
Alderbury Castle (SJ355146)
Built in the early 13th Century. It was not officially garrisoned by either side during the Civil War, although there is an obscure reference to it being used 1645. Now a ruin and on private land.
Atcham Bridge (SJ540092)
One of several bridges on the River Severn which were garrisoned during the Civil War to deny the passage of goods to the enemy. Initially a Royalist garrison but captured by Roundheads in 1645. The garrison is believed to have been placed in the Church, which bears the marks of having been struck by cannon balls. The old bridge was built in 1769-71 and replaced by a new concrete bridge in 1929. The old bridge is Grade II* listed and can be crossed by the public.
Built by the Bishop of Hereford in 1087 to defend the church and village from the threat of the Welsh. It was attacked several times, not always by Welsh raiders, most notably in 1263 when John Fitzalan, 6th Earl of Arundel and Lord of Oswestry and Clun, laid siege to it and caused significant damage. In 1557, the castle was described as "thirteen rooms covered with lead, a tower on the outer wall on the eastern side containing a stable, and two rooms covered with tiles. There were two other rooms on the outer wall between the building over the gate and the tower. There was also a dovecote, garden, forest and a park." In 1618, the castle started to deteriorate and was a ruin by the time of the Civil War. In the 1700s, the stone keep and surroundings were flattened to make a bowling green. In 1719, the Castle Hotel was constructed over the site. All that is visible of the castle today is a 10m long, coursed stone wall on the west side of the castle site which is 2m thick and 3m high. On private land but close to public footpath.
Built in 1101 by Robert de Belleme, son of the French Earl, Roger de Montgomery, who succeeded his father to become the Earl of Shrewsbury. Its principal feature, a square great tower, was built during the reign of Henry II. During the Civil War, it was owned by Sir William Whitmore. The town with its castle was a Royalist garrison from the start of the war and, by October 1642, the gates had been repaired and made strong with chains plus other posts and chains had been placed at the ends of several of the streets. It was briefly captured by Roundheads in September 1645 and finally captured in April 1646. A tunnel called Lavingstone’s Hole was driven under the castle with the aim of blowing it up but the threat alone made the defenders surrender. The entrance is still open at SO71759283.
Cromwell ordered that the castle be demolished and by 1647 little of the structure remained. The Parliamentarians left it much as it is today, the stone from the castle being taken and used to repair the town's damaged buildings. Parts of the great tower still remain but, because of the damage caused during the Civil War, it now leans at an angle of 15 degrees, four times that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Castle grounds are open to the public.
Bryn Amlwg Castle (SO16748460)
Scheduled earthwork remains of a Medieval castle. Began in the early 12th Century as a wooden ring work and reconstructed in stone about 1225. Known to have been occupied until 1377 and may have fallen into disuse after that. Apart from a few fragments of walling on the face of the gateway, no masonry from the castle survives. The site comprises a central mound surrounded by a ditch and outer bank. Some damage has been caused by modern quarrying. The site occupies a knoll overlooking a North East-South West valley which marks the England-Wales boundary.
Buildwas Bridge (SJ645044)
One of several bridges on the River Severn which were garrisoned to deny the passage of goods to the enemy. Initially a Royalist garrison based in the church and in 1642 a James Lacon received orders to employ men to erect a turnstile armed with spikes, to prevent the passage of horses. Captured by Roundheads in 1645. Destroyed by a flood in 1795, when it was replaced by the present bridge.
Originally constructed as an Iron Age hill fort, that was built on by Roger Corbet in the late 11th century as an earthwork motte with a very small summit on which stood a tower and a strongly defended inner bailey. King Henry II had it garrisoned in 1165 and, in 1198, Roger Corbet re-built the tower, keep and curtain wall in stone. During the late 12th century a town was created in the large outer Bailey. On the death of Beatrice Corbet in 1347, the castle passed to the Earl of Stafford. It was garrisoned by the Seneschal Griffith ap Gwenwys against the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in the 15th century but he then changed sides. As a result, his family lands and role at Caus Castle were forfeited in 1404, only to be restored by King Henry V in 1419. In 1443, the castle passed back to the Earl of Stafford but he rarely used it so that it was recorded in 1521 as being a ruin. Owned by Sir Henry Frederick Thynne during the Civil War and initially a Royalist garrison. It was captured by the Roundheads in June 1645 and destroyed. Most of the masonry was carried off and the only visible remains are earthworks. On private land but close to road.
Grade I listed castle. Built 1090-1110 by the Fitzallan family and altered in the 13th Century. It was built in conjunction with the planned town laid out to the East, standing high up in a loop of the River Clun near its confluence with the River Unk and in a strategic position. The castle was abandoned by the time of the Civil War and saw no military action but it was demolished by Parliament in 1646 to prevent any possible use a fortress. Now owned by English Heritage and ruins open to public.
Motte of a small castle built in 1087 by Roger de Montgomery. It became a royal castle in 1138 and is likely to have been fortified in stone around this time although nothing remains. It was abandoned in the 14th Century.
Built in the 11th Century as a motte and bailey fortress by Helgot de Reisolent and mentioned in the Domesday Book. Crowning the high circular motte are the foundations of walls and a rectangular tower. Additions were made in the 13th Century, including a semi-circular flanking tower. During the Civil War, it was owned by the Cressett family. Initially a Royalist garrison but they abandoned and demolished it in June 1645. The Roundheads did not bother garrisoning it afterwards. The ruins, including the flanking tower, were subsequently incorporated into a farmhouse in the 16th Century. Now a private house.
Grade I listed castle. Built in the late 11th Century as an earthwork motte and bailey fortress by Robert 'Picot' de Say. In 1276, Walter de Hopton built the stone castle, with a rectangular three storey tower house, flanked by projecting angle turrets. The castle was surrounded by a curtain wall, flanked with towers. In the Civil War, it was owned by Henry Wallop. Initially a Roundhead garrison of 31 men under Samuel More and one of the few castles to be held for Parliament in the west. It was captured by Royalists in March 1644 and the garrison was massacred in one of the most notorious incidents of the Civil War. The castle was later destroyed to prevent it being used again. In 2006 a Trust was formed to buy the building and it has now been conserved. Ruins are open to the public.
Loppington Church (SJ471292)
During the Civil War, Loppington remained loyal to the Crown and there was a Royalist garrison in the church. Nearby Wem was for Parliament and, in 1643, the Parliamentary forces sited a gun on Ditches Hill outside Wem and fired on Loppington, damaging the north wall of the church. The church roof was then set alight to force the occupants out and the roof and arcade were destroyed.
Grade I listed castle. Built in the 11th Century by Walter de Lacy as one of a string of castles along the Welsh border. In 1461, it was acquired by the Crown as the centre of administration for the Marches shires and for Wales. Court sessions and the Prince's Council were held here. leading to massive refurbishment of the buildings and the castle became more like an Elizabethan stately home. The two young princes murdered in the Tower of London spent most of their childhood years at Ludlow Castle. During the Civil War, it was besieged by Roundheads several times but not captured until July 1646. It was the last Royalist castle in Shropshire to hold out. In 1811 it was acquired by the Earl of Powis, whose family still owns it. Ruins open to the public.
Montford Bridge (SJ431152)
One of several bridges on the River Severn which were garrisoned to deny the passage of goods to the enemy. Initially a Royalist garrison, located in the church, but captured by Roundheads in 1645. Replaced by current bridge in 1792, constructed by Thomas Telford. Grade II listed.
Grade II listed castle. Built in the 11th Century as an earthwork motte and bailey fortress by Alan Fitz Flaald. In 1148, Madoc ap Meredyth built the stone castle, when adding a polygonal shell keep to the flat-topped motte. It was the scene of a parliament held by Richard II in 1398. The castle was in disrepair by the late 15th Century. It was repaired during the Civil War, when it was initially a Royalist garrison under Colonel Lloyd of Llanforda and a garrison consisting chiefly of Welsh troops. Captured by Roundheads in June 1644 and demolished by order of Parliament in 1648. Now only fragments of collapsed masonry survive. There is the possible remains of a reconstructed bastion on east side of the motte but the bailey has been completely built over.
Red Castle (SJ571294)
Unscheduled castle. Built in 1227 by Henry de Audley, after which time the village became known as 'Weston under Redcastle'.. The subsequent generations of Audleys were known as the Lords of Red Castle. The Audleys forfeited the title when the 7th Baron Audley led a rebellion against King Henry VII of England in 1497 and was executed. The castle fell into ruin but the title was restored to John Tuchet, 8th Baron Audley in 1512. Eventually the lands passed via Sir Andrew Corbet to Sir Rowland Hill, 1st Baronet Hill of Hawkstone. It was replaced by the adjacent Hawkstone Hall in the 17th Century and the grounds, including the Red Castle, were landscaped.
Built in the 12th Century but badly damaged in 1203 and 1212. Rebuilt in 1313 but finally abandoned at the end of the century and the stone used to build the adjacent church.
Shrawardine Castle (SJ401154)
Grade II listed castle. Built by 1165 as a motte and bailey. During the Civil War it was owned by Mr Bromley. Initially a Royalist garrison but captured by Roundheads in June 1645 and subsequently destroyed. On private land but close to public footpath.
Grade I listed castle. Built in 11th Century as an earthwork motte and bailey fortress by Roger de Montgomery. It is possible that the castle replaced an earlier Saxon fortification, that would have guarded the original approach to the town. In 1164, King Henry II built the stone castle, encasing the oval inner bailey with a curtain wall, pierced by a plain arched gateway. In the 13th century, King Edward I built the great hall and strengthened the royal castle with a rectangular outer bailey. During the Civil War, the Royalists repaired the castle but in 1645 it was captured by a small Parliamentary force. In the late 18th century, Thomas Telford remodelled the interior of the hall and added Laura's Tower to the mound. In 1924, the Shropshire Horticultural Society purchased the castle and carried out an extensive programme of restoration, which included removal of all the internal partitions introduced by Telford. Further alterations took place in 1985 when the castle was converted to house the Shropshire Regimental Museum. Ruins open to the public.
Grade I listed castle. Built in 1281-91 by Lawrence of Ludlow, a wealthy local wool-merchant. King Edward I granted a licence to crenellate. Hardly altered since, the Baldwyn family added the panelled chamber in the solar block and the timber-framed gatehouse in the mid-17th century. In the Civil War, the castle was owned by the Craven family and had a Royalist garrison. In June 1645, after a skirmish and a short siege, it surrendered to a Parliamentarian force. Owned by English Heritage and open to the public.
Tong Castle (SJ792069)
Grade II listed castle. Built in the 12th Century and altered in the 16th Century by Sir Harry Vernon. During the Civil War, it was initially a Roundhead garrison but was captured by Royalists in April 1644. Re-captured by Roundheads in Summer 1646. George Durant demolished most of the original house in 1764 and replaced it with a gothic castle in 1765, which was in turn demolished in 1954. The site is now divided into two and obscured by the M54 Motorway.
Grade I listed castle. Built in the late 13th century by Sir Richard Corbet. It comprised a square two storey tower surrounded by a moated enclosure with a fishpond. It was bought by the Leighton family about 1501 and used as their chief residence until 1711. At that time, an adjoining farm building was constructed and named Wattlesborough Hall. Only the roofless tower remains and its condition is officially classified as poor.
Wellington Church (SJ651117)
Wellington was not a major centre in the Civil War but, shortly after Charles I stayed there in 1642, it was briefly captured by Roundheads until they were driven off. The church was garrisoned by the Royalists and damaged when the town was re-captured by Roundheads in March 1644. Open to public.
Built between 1135-54 by William Pantulf. Hugh Pantulf rebuilt the castle in the 13th Century by replacing wooden structures with stone buildings. In 1235 the castle passed by marriage to the Le Botiler family but by 1290 it was in ruins. It was rebuilt in 1313, at which time it was held for the Le Botilers by Hugh Fitzaer. In 1459 the castle was acquired by the De Audley family and it was dismantled shortly afterwards. Only a reduced motte survives that has been shored up on one side with a brick wall.
Wem Church (SJ512288)
Wem was the main centre of the Roundheads and remained in their hands throughout the Civil War, despite a short siege in 1643. The church was garrisoned by the troops. Open to the public.
Whitchurch Church (SJ540417)
Whitchurch had a Royalist garrison based in the Church. The town was captured by Roundheads in May 1643 but re-captured by Prince Rupert in March 1644. Open to the public.
Grade I listed castle. Originally an Iron Age fort, encased by triple banks and ditches, which remain to the north and west. It is also possible that King Offa founded a Saxon earth and timber fortification in the fort. In the late 11th Century, William Peverel created an earthwork motte and bailey fortress, defended by wet ditches. In the mid-12th century, King Henry II built the stone castle, when crowning the motte with a rectangular keep. In 1221, Sir Foulke fitz Warine was granted a licence to crenellate and he totally encased the motte with a shell keep, flanked by five huge round towers. Two of the towers defended the gateway into the new inner bailey, with a twin-towered gatehouse defending the large walled outer bailey. During the Civil War it was initially a Royalist garrison but was captured by Roundheads in 1643. The castle was dismantled in the 18th Century for road stone and the present outer gatehouse was restored in 1809. Owned by the community and open to the public.
Wroxeter Church (SJ563082)
One of several places on the River Severn which were garrisoned to deny the passage of goods to the enemy. Whereas the others were on bridges, there was no bridge here (although there was one in Roman times). However, it is just downstream from the junction of the River Severn and River Roden so was probably a strategic location. Initially a Royalist garrison was based in the Church but it was captured by Roundheads by June 1644 when the Earl of Denbigh appointed it as the rendezvous for forces heading to capture Oswestry.