Walk around Ludlow, a town in South Shropshire, and you’ll quickly get a sense of the town’s history. Ludlow Castle, in its current form, is a good illustration of several different building styles, while the medieval walled town, is also home to over 500 listed buildings. There are plenty of well-maintained medieval or Tudor style timber framed buildings in the town, and St Laurence’s church, the largest in the county.
Some historical records connected to Ludlow refer to how the town got its name. It was originally called ‘Lodelowe’ a term in use before 1138, which originates in the Old English term ‘Hlud Hlaw’. Roughly translated this means ‘a place on a hill by a loud river’. Other records on Ludlow show its strategic position on the border of Shropshire and Herefordshire, and its close proximity to Wales, which was important in medieval times.
Ludlow was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, and the castle even appeared in folk stories, such as Fulk Fitzwarin, thought to be the inspiration behind the tale of Robin Hood. Construction of this castle was instigated by Roger De Lacy around 1086, with a chapel added sometime between 1090 and 1120. A great tower appeared later which formed a gatehouse, and the complete castle became a border fortification, playing its part in regional conflicts, the Wars Of The Roses, and the English Civil War. Ownership of the castle passed through several families, with owners including the Earl of March, who took control in 1306, and was also a place for entertaining Royals, noblemen and women.
Ludlow wasn’t just known for its strategic position, it also grew and prospered as a market town, and the market square which is still in use today, has held markets for over 900 years. Traditionally, Thursday was market day, and the town was also a good trading centre for the local wool and cloth industries. One notable wool trader was the wealthy Laurence of Ludlow who lived in Stokesay Castle. The wool and cloth trade made an important contribution to the town’s wealth until the 17th century, although it was by no means the only trade in the town. Records show there were 12 trade guilds in Ludlow representing metal workers, shoemakers, butchers, and other tradespeople.
More recent history includes the designation of the River Teme as a Site Of Special Scientific Interest. An amateur geologist is said to have discovered rocks from the Silurian Period, and a layer of sand in the Ludlow Group Bone Bed, that had remains of fish, plant debris, and other matter that was originally laid down in a tropical sea 400 million years ago.
Ludlow’s history certainly makes an interesting story, and one that is sure to be added to in the future, given the town’s current reputation as a gastronomic centre, which is something that’s already well known throughout the UK.