Richard's Castle - Baron Wars

Last month, my partner and I took a long weekend off in the area of Shropshire. I particularly wanted to visit Ludlow Castle, since seeing it the film Faintheart (2008). Ludlow was grand, but Shropshire has other hidden treasures, such as Richard's Castle. If there is one type of fortification that sums up the early medieval period, it is the motte and bailey. First built by Richard le Scrope in circa 1050, the castle is quite unique as it is one of the few pre-Norman invasion motte and bailey castles in the UK. Yes, pre-1066! Richard was one of the retainers of Ralph of Mantes, nephew to Edward the confessor. Ralph was granted the title Earl of the East Midlands and settled with his knights in Shropshire, providing the English with a buffer against Welsh invasions. Presumably, Richard and his fellow Normans backed William's invasion, as he still controlled the castle in 1068 with the entry in the Domesday book. A Norman Borough (a small town) grew up around the castle, but this has not survived apart from the Church. Despite there being very little left of the walls, the surrounding ditches and the height of the motte are still very impressive. There isn't much left of the keep, but thankfully English Heritage provides several information boards to show what it would have looked like. The castle itself was besieged and taken by Simon de Montefort in the Second Baron's War (1264-67). The castle was in use at least until 1460, but as the borough declined, the fortress fell into disuse. It was in ruins by the 16th century. There were 741 motte and bailey castles built in the UK. Examples can be found in Brittany, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Normandy, southern Italy and Sicily. Fitting one (or part of one) on a wargames table will be a challenge, but it'll be a sight to behold! Sieges were an important part of the Anarchy (Stephen and Matilda, 1135-53) and the two Baron's Wars, and should be part of our tabletop battle experience. Someone should write a book about that...            

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