The Castle from a circa 1900 postcard
Built / Designed For: Lawrence de Ludlow (aka Lawrence of Ludlow)
House & Family History: Stokesay Castle is the earliest and best-preserved surviving fortified manor house in Britain. Built for the wealthy wool merchant Lawrence de Ludlow in the late 13th century, the castle marks a time when fortifications were giving way to the comfortable manor house way of life, essentially providing a transition toward the country house, rather than the previously-required castle, thus making Stokesay Castle the grandfather of many English country houses. Lawrence's Great Hall is one of the glories of this charming group of buildings, which further evolved in the following centuries and witnessed the building of the drunkenly-leaning timber-framed gatehouse in the 1640s for the Baldwin family, who then held the castle and used it as a farmhouse. Stokesay had by this time passed to the earls of Craven, who were seated elsewhere; thus, the castle's status as a farmhouse served to preserve the buildings until the 19th century. Such was the reputation of this historic castle that Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria) visited in 1832. In 1869 the property was acquired by John Derby Allcroft, who valiantly restored and preserved the castle and went on to build his own residence at Stokesay Court, just over a mile away. In the early 20th century a mock version, also called Stokesay Castle, was built in Reading, Pennsylvania, as the home of a railroad baron. Since 1992, following Lady Magnus-Allcroft's death, the castle has been owned by English Heritage. (We are most grateful to Gareth Williams for this history of Stokesay Castle.)
Garden & Outbuildings: James Lomax-Simpson's half-timbered Gatehouse at Thornton Manor was modeled on the Gatehouse at Stokesay.
Country Life: VIII, 714, 1900. XV, 270, 1904. XXVII, 594 plan, 1910.
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Not Listed
Past Seat / Home of: Lawrence de Ludlow (aka Lawrence of Ludlow), until 1294. Baldwin family, 17th century. William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven, 18th century. John Derby Allcroft, 19th century; Lady Magnus-Allcroft, 20th century.
Current Ownership Type: English Heritage
Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction