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Stokesay Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Stoke; Stok Say

In the civil parish of Craven Arms.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO43578169
Latitude 52.43021° Longitude -2.83129°

Stokesay Castle has been described as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Manor house. c1391-1400; gatehouse added C17. Great Hall: sandstone rubble and timber-frame; stone tile roof; spurred brick ridge stack and paired ashlar ridge stack. Gatehouse: timber-frame and plaster on rubble base; stone tile roof with central gable to east; spurred brick ridge stack; stepped rubble exterior stack with C18 brick chimney to south side. PLAN: courtyard plan with gatehouse and bridge to east, enclosed by moat with rubble perimeter walls. EXTERIOR: Great Hall: with entrance and 3 mullion and transom 2-light windows under advanced gables; solar cross-wings with hipped roofs; jettied first floor with lattice-glazed mullion windows to north. Tower to south: polygonal; battlemented and embrasured parapet. Gatehouse: 2 storeys and attic; single-window range: 2-light lattice-glazed casement in altered opening, under stop-moulded bressumer; 3-light mullion casement to gable, over moulded bressumer. Central passageway, with studded door to rear, under enriched 4-centred arch between pilaster-moulded posts; flanked by 2-light casements, that to left in altered opening; C20 restored moulded bressumer separates post and panel framing from chevron-braced panels of first floor, with spurred quarter bracing to gable; richly carved and ornamented. Rear: similar, with central moulded mullion and transom oriel with lattice glazing; 2 studded plank doors; 3-light casement to right. INTERIOR: in house C17 panelling with carved overmantel; stop-moulded ceiling beams; fireplaces; squints; staircase. (Listed Building Report)

Stokesay Castle is a fortified manor house surrounded by a moat enclosing a courtyard which was walled in 1291 and entered on the east by a timber framed gatehouse built towards the end of the C16th. On the west is the main block comprising the hall and solar wing with a tower at each end. The south tower is presumably associated with the licence to crenellate granted to Lawrence de Ludlow in 1291, and is clearly later than the hall, ascribed with the solar wing to circa 1260-80. The north tower is earlier, and may have been a marcher form of pele tower, built in the late C12 or early C13 (Smith 1956)
The outer wall was destroyed in the Civil War (Oman 1926).
Moated site, polygonal in shape. The now dry moat is c8m wide and up to 2m deep. It was originally fed by water from the nearby pool and stream. An original surrounding curtain wall survives on all sides; this originally reached a height of c10m above the bottom of the moat, but has since been reduced, a small section survives to its original height at the south east corner of the S. Tower. The moat island is raised above the surrounding ground level. The island contains the finest set of surviving medieval structures of any moated site in Shropshire…(Watson Michael D. 1981-May-16. Visit Notes).
A major programme of rpairs was carried out by English Heritage between August 1986 and December 1989 (Tolley, Babington and Chitty 1991). Watching brief carried out in 1993 by CHAU in conjunction with the installation of electricity cables to the gatehouse and toilet block at Stokesay Castle. The watching brief in the gatehouse was essential due to the removal of a quarry tile floor and approximately 40mm of underlying material. This took place in the single storey extension to the south of the gatehouse. The quarry tiles were recorded photographically during their removal. Directly under the quarry tiles was a thick ash layer which in the north west corner, lay above the partial remains of an earlier flagstone floor. The flagstones were photographed as it was considered that the required level could be reached without the removal of this feature. A single fragment of 18th century slipware was removed from this level but there were no other finds. The further excavation of the inside of a cupboard in the north eastern corner of the room revealed no archaeologically significant features were encountered by the excavation, partially due to the works involved with the initial electrification of the castle. The finds from this excavation included a single pierced stone roof tile, a number of wall plaster fragments and 8 sherds of Victorian and later pottery. ->
The watching brief undertaken a month later was due to the laying of an electric cable for the toilet block. A single trench was excavated 13.7 m in length and 0.2 m wide on a north east to south west alignment. The trench ran from the toilet block approximately 30 m to the north east of the gatehouse to the telegraph pole near the northern boundary wall. The depth was 0.6 m along its entire length. The trench was excavated by hand. In the southern half of the trench remains of a stone built structure which consisted of roughly cut limestone approximately 0.8 m wide and 3 m apart. The floor consisted of cobbles to the south, gradually merging into a rough surface largely comprising of stone roof tile fragments. At this level it was decided that the excavation stop and an alternative route be found for the cable. Due to the small scale of the excavation, it is difficult to date or suggest a use for this structure, it would be logical however to assume it to be the remains of a post medieval stone built building similar to the toilet block with which it runs parallel (Hoverd 1993)
Watching brief carried out in 1993 by CHAU in conjunction with the installation of a telephone cable to the gatehouse and toilet block at Stokesay Castle. The trench for the cable was approximately 0.3 m wide and 0.3 m deep. It ran from the paddock to the west of the moat, eastwards to the north west angle of the moat where the cable dropped down through part of the revetment wall along the north flank of the northern arm. It then continued along the northern arm of the moat, around the north east angle and south through the east arm of the moat to the base of the gatehouse. No significant archaeological levels were encountered. The trench was excavated almost entirely through clean garden soil although a few unstratified finds ranging in date from small fragments of medieval encaustic floor tiles to 19th century pottery were found (Morriss and Hoverd 1993).
The moat was mapped ("from small-scale excavation") by the Marches Uplands Mapping Project in 1994 when it was interpreted as an earthwork feature (414/7/1) comprising a complete, rectangular enclosure, 50m x 45m, defined by 1 ditch with 4 sides visible.
In January 2010 a mobile crane in transit to a sewage treatment plant on the south side of the Stokesay village, left the road through the village and overturned down an embankment retaining one of Stokesay castle ponds. The weight of the crane threatened to undermine the retaining embankment and accordingly emergency reinforcement works were made to the bank under archaeological supervision through a watching brief. The emergency repair works entailed the erection of stone-filled steel mesh gabions on the east side of the dam, between the dam and the overturned mobile crane. The base of the gabions were to be set in a trench c. 2.15m wide by 19m long. The north end of the trench would cut into the toe of the dam by up to 1 m depth, the south end by about 0.25m. At the bottom of the trench, the excavations revealed a smooth dark grey silt. Along the western edge of the trench this was overlain by a deposit of dark brown silty loam mottled with buff clay which may have represented eroded material from the' dam core. This in turn lay beneath a deposit of dark greyish brown loam with stones up to 0.4m thick. Above this was a soil layer, again of dark greyish brown humic loam up to 0.6m thick, and a similar topsoil 0.3m thick with stones and tree roots. No other significant features or deposits were seen (Hannaford 2010)
Watching brief identified the alignment of the east-west wall of a former stone building of unknown date, to the north of the existing refurbished stone buildings of Stokecastle Farm within the Scheduled area. No other archaeological features were exposed and the few finds recovered from the backfill were of late-20th century date (Frost 2012). (PastScape)

A new guidebook was published in 2009. The site of Stokesay Castle, situated in the valley of the River Onny. The castle is in fact a fortified manor house, surrounded by a moat and enclosing a courtyard which was walled in when a licence to crenellate was granted in 1291. The standing remains almost entirely date to the 1280s and 1290s, and were built by Laurence of Ludlow, a wool merchant who became one of the richest men in England. Its military appearance was mainly for show as it could not have withstood a serious siege, although it did protect Laurence's wealth and displayed his status.
Nothing is known of Stokesay prior to the Domesday Book of 1086 when it formed part of an estate called 'Stoches' - an Anglo-Saxon word suggesting a cattle farm, and was held by the Lacys, one of the great families of the Welsh marches. It was subsequently divided into two manors, North and South Stoke, the latter coming into the ownership of the Says, hence the later name Stokesay. It then passed to John de Verdon, a supporter of Henry III. Tree-ring dating of the Solar Block suggests it was built during this period in 1261-3, and the timber framed great hall was also probably built in circa 1260-80. After the barons' wars of 1264-7, Verdon went on crusade leaving Stokesay in the hands of a tenant who sold his rights to the manor to Laurence of Ludlow in 1281. Laurence's descendants remained in ownership of Stokesay for more than 200 years until it passed into the hands of the Vernon family. Henry Vernon made repairs to the top floor of the north tower in about 1577, but later fell into financial ruin and sold Stokesay to Sir George Mainwaring in 1598. Dame Elizabeth Craven and her son William then bought it in 1620, along with several other properties in Shropshire, and it became a valuable estate. William made several alterations, and tree-ring dating of the gatehouse timbers confirmed construction in 1639-41. The castle surrendered to Parliamentary forces in 1645 without incident, although two years later the barns and stables were demolished. During the 18th century the buildings were allowed to decay until Frances Stackhouse Acton, a noted antiquarian and artist, co-ordinated a series of repairs, and in the 1870s the glovemaker John Derby Allcroft bought Stokesay and had it substantially restored. The Allcrofts owned the property until 1986 when the burden of upkeep became too great and the castle passed into guardianship. In the 1990s English Heritage carried out a programme of restoration (Summerson 2009).
A dendrochronological survey of Stokesay Castle was carried out on behalf of English Heritage. The earliest phase identified dates from 1262/3 and includes the lower part of South Passage Block, as well as a re-set door and frame in the Solar Undercroft. It had been suggested that the lower storey of the North Tower was earlier, but none of the timber comprising the North Tower Undercroft ceiling was suitable for dating. However, floor boards immediately above this ceiling were found to be coeval with the upper floors of the North Tower, Solar Undercroft and roof, and the Great Hall roof, with latest felling dates of 1290. Two ex situ shutters were discovered (one clearly from the Hall windows) giving termini post quems suggesting they are primary. The Hall roof is a remarkable construction consisting of a hybrid mixture of raised crucks, aisled end trusses, and an unusual example of collar-purlin without crown posts. The floors in the North Tower and Solar are supported on substantial beams on massive brackets. The original roof of individual rafter couples with soulaces and ashlars, hipped with gablets at each end, survives over the Solar, but has been replaced in outline on the North Tower. The archaeological evidence, as postulated by RA. Cordingley, supports the Hall, Solar and North Tower as being of one phase, and this has been confirmed by the dendrochronology. Subsequent alterations identified in the North Tower included a northward extension to the jettied top storey shortly after 1578, and the Solar Undercroft floor being replaced in or shortly after 1662/3. Fragments of panelling originating from the Gatehouse as well as the Solar were found to have been felled after 1639 and may be part of the 1640's phase. No original timberwork survives in the South Tower, but a replacement first floor ceiling with moulded beams was found to date from 1640/41, obviously part of the same building campaign as the Gatehouse. Fragments of the external door to the South Tower proved the timber to have been felled after 1541. Photographs taken by the Ancient Monuments Laboratory of the faces of doors and underside of floorboards from the Solar and North Tower Undercrofts have enabled the dating of these features which would have otherwise been impossible to sample non-destructively (Tree-ring dates from D. H. Miles and M. J. Worthington' 28, 1997). (PastScape)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1291 Oct 19 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


The very large Domesday manor of Stoches was held by Roger de Lacy but enfeoffed to the Say family in the early C12 and held by them for a full knight's fee (possibly more). The fact this Stoke took the suffex Say suggested the Says had a residence here. The C13 buildings are within a strong ditched enclosure in a classical position adjacent to the church. No author appears to have suggested an earlier castle here but it appears to Gatehouse that this may represent an early C12 ringwork possibly one that reinforced an earlier Saxon enclosed hall.
The odd bilobal form of the south tower gives this tower, from the old southern approach, a form similar to, although much smaller than, the contemporary Edwardian gatehouse of Caernarfon. Licence to crenellate granted to Laurence de Ludlow in 1291 and the crenellations on the south tower are notable large, indeed rather impracticably so, suggesting they were symbolic.
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:51

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