Saturday, February 1, 2014

In Search of a Character, or Two, in Ludlow

by Tim Carrington

Photo Courtesy of Paul Farmer
Wikimedia Commons
"Oh, come you home on Sunday
When Ludlow's streets are still
And Ludlow's bells are calling
To farm and lane and mill.
Or come you home on Monday
When Ludlow Market hums
And Ludlow chimes are playing
The Conquering Hero Comes."

Those are the well-known words of A.E.Housman who wrote 'A Shropshire Lad'. Although his ashes were laid to rest in Ludlow, Housman was born in Worcestershire. But that's the effect that Shropshire has on people, they come to visit and end up staying here.

Ludlow has always been a 'favourite town'. and is even thought of as 'up-market Shropshire'. Like Shrewsbury, it has its castle and river. Like Shrewsbury, it has so much history attached to it that, as a subject, it is worthy of study on its own. But there the comparisons end. Although both towns have seen development, Ludlow's town centre has fared better, and the annual Ludlow Festival has firmly put the town at the top of the county's cultural list. To be brutally honest, Ludlow is one of England’s ‘new towns’. One of those places created by invaders in the 11th century with none of the earlier Roman and Celtic heritage – but I still love the place.

Buttercross, Broad Street, Ludlow
Pauline Eccles, Wikimedia Commons
Whichever way one approaches Ludlow the town is impressive, and the climb up to the town centre gives one the impression of 'arriving'. One such approach is over Ludford bridge then through Broad Gate and into Broad Street which rises steadily to the Butter Cross at the top. Particularly when on foot, one can feel the history of this town enveloping the visitor in a welcome embrace.

Early History

The Saxons called it Leodlowe which implies an administration centre. But of that early settlement there are no remains and we have to wait until the Norman Conquest to find the Ludlow of today. Roger de Montgomery erected the greatest part of the castle, and fortified the town with walls.

He was related to William the Conqueror, and whether he was given the Marches (border) region because of his family ties, or because he was a brilliant soldier/administrator, and was therefore the man for the job, is not clear. Whatever the reasons, for his efforts he was awarded the Earldoms of Arundel and Shrewsbury.

It must be remembered that at that time most of the country's problems were with the Welsh. Ludlow, being so close to the border, was an ideal staging post for armies in times of trouble, and an administrative centre when times were more peaceful.

To combat the threats from Wales, the King allowed any Lord or Baron to raise an army and march into Wales, the reward being that he could keep anything he took from the Welsh. For this reason, the Lords, or Barons, Marchers were a great ally if on your side, but a terrible problem if they were not, and it is these Lords of the Marches who created much of the history of Ludlow and, indeed, the whole of the Marches area.

When Roger de Montgomery died, his second son, Hugh, inherited his English titles and estates and became Lord of Ludlow. But, unfortunately, he did not live long and his death is recorded in the Welch Chronicle thus;

"The year following being 1096, Hugh de Montgomery, Earl of Arundell
and Salopsburie, whom the Welchmen called Hugh Goch, that is to say,
Hugh the red-headed; and Hugh Vras, that is Hugh the fat, Earl of
Chester, and a great number of nobles more, did gather a hugh armie,
and entred into North Wales, being thereto moved by certein lords of
the country .... And so the Earls came over against the ile of Mon, or
Anglesey, where they did build a castel of Aberihiennhawc. Then the
Earls spoiled the ile and slew all that they found there. And at the
verie same time Magnus, the sonne of Haroald, came with a great navie
of ships towards England, minding to laie faster hold upon that
kingdome than his father had done, and being driven by chaunce to
Anglesey, would have landed there, but the Earls kept him from the
land. And there Magnus with an arrowe stroke Hugh, Earl of Salop in
the face, that he died thereof."

Ludlow Castle
Ian Capper, Wikimedia Commons
Hugh's brother, Robert, succeeded him, but he was the opposite of his brother and is recorded as; "a most ingenious architect, a man of great insight in serious affairs, and unwearied in his management of worldly affairs; but for inflicting torments, a most inexorable butcher, exceedingly cruel, covetous and libidinous." Robert was finally defeated by Henry I who turned Ludlow into a Royal Residence.

When Stephen came to the throne in 1135, the governor of Ludlow was Gervase Paganelle, but he was a supporter of the Empress Maud, and the King besieged Ludlow. The outcome is not clear, but it is generally believed that Gervase had a change of heart and obtained the king's forgiveness.

Over the next hundred years Ludlow was the centre of rivalry between the Dynans and the de Lacys and it was while one of the de Lacy’s and one of his knights were imprisoned by Joce de Dynan that we find an interesting character, Marion of the Heath.

"Sir Arnold was a young bachelor and handsome, and he was greatly overtaken with the love of Marion of the Heath, a very pretty damsel, who was the chief chamber-maid of the lady of the castle of Dynan. Sir Arnold and the damsel often conversed together; for she used to come every day into the tower with her lady, to comfort Sir Walter de Lacy and Sir Arnold.

"It happened that Sir Arnold, when he saw an opportunity, pleaded with the damsel, and told her that she was the thing which he loved most, and that he was so much overtaken with her love, that he could have no rest day or night unless she yield to him; for she could give him relief from all his sorrows. And, if she would do it, he would make her a surety at her own will that never would he love another but her; and, as soon as he should be set at liberty, he would take her for his wife.

"The damsel heard the fair promise, and yielded him to do his will in all things, and took surety of him that he would hold with her according to his promise. The damsel promised them that she would help them in all points secretly, that they might be delivered from prison. And she took towels and sheets, and carried them into the tower, and sewed them together, and by means of these she let down Sir Walter and Sir Arnold from the tower, and she prayed them to keep their faith and the promise which they had made her. And they told her that they would behave faithfully towards her, without breaking any covenant, and bid her adieu.

"Months go by and Joce de Dynan left his castle on affairs of state.

"And Marion of the Heath feigned sickness, and took to her bed, and said that she was so ill that she could not move except with great difficulty. And she remained at the castle of Dynan. Joce commanded that she should be carefully attended to. And, for fear of the Lacy and other people, he took into his pay thirty knights and seventy sergeants and valets, and delivered them his castle to keep until his return into the country.

"When Joce was gone, next day Marion sent a messenger to Sir Arnold de Lys, and prayed him, for the great friendship that was between them, that he would not forget the covenants which were made between them, and that he come hastily to talk with her at the castle of Dynan, for the lord and the lady and the strength of their household are gone to Hertland, and that he come to the same place where last he escaped from the castle.

"When Sir Arnold had heard the message of his mistress, he immediately sent back the same messenger, and prayed that for his love she would measure the height of the window by which he last escaped out of the castle, and that she should send him back information by the said messenger what kind of people, and how many, and what household their lord had left behind him.

Ludlow Castle Gatehouse
The damsel, who had no suspicion of treason, took a silk cord, and let it down through the window to the ground, and sent information of all the condition of the castle to Sir Arnold. Then Sir Arnold sent back to his mistress that on the fourth day, before it struck midnight, he would be at the same window through which he passed; and begged that she would wait for him there.

The night was very dark, so that they were not perceived by the watch, or by any one else. Sir Arnold took a squire, who carried the ladder of leather, and went to the window where Marion was waiting for them. And when she saw them, she was never so joyful; and she let down a cord, and drew up the ladder of leather, and fastened it to a battlement of the wall. And Arnold mounted easily and lightly the tower, and took his mistress between his arms and kissed her; and they made great joy, and went thence into another chamber, and supped, and then went to bed, and left the ladder hanging.

The esquire who carried it went for the knights and the great company who were in ambush in the lord's garden and elsewhere, and brought them to the ladder. And a hundred men, well armed, mounted by means of the ladder of leather, and went down from the tower of Pendover, and went along the wall behind the chapel.

And they found the watch sleeping, for he seemed to be heavy under the presentiment of death; and they took him immediately, and would have thrown him down from his tower into the deep fosse; but he cried for mercy, and begged that they would suffer him to whistle one note before he died. And they granted it him; but he did it in order that the knights within should be warned. But it was all in vain.

While he whistled the greater part of the knights and sergeants were being cut to pieces; and they screamed and cried in their beds that God might have pity. But the companions of Sir Arnold were without pity; for all who were therein they put to a foul death, and many a sheet which was white at even, was all reddened with blood. At last they threw the watch into the deep fosse, and broke his neck.

Meanwhile, Marion of the Heath lay in bed beside her love, Sir Arnold, and knew nothing of the treason which Sir Arnold had perpetrated; she heard a great noise in the castle, rose from the bed, and looked down into the castle, heard the noise and cry of the wounded, and saw knights in arms and white helms and hauberks.

Now she perceived that Sir Arnold had deceived and betrayed her, and began to weep very affectingly, and said piteously: 'Alas!' said she, 'that ever I was born of mother; for by my fault, my lord, Sir Joce, who fostered me tenderly, has lost his castle and his good people; and had I never been, nothing would have been lost. Alas! that ever I believed this knight; for by his flattery he has deceived me, and my lord, which is still more to me.'

Marion, all weeping, drew the sword of Sir Arnold and said, 'Sir knight, awake; for you have brought strange company into the castle of my lord without leave. But if you, Sir, and your esquire, were lodged
by me, the others, who have come in through your means, were not. And, since you have deceived me, you cannot rightly blame me if I render you service according to your desert; but you shall never boast to any mistress you shall have, that by my deceit you have gained the castle of Dynan and the country.'

The knight raised himself erect. Marion, with the sword which she held drawn in her hand, struck the knight through the body, and the knight died immediately. Marion knew well that if she were taken, she should be delivered to an evil death, and knew not what to do; so she let herself fall from a window towards Linney, and broke her neck."

          A translation by Leland of a 12th/13th century manuscript that was written in Norman French and Welsh. John Leland 1503 – 1552

Oh what a^””holes men can be! Or is all fair in love and war?

Roger de Mortimer
In 1303, during the reign of Edward I, Roger de Mortimer (a very famous Shropshire name) married Joane, the widow of Peter de Genevill and became Lord of Ludlow Castle. Edward I was succeeded by Edward II who was a bit of a bad egg, and Roger de Mortimer sided with other discontented barons of the realm and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. But he managed to escape, and, in memory of his escape, built the chapel which still stands in Ludlow Castle.

In the reign of Edward III Roger de Mortimer was created Earl of March and Justice of Wales, but he was destined for a sticky end, and was executed when he was found in bed with the King's mother, and, as if
that wasn't enough, he was also accused of the murder of Edward II. His crimes were listed in the celebrated poem "Mirrour of Magistrates".

"Five hainous crimes against him soon were had.
1. First that he causde the King to yeeld the Scott.
(To make a peace) townes that were from him got.
And therewithall the Charter called Ragmau.
2. That of the Scots he had privy gaine,
3. That through his meanes Sir Edward Carnarvon
In Barkley Castle most traiterously was slain.
4. That with his Prince's mother he had laine,
5. And finally with polling at his pleasure
Had rob'd the King and Commons of their treasure."

For his crimes he was executed at Tyburn, hanging (by the King's commandment) "two days and two nights, a public and gladsome spectacle."

Ludlow passed to a grandson of Roger Mortimer and continued in the possession of the Mortimers for some considerable time. "How great, how pious, how numerous these Mortimers were, and lastly how honourable the name went out, being wrapt up in the crown by an heir general," for the Mortimers were involved in the Wars of the Roses, as Edmund Mortimer was related to Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cambridge, who was beheaded by Henry V.

But before we get to the Wars of the Roses, we have to deal with another Welshman in the shape of Owen Glendower during the reign of Henry IV. Owen Glendower objected to English landlords in Wales, in particular the Mortimers, and attacked Radnor Castle which belonged to Roger Mortimer, as well as many other 'English' strongholds. At Knighton, on the Shropshire- Welsh border, Glendower and his men fought an army commanded by Sir Edmund Mortimer. Mortimer lost eleven-hundred men and was himself taken prisoner.

During the Wars of the Roses, Ludlow was a stronghold for the House of York and was the place of rendezvous for supporters of the Duke of York. When Henry's army marched on Ludlow they demanded the surrender of the town. The civilians said yes, but the garrison said no, and fighting between the two broke out within the besieged town.

Later, the Yorkists fled and the town and castle were sacked by the King's army. After the Duke of York was slain at the Battle of Wakefield, his son and heir, Edward (a descendant of the Mortimer family), took up the cause and visited Shrewsbury and Ludlow to quickly raise an army which defeated the King's army at Mortimer's Cross, to the south of Ludlow.

Ludlow became a favourite town of Edward after he was crowned, and in the first year of his reign he granted the first Charter of Incorporation.-, "In consideration of the praiseworthy and gratuitous services, which our well beloved and faithful subjects, the Burgesses of the town of Ludlow, have done in aid of recovering the right of the crown of England, withheld from us and our ancestors, and being
therefore desirous for the bettering and relief of the town."

With Edward's help, Ludlow was rebuilt. It became a favourite Royal Residence and home to Edward IV's oldest son, Edward, and his younger son, Richard, Duke of York. It was from here, after the death of
Edward IV, that the two young princes were taken to London.

Henry VII
After the Battle of Bosworth, Henry VII came to the throne, and by marrying the eldest daughter of Edward IV he united the houses of York and Lancaster. Henry VII, because of his Welsh connections, did much to progressively strip the Marcher Lords of their powers over the Welsh, and what he started was completed by Henry VIII.

In 1501, Prince Arthur, Henry VII's eldest son, married Catherine of Aragon and took up residence in Ludlow Castle with his bride. (He was fifteen, she was eighteen). With reference to that marriage, the
writings of Hall give us a curious specimen of the manners and language of those times.

....."Because I will not be tedious I passe over wyse devises, the
prudent speches, the costly woorkes, the conninge portratures
practised and set foorth in VII goodly beutiful pageauntes erected and
set up in diverse places of the citie. I leave also the goodly
ballades, the swete armony, the musicall instrumentes, which sounded
with heavenly noyes on every side of the strete. I omit farther, the
costly apparel both of gold-smythes woorke and embraudery, the ryche
jewelles, the massy cheynes, the sturynge horses, the beutiful barbes
and the glitterynge trappers, bothe with belles and spangles of golde.
I pretermit also the ryche apparelle of the pryncesse, the straunge
fashion of the Spanyshe nacion, the beautie of the English ladyes, the
goodly demeanure of the young damosels, the amorous countenance of the
lusty bachelors, I passe over also the fyne engrayned clothes, the
costly furres of the citezens, standynge on skaffoldes, rayled from
Gracechurche to Paules. What should I speke of the oderiferous
skarlettes, the fyne velvet, the pleasaunt furres, the massye chaynes,
which the Mayre of London with the senate, sitting on horsebacke at
the little conduyte in Chepe, ware on their bodyes, and about their
neckes. I will not molest you with rehersyng the riche arras, the
costly tapestry, the fyne clothes bothe of golde and silver, the
curious velvettes, the beautiful sattens nor the pleasaunte sylkes,
which did hang in every street where she passed, the wyne that ranne
continually out of the conduytes, the graveling and rayling of the
stretes nedeth not be remembered."

Having spent so long listing the things he wasn't going to mention, what was left to mention? But Arthur died the following year and lay in state in Ludlow Castle for three weeks before being buried at

Because of their Welsh connections, Henry VII and VIII did much to placate the Welsh Nation until, in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Henry VIII, Wales emerged as a nation where the Welsh had equal rights to the English.

In passing this Act, Henry also altered the role of Ludlow. In the past it had been the headquarters of the Marcher Lords who were little more than legalised thugs, when viewed from the Welsh point of view. But now Ludlow became the headquarters of the President of the Court of justice for Wales, and was served by counsellors, a secretary, an attorney, a solicitor and four justices.

Peace had come to Ludlow and the Marches after almost 450 years of Ludlow being the centre of bloody power struggles between the English and the Welsh and even the English and the English.

Not a bad history for one of our new towns?

Tim Carrington

PS. Oh but I forgot to mention the famous ‘Ludlow Massacre’. Well if you want to know about that you’ll just have to look it up.

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