Walk 122: Ludlow Town Centre: ” The loveliest town in England”?

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.4 miles (3.85km)

Time to walk: You could do this walk in about 45 minutes & we’d already spent some time exploring Ludlow the previous day, so it only took 1 hour 30 mins. However, if you’ve not been to Ludlow before, then spend time wandering & visiting the places we describe like the castle & it then could take you half a day. There’s also quite a few walks in the meadows & hills in the area

Difficulty: Very easy & all on hard or gravel paths

Parking: There’s plenty of on-road parking, but we used the cheap ‘Pay & Display’ off Castle Square

Public toilets: As you exit the above car park & then in plenty of cafes, pubs etc

Map of the route:

Beautiful Ludlow lies in Shropshire, 28 miles south of Shrewsbury & 23 miles north of Hereford. The town has nearly 500 listed buildings, including examples of medieval & Tudor-style properties. Ludlow was described by Sir John Betjeman as “probably the loveliest town in England”

The name “Lodelowe” was in use for this place before 1138 & comes from the Old English “hlud-hlǣw”. At the time this section of the river Teme contained rapids, & so the “hud” of Ludlow came from “the loud waters”, while hlǣw meant “hill”. Thus the name Ludlow describes a “place on a hill by the loud waters”

Ludlow was once a gastronomic centre, at one point being the only town in England with three Michelin starred restaurants. In 2016, Ludlow lost its last Michelin starred establishment, however its reputation for fine food & drink continue today

We loved it, so let’s show you why…

Let’s Walk!

1. What better place to start this walk than outside the entrance to Ludlow Castle…

Ludlow Castle was probably founded by Walter de Lacy after the Norman conquest & was one of the first stone castles to be built in England. It went through many ownerships &, after 1900, was cleared of vegetation & over the course of the century was extensively repaired by the Powis Estate & government bodies. Today it’s still owned by the Earl of Powis & operated as a tourist attraction

2. Walk back to the entrance with the gun & turn right following Castle Gardens along Dinham, which follows the line of a medieval ditch that separated the castle from the town

The line of houses on the other side of the street contains several beautiful properties of note marked by blue plaques. The first we come to dates back earlier than the Civil War after having to be rebuilt

3. Next door’s a rather plainer, regency style property, the front of which hides a 16th century building. Many of the houses along here were owned by rich trades people, including this one

4. On the corner, the large property’s Dinham Hall, an 18th century building that now houses a hotel & restaurant

Dinham bends round to the right…

…where, on the left’s an elegant property called ‘The Croft’, which was named after ‘Christ Croft’, a wide ditch that may have been part of the town’s defences. It was built in 1656 after the previous property was destroyed during the Civil War

5. Dinham turns left down the hill…

The former St Thomas’s Chapel ahead, is thought to have originated in the 12th century, soon after the martyrdom of St Thomas a Becket to whom it was dedicated. It had fallen out of use by the mid 16th century, & fell derelict, but with rebuilding has seen a number of uses since, including as a furniture warehouse. It has since been restored as a house

6. Turn & walk back towards the castle walls, passing the impressive Dinham House on the left

Dinham House has had many notable occupants over its life since the 18th century, including Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. Lucien held genuinely revolutionary views, which led to an often abrasive relationship with his brother

In 1809, Napoleon increased pressure on Lucien to divorce his wife & return to France, even having their mother write a letter encouraging him to abandon her & return. With the whole of the Papal States annexed to France & the Pope imprisoned, Lucien was a virtual prisoner in his Italian estates, requiring permission of the Military Governor to venture off his property. He attempted to sail to the United States to escape his situation, but was captured by the British. When he disembarked in Britain, he was greeted with cheers & applause by the crowd, many of whom saw him as anti Napoleon

The government allowed Lucien to settle comfortably with his family at Dinham House & later at Thorngrove House in Grimley, Worcestershire. He returned to France following his brother’s abdication in April 1814

7. Walk through the archway into the outer grounds of Ludlow Castle, which was one of the areas developed in the 14th century by owner, Roger Mortimer. Mortimer was originally in Edward II’s service, acting as his lieutenant in Ireland during 1316

However he ended up against Edward II due to his opposition to his favourites, the Dispensers, which eventually let to his imprisonment with his uncle at the Tower of London in 1322. Roger became one of the select few to escape the Tower in its history &, on the 1st of August, he was free of its clutches & fled to France. Whilst there, in 1323 he joined Queen Isabella who had left England with her son (later Edward III) under the guise of a diplomatic mission

They became lovers & agreed to dispose Edward II & the hated Dispensers, defeating both in 1326. Isabella became Regent on behalf of her son, & Edward was thought to have been murdered in Berkeley Castle in 1327, for which Roger was implicated. By October 1330, Edward III had him seized at Nottingham Castle, & it’s said he was taken out of the castle by being  thrown down the tunnels beneath it & led to the bottom of the mote

He was once again a prisoner in the Tower of London, but this time there was no escape & he was hanged at Tyburn on the 29th of November 1330

8. Continue along the edge through the archway on the other boundary wall…

…to arrive at the walk along the castle walls that was set out in 1772 as a promenade for the fashionable people of the town. Although the trees were quite overgrown, you can still get a few glimpses of the views down to the River Teme

9. The track follows the walls & eventually starts to head uphill to arrive back at the main entrance to the castle once more…

So that’s basically a circuit of the castle area completed & it’s now time to look at the town itself by continuing from Castle Square & looking towards to market

10. Walk straight ahead along the left side of Castle Street. The large 18th century town house is now known as High Hall & is part of Ludlow College. It was under restoration when we were there

Directly ahead’s the stalls of Ludlow’s traditional street market which operates on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday throughout the year. It’s been on this site for over 900 years

Slightly further along, beside the entrance to the car park’s a splendid Georgian property built in 1728 for a local lawyer, Edward Baugh. It was once regarded as the handsomest house in the town. In 2014 the house was brought back to life after standing derelict for more than 15 years

It’s a shame the large garden couldn’t be preserved too, as this is now the public car park

11. Continue towards the end of this side of the street…

There are lots of narrow alleyways that are well worth exploring including Quality Square…

Have look down it to see a charming area of town which has cafes & shops

12. On reaching the end of the street there’s several options for going straight on. Walk down the middle alley called Harp Lane . The Lane dates back to medieval times & was once entirely full of butchers’ shops

You can see how narrow it is from the picture of the van above that’s completely filling the Lane. Look for the deep carpenters’ marks on the timbers of the old buildings

13. On the left’s the Rose & Crown pub which is worth exploring…

To view it properly though, you have to walk through the gap into the courtyard. The Rose & Crown is Ludlow’s oldest pub, & there are documents showing there was an ale house on this site back in 1102. It’s held the current name since the 13th century. If the weather’s warm, the courtyard is a great place for some refreshments

14. Just past the pub’s a small stone alcove known as The Conduit…

The attached blue plaque reads: “A water supply point, given to the town in 1581 by Sir Henry Sidney, was moved here from the High Cross in 1743”

15. Ludlow really is a lovely little town with lots of places that make you want to explore so pass through the archway…

…to arrive at another enticing watering hole, The Church Inn which dates back to the 14th century & is run by a couple of French brothers. The pub also has boutique accommodation at a nearby property

16. Turn left down the narrow passage where ahead’s St Laurence’s Parish Church which we’ll have a proper look at shortly…

…but for now, walk round the narrow path to the left past the magnificent Hosyer’s Almhouses. John Hosyer purchased the site for the almshouses in 1462. By the 5th century his prime site was owned by John Wolfe, a Ludlow merchant. On his death it passed to his daughter Joan & her husband, John Eye of Eye, a parish a few miles south of Ludlow. It was from John Eye that Hosyer made his purchase. His will instructs his executors to “complete the building of the almshouse begun by me by the church . . . with all possible haste’

The inmates of the Almshouses were to be Guild members. For admission, members paid a substantial fee – 6s 8d or 13s 4d for a married couple. Such a figure meant that the poorest members of Ludlow society could never have attained Guild membership & would therefore not be eligible for residence at Hosyer‘s almshouse. Those who were admitted must have been people whose income & therefore social status had fallen, due to commercial misfortune, infirmity or, most commonly, widowhood

In late medieval Ludlow this must have been a large & striking building, situated as it was on a prominent site next to the parish church

17. It’s time to have a look at St Laurence’s which is the largest parish church in Shropshire

Original Norman traces were found beneath the south porch, indicating some foundations exist from the 11th century. After its initial construction the church was expanded & rebuilt in 1199 to accommodate a growing town population. In the late Middle Ages considerable wealth accrued to the town based upon the wool trade & the church underwent several further additions in that era

Several people (or parts of them) are buried in the church. Following his death at Ludlow Castle, the bowels of Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII & older brother of Henry VIII, were buried in a lead box in the choir but later removed. His body was buried at Worcester Cathedral

18. The area around the church with its green is extremely pretty & look at the views ahead across the beautiful Shropshire countryside towards Shrewsbury…

The building on the left’s the old College & against the building on the right at the end was once the site of the Linney Gate, one of the main entrances into the town

Just look at the views ahead…

19. Let’s have a look at the old town wall, so turn right along the line of another old defensive ditch. The wall’s on the right…

Now retrace your steps back towards the church & turn left through the gate along the back of the church

Look up on the church roof to see the Fletchers’ Arrow. There’s a lovely fable surrounding its origin. Just by Ludlow Racecourse is a group of about 20 Bronze Age burial mounds, most of which are no longer visible. The longest of these mounds is called ‘Robin Hood’s Butt’. It still bears the tree which Robin was fabled to have climbed to lose an arrow – did it land on the church roof

The more likely story is the chapel beneath it was used by the Fletchers (arrow makers)

20. Walk round the churchyard to the timbered building…

This is the ‘Reader’s House’ which dates back to around 1616 & rebuilt by Thomas Kaye, Chaplain to the Council of the Marches

21. Turn back & walk through the narrow alleyway..

…to arrive at a little treat! This is the courtyard of The Bull, which is probably Ludlow’s oldest inn. What get’s us though is that if you go on their website, it doesn’t even mention their history – talk about missing an opportunity. It actually dates back to the 15th century

It’s very impressive, but walk through the arch to emerge into Bull Ring

22. Directly over the road’s ‘The Feathers’, sadly another hotel that doesn’t acknowledge its history on its webpage – why are these people missing a trick?? It’s an early 17th century building that became an inn in 1670

Have a look back across at the equally impressive front of The Bull…

23. Walk up the hill into the Bull Ring keeping to the right side of the alley…

The lovely individual shops along here are called ‘The Shelde’. The areas around it were also once called the ‘Beast Market’

In the middle of the road’s a rather attractive building, now housing a top quality restaurant, ‘The Fish House’ is originally known as ‘The Tolsey’. This building was once a 15th century courthouse – it’s a lovely place

24. Over the road, directly ahead’s Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern. Again it’s hard to find too much history about this place apart from it dates back to the 14th century

Turn round & walk back to the junction & right down Old Street for a short distance…

…& then right again along the narrow Pepper Lane. Once known as the ‘tailors’ area of the town, the guide tells us that in the 13th century, it was also called ‘the lane behind the smiths’

Indeed at the end of the lane is a yard called Tailor’s Yard. Guilds, or associations of skilled workers & merchants, were once prevalent across the country & many larger towns had several independent institutions. Ludlow however, being a smaller town, decided to combine the trades into a few guilds :

  • Stitchmen – Glovers, Tailors, Breeches-makers & Stay-makers.
  • Hammer Men – Blacksmiths, Braziers & Masons
  • Leather Men – Tanners, Curriers & Shoe-makers

25. Facing the yard, turn right up even narrower Fish Street…

…to arrive back at The Narrows once more, which certainly lives up to its name. Ludlow certainly is a characteristic old town

The Narrows were once known as ‘Draper’s Row’ as, in the Middle Ages, this area was full of them. They were also the wealthiest of the town’s guilds

26. On the right’s the impressive Buttercross which was built in 1743 to replace the 16th Century New House, where the Corporation held its meetings. It was originally the site of the High Cross, which was the official centre of the town. The building was designed by William Baker of Audlem

27. It’s time now to walk down the wide, elegant Broad Street…

On the left’s The Angel Inn, a fine example of a 16th century coaching inn, offering rooms & stabling for wealthy travellers & their horses. In those days it took 27 hours to travel from Ludlow to London

In 1802 Lord Nelson received the freedom of Ludlow after his victory at the Battle of the Nile & addressed the jubilant crowds from one of the beautiful bow windows on the first floor. However, what the locals may not have realised was he was staying there with both his mistress Emma Hamilton & her husband!

28. On the opposite side of the road, a blue plaque tells us this large property used to be the site of the Crown Inn, once the biggest in the town

Back across the road again’s a timber-framed building that was the birthplace of English artist, William Owen in 1769, who was baptised on 3 November in Ludlow Parish Church

In 1786 Owen moved to London, where he was apprenticed to the coach painter Charles Cotton. It appears that Owen was drawn to figure painting from the outset, & after copying a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds of the much admired actress Mary Robinson (better known as ‘Perdita’), he was sent on the recommendation of Reynolds to the Royal Academy in 1791

In 1797 he painted the then Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger which he exhibited the following year along with a portrait of the Lord Chancellor, Alexander Wedderburn. In 1810 following the death of John Hoppner, Owen was appointed portrait painter to the Prince of Wales, later George IV. Unfortunately the Prince never gave a sitting & instead Owen had to rely on a number of head sketches by his predecessor Hoppner to create a likeness. In 1813 Owen was offered a knighthood which he declined

In 1825 Owen died after being accidentally poisoned by an overdose of ‘Barclay’s Drops’, a mixture of aniseed, camphor & opium

29. Don’t you just love a colourful house!

Next up on the left’s No.19 which from 1748 -1752 was the home of Marmaduke Gwyn of Breconshire, whose daughter Sarah, married Charles Wesley in 1749

30. As we always say…don’t forget to look at the view behind you!

 

As we descend to the bottom of this lovely street, there’s some beautiful Georgian houses on the right

31. We now arrive at the magnificent Broad Gate, the last survivor of Ludlow’s seven medieval gates, probably completed about 1270. Despite considerable later rebuilding, the original structure of two drum towers flanking a central passage remains

There’s only one route isn’t there? Yes…it’s straight through that gateway which leads into an even more beautiful area

Turn round to see the Wheatsheaf Inn. Again, we couldn’t find much information on the history of this lovely building

32. Continue down the hill. We would love to live in one of the cottages on the right side. At the bottom, on the right, the precinct of St John’s Hospital dates back to the 13th century

Walk out onto the 15th century bridge…

This is the River Teme which rises in Mid Wales, south of Newtown & flows through Knighton where it crosses the border into England, down to Ludlow & then to the north of wonderful Tenbury Wells (check out our walk around that amazing town) on the Shropshire, Worcestershire border, on its way to join the mighty River Severn

33. Walk back up the hill towards the gate once more…

34. Turn left along Silk Mill Lane…there’s no prizes for what was once manufactured in this part of Ludlow

On the right’s Barnaby House which was a medieval stone mansion – we’ll get a better look at it shortly

35. At the junction with Mill Street, look left down the hill along Lower Mill Street towards another boundary of the town ditch

The walls here were once the remains of Mill Gate, one of the other entrances into the town

36. Turn around & head back up Mill Street…

At the top on the right’s a property built in 1840 to house the Ludlow Natural History Society & also the tourist information office that helped us with the route for this walk

37. Turn left at the top to arrive back at the entrance to the Castle where we started & now end this walk

So did we like Ludlow….absolutely! What a beautiful town & although it may have lost many of its Michelin Stars, food remains one of its central themes. Although we just walked around the town itself, there are many other local walks around the surrounding meadows & hills

We loved it & think you will too

Go Walk!!