Ludlow

Extract from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of England, 1831.
Transcribed by Mel Lockie, © Copyright 2010
Lewis Topographical Dictionaries

LUDLOW, a borough and market-town and parish, having separate jurisdiction, though locally in the hundred of Munslow, county of SALOP, 29 miles (S. by E.) from Shrewsbury, and 142 (N.W. by W.) from London, containing 4820 inhabitants. This place, called by the Britons Dinan, or the palace of princes, and by the Saxons Leadlowe and Ludlowe, which last name, with a slight variation, it still retains, appears to have been distinguished for its importance prior to the Norman Conquest, at which time, Robert de Montgomery, kinsman of William the Conqueror, fortified the town with walls, and erected the greater part of its stately castle, which he made his baronial residence till his death, in 1094. On the attainder of his son, Robert de Montgomery, the castle came into the possession of Henry I., who made it a royal residence, and greatly enlarged and embellished it; and having strengthened the fortifications, placed in it a powerful garrison, under the command of Gervase Paganell, who, in the following reign, having embraced the cause of Matilda, held it for a considerable time against the forces of Stephen, by whom it was besieged in person assisted by Henry, son of the king of Scotland, who, being drawn up from his horse by an iron hook, was rescued from incarceration by the courage and address of the English monarch.

From its proximity to Wales, Ludlow was always a station of importance, and a strong garrison was constantly kept up in the castle, for the defence of the frontier from the incursions of the Welch. In the reign of Henry III., an order was issued from the castle for the lords marchers to repair to this place, attended by their followers, to assist Roger Mortimer, at that time governor, in restraining the hostilities of the Welch; and, in the 47th of the same reign, Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who had joined the confederated barons, assisted by Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, attacked the castle with their united forces, and having set fire to it, nearly demolished it. In the reign of Edward II., Roger Mortimer, a descendant of the former governor, having joined the discontented barons, was sent prisoner to the Tower of London, from which he contrived to effect his escape, and, in commemoration of his success, erected, in the outer ward of Ludlow castle, a chapel, which he dedicated to St. Peter, and endowed it for a priest to celebrate mass; but being arraigned for high treason in the reign of Edward III., he was publicly executed at Tyburn. In the reign of Henry VI., Richard, Duke of York, who then had possession of the castle, detained John Sutton, Lord Dudley, Reginald, Abbot of Glastonbury, and others, in confinement here; and issued from this place his declaration of allegiance to the king, which he also repeated some years after, on the defeat of Lord Audley, at Blore Heath; but, on his subsequent insurrection and attainder, the king laid siege to the castle, and having taken it, he stripped it of all its ornaments, and the town was plundered of every thing valuable by his soldiers; the Duchess of York, with her two younger sons, was taken prisoner, and confined for some time in one of the outer towers of the castle.

After the death of the Duke of York, at the battle of Wakefield, the castle descended to his son Edward, Earl of March, afterwards Edward IV. The young king, Edward V., and his brother, the Duke of York, lived in the castle, under the superintendence and protection of Earl Rivers, till their removal by order of the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III., to the Tower of London, where they were barbarously murdered. Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII., resided here after his nuptials with Catherine of Arragon, in 1501, and kept a splendid court till his decease in the following year. In the reign of Henry VIII., a kind of local government, called the "Council in the Marches of Wales", was established at Ludlow, consisting of a lord president, as many counsellors as the prince chose to appoint, a secretary, an attorney, and four justices of the principality, the lord president residing in the castle. During the parliamentary war, the castle held out for the king, under the command of the Earl of Bridgewater, but finally surrendered to the parliament; frequent skirmishes took place in the town between the contending forces, in one of which Sir Gilbert Gerrard, brother to the Earl of Macclesfield, was killed.

The remains of the castle still exhibit traces of its original grandeur, and, from their elevated situation in the centre of a country abounding with beautiful and picturesque scenery, form an interesting and venerable ruin; they are situated on the summit of an eminence of greystone rock, overhanging the river Corve; the north front consists of massive square towers connected by a lofty embattled wall: the ancient fosse and part of the rock have been formed into walks, and planted, in 1772, with beech, elm, and lime trees, affording an extensive and delightful promenade: on the west is a precipitous ridge of rock parallel with the castle, and richly crowned with wood, intersected by a chasm, through which the river Teme pursues its course; and on the north and west sides is a deep fosse, cut in the solid rock, over which was a draw-bridge, now replaced by one of stone, of two arches, leading to the principal entrance; the portal is of modern erection, and neither remarkable for beauty nor for strength. The interior has a strikingly majestic appearance; on the right hand are the ruins of the extensive barracks which were occupied by the troops of the lords presidents of the marches; near the gate are the apartments of the warden and other officers, and on the left is the keep, a large square embattled tower of four stages, one hundred and ten feet high, with square turrets at the angles; the walls of this tower, which is of Norman architecture, are from nine to twelve feet in thickness.

Opposite to the entrance gateway are the hall and state apartments, in the early and decorated styles of English architecture, now much dilapidated; in this hall was performed, by the children of the Earl of Bridgewater and others, the celebrated Masque of Comus, composed by Milton, and founded upon an incident which occurred to the family of that nobleman, soon after his appointment to the presidency. To the left are the ruins of the chapel, of which the nave and the beautiful Norman arch leading to the choir are the principal remains; within the enclosure are several massive towers, among which are Mortimer's tower, and that in which Butler, after the Restoration, composed several cantos of his Hudibras. Though irregular in their arrangement, and greatly dilapidated, these ruins, from the breadth of their masses, the bold projection of some portions, and the depth of the numerous recesses, possess striking features of solemnity. and magnificence, and the luxuriant ivy by which they are partly concealed, adds materially to the picturesque beauty of these remains, which hold a prominent rank among the numerous and interesting monuments of feudal grandeur, for which the district formerly constituting the Marches is distinguished.

The town is pleasantly situated on an eminence near the confluence of the rivers Teme and Corve, by which latter it is bounded on the north-west, and over which a handsome stone bridge of three arches was erected by the corporation, in 1738; over the Teme, which, after being joined by the Corve, describes a semicircle on the west and south sides of the town, is an ancient bridge, the entrance to which is under the arched passage of Broadgate, the only one remaining entire of the ancient town gates: of the wall which surrounded the town, begun in the 13th, and completed in the 32nd, of Edward I., part of the foundation only can be traced. From its elevated situation the town has a pleasing and cheerful appearance; the streets are spacious, and the houses in general handsome and well built: it is paved, and lighted with oil, but arrangements have been made for lighting it with gas, and, from the salubrity of the air, and the beauty and interest of the surrounding country, it is regarded as a desirable place of residence by numerous opulent and highly respectable families. There are a public subscription library, and two circulating libraries; assemblies are held in a suite of rooms in the market-house; and a small theatre is opened by the Worester company, during the races, which take place annually in July, and are succeeded by a ball and public breakfast, which is held in the inner court of the castle.

The principal branch of manufacture is that of gloves, and the chief trade is in malt: there are some corn-mills, a paper-mill, and a small manufactory for woollen cloth, flannel, yarn, and blankets, on the banks of the Teme 3 and the river Corve turns a mill for grinding bark used in a tannery, and gives motion also to some machinery for making cordage and sacking. The principal market day is Monday, for grain; and there are smaller markets for provisions on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; the market cross is a neat modern building, with a handsome cupola, in which is a bell, formerly belonging to the chapel of St. Leonard. The fairs are the Monday before February 13th, Tuesday before Easter, May 1st, Wednesday in Whitsun-week, August 21st, Sept. 28th, and Dec. 6th: the first and last are large marts for butter and cheese, and all the others are for hops, horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs.

The town appears to have had a charter of incorporation at a very early period, which was confirmed and renewed by Edward IV., from whose reign till that of Charles II. it underwent several modifications; but in the reign of William and Mary it was, on the petition of the inhabitants, restored to its original form; by this charter the government is vested in a recorder, two bailiffs, two justices, twelve aldermen, and twenty-five common council-men, assisted by a town clerk, coroner, and subordinate officers. The high bailiff is chosen from among the aldermen, and the low bailiff from the common council-men, annually on the 13th of October, and the recorder, who holds his office for life, is appointed by the corporation, with the sanction of his Majesty's approbation; the recorder, the bailiffs, and the two justices, who are invariably the bailiffs for the preceding year, are justices of the peace within the borough and liberties. The freedom of the borough is inherited by all the sons of burgesses, or acquired by marriage with a freeman's daughter; all persons eligible as burgesses must demand that right by petition to the corporation, according to a form prescribed for that purpose by a by-law made in 1663. The corporation hold quarterly courts of session for the borough, for the trial of all offenders, and formerly have passed sentence of death; but the recorders of late not being barristers, the trial of prisoners for capital offences is removed by Habeas Corpus to the assizes for the county. A court of record is held every Tuesday, under the charter of Edward IV., for the recovery of debts to any amount; also a court of requests for the recovery of debts under 40s., the jurisdiction of which is confined to the borough.

The market-house, which may rather be regarded as the town hall, is a large plain brick building, containing commodious rooms for transacting the public business of the corporation, and for holding subscription assemblies, and the balls given by the bailiffs on their election to office: beneath it is a spacious area for the use of the corn market; and attached to the buildings are two public reservoirs, into one of which water is raised from the river by machinery, and into the other spring water is conveyed from a place under Whitecliffe coppice, called the Fountain. The guildhall, in which the quarter sessions and other courts are held for the borough, is a neat and commodious edifice of modern erection. The borough gaol was erected by the corporation, in 1764, in lieu of Goalford tower, an ancient prison and gate of the town, which had then become ruinous: it is a commodious edifice, containing four wards for the classification of prisoners, but only one airing-yard. The borough first exercised the elective franchise in the 12th of Edward IV., since which time it has continued to return two members to parliament: the right of election is vested in the corporation and in all the resident common burgesses; and the number of the electors is about seven hundred; the bailiffs are the returning officers. The patronage of the borough is divided between the families of Clive and Charlton, but the interest of the former generally predominates. The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Salop, and diocese of Hereford, rated in the king's books at £19. 12. 6., and in the patronage of the Crown.

The church, dedicated to St. Lawrence, and formerly collegiate, is a spacious and handsome cruciform structure, in the early and decorated styles of English architecture, with a noble square embattled tower, crowned with pinnacles, rising from the centre to the height of one hundred and thirty feet: the entrance is through a beautiful hexagonal porch, leading into the nave, which is separated from the aisles by a series of six gracefully pointed arches, resting on slender clustered columns, which support the roof, and lighted by a range of clerestory windows, and a large west window, of which the mullions and tracery have been destroyed by recent repairs; the four piers and arches which support the tower are massive and lofty, but finely proportioned and of great beauty; the choir is spacious, and lighted by five elegant windows on each side, and by a noble east window of large dimensions, in which is painted the legendary history of St. Lawrence; the oak stalls are still remaining, and the roof of richly-carved oak is preserved in the several parts of this sumptuous edifice. In the north transept is St. John's chapel, in which is some ancient stained glass, representing the history of the Apostles, and the legend of the ring presented to Edward the Confessor, as a prognostic of his death, by some pilgrims from Jerusalem. Many external and internal ornaments of this church were destroyed by the parliamentary commissioners during the usurpation of Cromwell. The visitations and ecclesiastical courts are held in it, in May and October, for proving wills and granting letters of administration. Among the monuments are several of great antiquity and interest, and two highly-finished effigies of Judge Bridgeman and his lady. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists.

The free grammar school was founded by Edward VI., who vested in the corporation the estate of the guild or fraternity of Palmers in Ludlow, on condition that they should support this and other charities connected with that guild: the school-house was rebuilt in the fifteenth century, at the expense of the corporation, with convenient dwelling-houses for a first and second master, who are appointed by the corporation, and receive respectively £80 and £60 per annum, having also the privilege of taking boarders: the school is open to all boys of the town without limitation of number, who receive gratuitous instruction in Latin and Greek, and pay a quarterage to the master for writing and arithmetic: there are two exhibitions, of £30 per annum each, to Balliol College, Oxford, for boys of this school, founded, in 1704, by the Rev. Richard Greaves, in the appointment of the Master and Fellows of that college; and four of the poorest children receive an annual benefaction, of £5. 6. 8. each, from a bequest by Dr. Charles Langford, in 1607. A National school was established in 1813, with which a Blue-coat school, previously instituted, has been incorporated; from the funds of the latter, a house has been purchased and fitted up, at an expense of £600, for the instruction of girls; the boys are taught in a room over the market cross; the number of children is two hundred, of whom a few are clothed annually, and on leaving school receive an apprentice fee of £3.

Almshouses adjoining the churchyard were founded, in 1486, by Mr. John Hosyer, who endowed them for thirty-three aged people, to each of whom he assigned a weekly payment of fourpence, now increased to two shillings and sixpence; the present building, containing thirty-three distinct apartments, was erected by the corporation, in 1758, at an expense of £1211. 18. 2., and is kept in good repair. The almspeople are appointed by the corporation, and receive, in addition to their payments from the endowment, a portion of other funds bequeathed by various benefactors. Four almshouses for aged persons were founded by Mr. Charles Foxe, of Bromfield, which, in 1590, he endowed with houses and rent-charges producing at present about £14 per annum, which is divided in weekly payments among the almspeople, of whom two are chosen from this parish, and two from the parish of Bromfield.

A workhouse and house of correction was endowed, in 1674, by Thomas Lane, of Ludlow, who in early life had been a servant in the family of Sir Job Charlton, with land and tenements producing nearly £100 per annum, for maintaining a master to superintend the employment of the poor, and for the purchase of raw materials for the spinning and knitting of stockings, and for making shoes; it is at present in contemplation to erect a house of correction upon a more extended scale in the gaol yard, at the joint expense of the corporation and the trustees of the charity. A public dispensary, established in 1780, is liberally supported by subscription; and a society for the relief of lying-in women is under the superintendence of twelve ladies. There are also numerous charitable bequests for distribution among the poor.

Adjoining the castle is Dinham House, a noble mansion of brick, belonging to the family of Clive, in which Lucien Bonaparte, towards the close of the late war with France, resided while in England. Among the religious establishments which flourished here in ancient times, was the college of St. John the Evangelist, founded in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and given, after the dissolution, by Elizabeth to the corporation for charitable uses, the remains of which are divided into separate tenements, and let on lease as dwelling-houses; and a priory of White friars, founded, about the year 1349, by Sir Lawrence of Ludlow, Knt., of which some vestiges may be traced in the environs without the Corn-gate.

There are several mineral springs In the neighbourhood, of which one, called the boiling well, is supposed to be efficacious in disorders of the eyes. At Saltmoor is a saline spring, the water of which contains small portions of carbonate of iron, and sulphate of magnesia, and a considerable portion of muriate of soda: it has been found beneficial in scorbutic diseases, and is much frequented by patients affected with such complaints, for whose accommodation warm and cold baths have been provided. Thomas Johnes, Esq., the translator of the Histories of Froissart, Monstrelet, and other learned works; Richard Payne Knight, Esq., author of an "Analytical Enquiry into the Principles of Taste", "The Progress of Society", and other works; T.A. Knight, Esq., author of various works on Horticulture; and Dr. Badham, the translator of Juvenal, were natives of this town.

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