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Ludlow is a market town in Shropshiremarker, Englandmarker close to the Wales-England border and in the Welsh Marches. It lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of 350 acres (1.4 km²) and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castlemarker and the market place. From there the streets of the medieval walled town slope downward to the River Teme, and northward toward the River Corve. The town is in a sheltered spot beneath the Clee Hillsmarker which are clearly visible from the town. With a population of around 10,000, Ludlow is the largest town in South Shropshiremarker and home to the southern area committee of Shropshire Council.

Ludlow has nearly 500 listed buildings. They include some fine examples of medieval and Tudor-style half-timbered buildings including the Feathers Hotel. The parish church, St Laurence Churchmarker, is the largest in the county.


The placename 'Lodelowe' (Welsh: Llwydlo)was in use for this site before 1138. At the time this section of the River Teme contained rapids, and so the hlud of Ludlow came from 'the loud waters', while hlaw meant hill. Thus Ludlow meant a place on a hill by a loud river. Some time around the 12th century weirs were added along the river, taming these rapid flows. Later in the same century the larger outer bailey was added to the castle.


Medieval history

The town is close to Wales and also very close to the county border between Shropshiremarker and Herefordshiremarker. It was included in the latter in the Domesday Book. This strategic location invested it with importance in medieval times and its large castle remains largely intact. Ludlow Castlemarker was the seat of the Council of Wales and the Marches and a temporary home to several holders of the title Prince of Wales, including King Edward IV and Arthur Tudor, who died there in 1502.

The site features heavily in the folk-story of Fulk FitzWarin, outlawed Lord of Whittington, Shropshiremarker and a possible inspiration for the Robin Hood legend. Fulk is brought up in the castle of Joce De Dynan, and fights for his master against Sir Walter de Lacy – these battles are also the source of the story of Marion de la Bruyere, the betrayed lover whose ghost is still said to be heard crying "Goodbye, Cruel World!" as she plummets from the castle's turrets.

At the time of the Domesday Book survey Ludlow was the location of the unoccupied large Stanton Manor, a possession of Walter de Lacy. Walter's son Roger de Lacy began the construction of a castle on the crest of the hill between about 1086 and 1094, forming what is now the inner bailey. Between about 1090 and 1120, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built inside the walls, and by 1130 the Great Tower was added to form the gatehouse. The castle was an important border fortification along the Welsh Marches, and played a significant role in local, regional and national conflicts such as the Owain Glyndwr rebellion, the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War.
Feathers Hotel, Ludlow
A view of Ludlow Market, which is situated in Castle Square, taken from the tower of St Laurence's Church.

Marcher town

The town also provided a useful source of income for successive Marcher Lords, based on rents, fines, and tolls. They developed the town on a regular grid pattern, although this was adapted somewhat to match the local topography. The first road was probably High Street, which formed the wide market place to the east of the castle gates. The town continued to grow, joining an old north-south road, now called Corve Street to the north and Old Street to the south. Mill Street and the wide Broad Street were added later.

The town was licensed to build a defensive wall in 1233. It was constructed about the central part of the community with four main gates and three postern gates. The castle complex continued to expand (a Great Hall, kitchen and living quarters were added) and it gained a reputation as a fortified palace. In 1306 it passed through marriage to the ambitious Earl of March, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Queen Isabella and her son, the young Edward III, were entertained at the castle in 1328.

The town prospered, and sustained population of about 2,000 for several centuries. It was a market town; market day was held on every Thursday throughout the 15th century. In particular, it served as a centre for the sale of wool and cloth. It was home to various trades, and in 1372 boasted 12 trade guilds including metalworkers, shoemakers, butchers, drapers, mercers, tailors, cooks and bakers. There were also merchants of moderate wealth in the town and especially wool merchants, such as Laurence of Ludlow, who lived at nearby Stokesay Castlemarker. The collection and sale of wool and the manufacture of cloth continued to be the primary source of wealth until the 17th century. Drovers roads from Wales led to the town.

This prosperity is expressed in stone and stained-glass as St. Laurence'smarker parish church. It is a wool church and the largest in Shropshiremarker. Despite the presence of some Decorated work it is largely Perpendicular in style.

The town also contained several coaching inns such as the Old Angel on Broad Street, public houses and ale houses, leading to court records of some alcohol-induced violence and a certain reputation for excess. Several coaching inns were constructed to accommodate travellers by stagecoach and mail coach. The oldest surviving inn today is the 15th century Bull Hotel on the Bull Ring.

During the Wars of the Roses, Richard, Duke of York, seized the castle and turned it into one of his main strongholds. The Lancastrian forces captured Ludlow in 1459, but at the end of the conflict in 1461 the castle became property of the Crown and passed to Richard's son, Edward IV. The town was then incorporated as a borough. Edward set up the Council of Wales and the Marches in 1473 and sent his son, Edward, Prince of Wales, to live there, as nominal head of the Council. It was at Ludlow that the prince heard the news of his father's death and was himself proclaimed King Edward V of England.

Under Henry VII the castle continued as the headquarters of the Council of Wales and served as the administration centre for Walesmarker and the counties along the border, the Welsh Marches. During this period, when the town served as the effective capital of Walesmarker, it was home to many messengers of the king, various clerks and lawyers for settling legal disputes. The town also provided a winter home for local gentry, during which time they attended the Council court sessions. Henry also sent his sickly heir Prince Arthur to Ludlow, where he was joined briefly by Henry's wife Catherine of Aragon. Ludlow Castle was the site of the controversial wedding night, when the question of marriage consummation became the crux of Catherine and Henry VIII's annulment.

After 1610, the cloth industry declined but the wealth of the town was little affected until about 1640, when the activities of the Council were suspended and the town's population promptly fell by 20%.

Eventually, the Council resumed and except for brief interludes, Ludlow continued to host the Council until 1689, when it was abolished by William and Mary. The castle then fell into decay. The structure was poorly maintained and stone was pillaged. In 1772 demolition was mooted, but it was instead decided to lease the buildings. Later still it was purchased by the Earl of Powis, and together, he and his wife directed the transformation of the castle grounds.

Later history

From 1760, the population began to undergo a significant expansion. New structures were built along the outskirts that would become slums in the 19th century and later, torn down.

In 1832 a doctor and amateur geologist, from Ludlow began studying the rock deposits to the southwest of the town, along the River Teme and on Whitcliffe and in Ludford. The bottom layer of the rocks forming the four divisions of the Silurian period became identified as the Ludlow Group Bone Bed to the world of geology. This was a thin layer of dark sand containing numerous remains of early fish, especially their scales, along with plant debris, spores and microscopic mites laid down as sediments in a shallow tropical sea some 400 million years ago. Whitcliffian is a term used worldwide for rocks of this age in modern geology to this day. The site is now an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).

By the 20th century, the town had seen a growth in tourism, leading to the appearance of many antique dealers, as well as art dealers and independent bookshops. Many of the traditional shops were acquired by retail chains, and a long battle of words between local activists and local companies and Tescomarker was eventually won by the mega retailer when it obtained planning permission to build a supermarket on Corve Street, but Bodenham's, a clothing retailer, survives and is one of the oldest shops in the country - it celebrated its 600th anniversary in 2005.

In 2004 the council was granted funding from Advantage West Midlands to build a new Eco-Park on the outskirts of the town on the other side of the A49, with space for new 'environmentally friendly' office buildings and a park & ride facility.

More construction work began in 2006 on the same section of by-pass by Bennett's development company on a much-debated piece of land on the town's fringe known as The Foldgate. The land has now been drawn up for commercial use with a petrol filling station, Travelodge hotel and pub chain pub / restaurant, opened in late 2008. The previous plans to include a number of 'high-street' stores was thrown out when an independent official branded it 'damaging' and 'out-of-place' with the character of the old town.

Ludlow was described by Country Life as:


Transport and communications


On February 4, 1980, the £4.7m single carriage way bypass road was opened by Kenneth Clarke, which had been built to the east of the town, diverting the A49. This allowed heavy lorry traffic to avoid the town centre, significantly reducing noise levels and delays. The town centre was built for the era of the horse & cart and there are long running problems with motor traffic and car parking. A number of proposals have been offered to remedy these problems.

The new Ludlow Eco-Park situated on the outskirts of the town, along the A49, includes a new Park & Ride facility, with a frequent bus service to and from the town centre.

On 26 June 2007, rising flood water caused Burway Bridgemarker in Ludlow to collapse severing a gas main and causing 20 homes in nearby Corve Street to be evacuated.. The bridge is now replaced with a new construction.


Ludlow railway stationmarker is located about five minutes walk from the town centre. Arriva Trains Wales provide regular services to Shrewsburymarker, Herefordmarker, Newportmarker, Cardiffmarker and Manchestermarker.


The Census of 2001 recorded 9,548 people living in Ludlow parish. A further 395 live in the neighbouring Ludfordmarker parish.

  • 1377 — 1,172
  • 1801 — 3,897
  • 1901 — 4,552
  • 1971 — 7,470
  • 1987 — 7,450
  • 2005 — 10,500

Figures are also available for the broader area of South Shropshire and paint a figure of rural stagnation and slow growth since 1831. The populations of Ludlow and South Shropshire have seen growth in recent decades however.

Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Population 28,871 31,731 34,248 36,961 37,533 37,334 38,520 39,705 40,890 38,131 37,555 36,989 35,713 34,481 34,241 34,003 33,184 32,284 33,426 38,586 40,389
Population figures for South Shropshiremarker. Source:

Notable people

Notable people associated with the town include Charles Badham, a Victorian scholar and professor at Sydney University. Sir Charles Hastings, a pioneering Victorian doctor and founder of the BMA, was born in Ludlow, and grew up in Worcestershire. Baron Rees of Ludlow, the current Astronomer Royal is associated with the town, and Anthony Howard, a senior British political journalist and commentator keeps a home in there.

Born near the town in 1836 was John Marston, the founder of the Sunbeam racing car and motorcycle company. Also born in proximity to Ludlow was Henry Hill Hickman, a very early pioneer of anaesthetics, who was born at Lady Halton, near Bromfieldmarker in 1800. Later in the same century, in 1831, Pictorialist photographer Henry Peach Robinson was born in the town.

Sir John Bridgeman, a Chief Justice of The Marches in the 17th century is buried in St. Laurence's church, within a tomb monument attributed to Francesco Fanelli.

Graeme Kidd, president of Cittaslow UK, journalist (among other roles, founding editor of Computer Shopper, editor of Crash, and an executive at Future Publishing), mayor of Ludlow, and one of the key figures behind the town's Food Festival, lived there for more than 20 years until his death on on May 31, 2009.

Comedian Jo Brand lived in Ludlow.


Festivals and fayres

The Ludlow Festival has been held annually since 1960, during the end of June and the start of July each year. An open area within the castle serves as the stage and backdrop for various Shakespearean plays, while a number of supporting events at various venues include classical and pop/rock concerts, varied musicians, lecture talks from public figures, and entertainers.

The annual Ludlow Marches Festival of Food & Drink is a food festival that takes place in and around Ludlow in September. Centred on Ludlow Castlemarker, where over 150 local, small food producers showcase and sell their wares, the three-day event involves the town centre in food and drink trails including the famous 'Sausage Trail'.

The Medieval Christmas Fayre is another annual event in Ludlow taking place during late November, again centred on Ludlow Castlemarker and the market square.


Ludlow has become a gastronomic centre and at one point was the only town in England with three Michelin-starred restaurants (a distinction lost to Bray-on-Thamesmarker in Berkshire), but Ludlow still holds two Michelin starred establishments, and eight AA Rosette starred restaurants. The town hosts the prestigious annual Ludlow food festival. Ludlow is the first UK member of Cittaslow or "slow food" movement, and is at the forefront of the UK's Cittaslow slow movement network. It supports three traditional butchers, four bakers, a regular farmers market and a range of specialist food shops. The town has its own brewery, which started up and has been producing real ale (using local hops) since 2006.


The town is also home to an arts and cinema centre - The Ludlow Assembly Rooms - that hosts live music, theatre, stand up comedy and talks. It also acts as an arts community centre, has a visual arts gallery, and on most evenings, shows a film, from a wide variety of genres (including classic, arthouse, and blockbuster).Ludlow has featured in movies and TV programmes including Tom Sharpe's Blott on the Landscape and 90s TV adaptations of The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling and Moll Flanders.

Ludlow has connections with a number of figures in the arts - most notably, Alfred Edward Housman, poet and author of "A Shropshire Lad" (his ashes buried in the graveyard of St. Laurence's Church and marked by a cherry tree). Stanley J. Weyman, the novelist known as the "Prince of Romance", was also born in Ludlow. The naval historian and novelist Captain Geoffrey Bennett (Sea Lion) lived in Ludlow after his retirement in 1974 up to his death in 1983 and his ashes were interred in the parish churchyard.

The actors Pete Postlethwaite and John Challis (Boycie in Only Fools & Horses) both live near Ludlow. The actress Holly Davidson (from Casualty and The Bill) was born locally in 1980. Hollie Robertson, winner of the BBC's Strictly Dance Fever in 2006 is also a Ludlow-girl.


The town also has a football and rugby union team competing in the Midland leagues and a cricket team sporting 3 teams in the Shropshire Premier league . The cricket pitch has a picturesque setting with the castle, church and surrounding hills and countryside clearly visible. Ludlow Racecoursemarker is situated just off the A49 road a mile north of the town.

Closest cities, towns and villages


External links

  • Geograph - photos of Ludlow and surrounding areas

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