Stokesay Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Stokesay Castle, Stokesay, Craven Arms, SY7 9AH


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Statutory Address:
Stokesay Castle, Stokesay, Craven Arms, SY7 9AH

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
Craven Arms
National Grid Reference:


The monument includes a C13 fortified manor house with C17 gatehouse within a moated site, and associated gardens and water management system.

Reasons for Designation

The moated site, designed landscape and associated water features at Stokesay Castle, and the standing buildings within the moated site, together with the buried archaeological remains of those demolished parts of the complex, are scheduled for the following principal reasons: * Survival: a well-preserved group of buildings and archaeological remains which represent the growth and development of this site from a moated medieval manor house to a fashionable C17 residence with ornamental gardens; as such they exhibit considerable longevity as monument types; * Potential: buried archaeological evidence for the layout and types of structures that formerly occupied the rest of the courtyard will survive beneath the ground surface, whilst the moat ditches and the ponds will retain artefactual and environmental information relating to the occupation of the site; and the remains of the wider water management system will retain valuable evidence of its construction and the way in which it functioned; * Historic interest: the post-medieval creation of an ornamental garden reflects the status and wealth of the Craven family and will provide a valuable insight into garden design at that time.


Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets.

Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located.

Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Stokesay Castle is one of the finest fortified manor houses in the country, built in the 1260s-80s and early 1290s by Laurence of Ludlow, on the profits of his business as a wool merchant: Laurence had become one of the richest men in England. The earliest buildings on the site are within the main block to the west, which includes the hall and solar, with north and south towers to either end of the range. The north tower may have originated as a marcher form of pele tower, dating from the late C12 or early C13. The hall and solar are ascribed a date circa 1260-80, and the south tower is a little later, presumably constructed as a result of Laurence’s receipt of a licence to crenellate, granted in 1291. Tree-ring dating confirms that Laurence had completed virtually the whole of the house by 1291 using the same team of carpenters throughout, and it has been altered very little since.

Laurence's descendants remained in ownership of Stokesay for more than 200 years until it passed to the Vernon family. Henry Vernon made repairs in about 1577, but later fell into financial ruin and sold 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; his accounts record that he spent more than £468 in 1640 'about the building at Stokesay', and further money 'for finishing the work' in 1641. Tree-ring dating of the gatehouse timbers has confirmed it was constructed for William, 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 C18 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 castle passed into the guardianship of English Heritage in 1986.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The monument includes a C13 fortified manor house with C17 gatehouse within a moated site, and associated gardens and water management system.

DESCRIPTION The monument, which falls into two separate areas of protection, includes the fortified manor house, earthwork and buried remains of Stokesay Castle and part of its associated gardens. It is situated in the Welsh Marches, the England-Wales borderlands, in a valley bottom, to the west of the River Onny as it passes through Wenlock Edge. A roughly oval-shaped moat (now dry), with the remains of a perimeter wall which originally rose up to 10m above the bottom of the moat, encloses an area measuring approximately 50m NNE to SSW and 40m WNW to ESE, covering an area of approximately 0.17 hectares. The moat is circa 8m wide and up to 2m deep.

The moated island is raised above the surrounding ground level. At its NE corner stands a C17 timber-framed and elaborately decorated gatehouse. The original gatehouse was probably of stone; however, the current mid-C17 building is timber-framed with elaborately carved brackets and lozenge patterns, typical of houses in Ludlow of this period. At ground level the building has upright timbers infilled with plaster, and the upper floors are jettied out with square panels containing lozenges. There is a gable above the gate-passage which has a central window with a row of five stars beneath it, and a pattern of quarter circles above. Tree-ring analysis of the Gatehouse timbers date the construction to 1639-41.

At its western side stands an older range of buildings dating to the C13, built of sandstone rubble and timber-frame, with a stone tile roof. It includes a four-bay, open-hearthed great hall with an extraordinary roof which is a hybrid mixture of raised crucks, aisled end trusses and an unusual example of collar-purlins without crown posts. At its north end is a late-C13 timber stair which gives access to the upper floors of the north tower, with a jettied timber first floor of the C17. At the south end of the hall range is a cross wing housing the solar block, with the first-floor solar reached by an external stair; both ground and first floors have C17 interiors. To the south stands a stone tower, polygonal in plan, of three storeys, with crenellations. The kitchen, service range and other ancillary buildings would have filled the courtyard; these survive as buried features. The remains of a designed landscape and garden features include an artificial lake to the SW.

A complex system of ponds, dams, sluices and culverts is associated with the Castle. A leat takes water from the River Onny above the weir at Stokesay Bridge to a mill SE of the Castle. Earthworks between the Castle and the mill may represent a second mill-pond, fed from an independent source. A causeway S of the castle held back a pond, fed by a stream from the NW, which almost certainly supplied the castle moat, and which may also have served as a fishpond. Culverts under the causeway were controlled by sluices. Some of the works must be medieval in origin; the system is unlikely to be later than the first half of the C17.

EXCLUSIONS All modern tracks, modern buildings and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these is included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
SA 8
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Newman, J, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (2006), 609-14
Summerson, H, Stokesay Castle - English Heritage Guidebook, (2009)
English Heritage: NMR Complete Monument Report 109049: Stokesay Castle ,
English Heritage: NMR Complete Monument Report 1521844: Stokesay Castle Gatehouse ,
Shropshire Historic Environment Record 00159: Stokesay Castle,
Shropshire Historic Environment Record 08250: Water management features at Stokesay Castle,
Shropshire Historic Environment Record 14855: Gatehouse at Stokesay Castle,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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