Isle of Albion
Wild and romantic ruin on the Welsh Marches.
Photographed: Saturday 11th January 2014
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Wigmore Castle was founded shortly after the Norman Conquest. In 1086AD, The Domesday Book attributes the castle to William FitzOsbern. The FitzOsbern's fell out of favour with William the Conqueror in 1075AD, and Wigmore Castle was granted to Ranulph de Mortimer. The Mortimer's held the castle until 1425AD.

Wigmore Castle would originally have been constructed as a wooden motte and bailey fortification on top of a long, narrow ridge. The village of Wigmore was founded below the castle, and it grew to become an important market town before the Mortimer's later moved their administrative centre to Ludlow in the 14th Century, thus diminishing Wigmore in importance.

By the 12th century, Wigmore Castle had acquired stone walls and was one of the most important fortifications along the Welsh Marches. By the 13th Century, the entire castle had been remodelled in stone. Further work was carried out during the late 13th Century or early 14th Century to raise the height of the walls, create additional towers containing high-status lodgings, improve the gatehouse, and to add other functional buildings across the site.

Wigmore castle is said to have been derelict by 1425 AD following the death of the last male Mortimer. However, archaeology has indicated that further building work took place at the site towards the middle of the 15th Century. Furthermore, the castle passed to Richard Plantagenet, and it is believed that his son Edward (later Edward IV) was based here during the War of the Roses prior to the Battle of Mortimer Cross in 1461AD. The castle's condition during this period is therefore unclear.

During the 16th Century, Wigmore Castle was repurposed as a prison. It was slighted and put beyond defensive use by Parliamentarian forces in the English Civil War, sometime around 1643AD. Following this, the castle fell out of history and entered a final period of decay.

Today, it can be hard to imagine the original scale of Wigmore Castle. This was an impressive fortification built across a large area which would have commanded the landscape for miles around. Now, much of what survives lies buried beneath earth and rubble, and the vegetation that's taken over the site has been largely allowed to remain. Unlike many of the more curated castles, the management policy practiced at Wigmore has resulted in a wild and romantic ruin that's a real hidden gem and a pleasure to visit. It stands in sharp contrast to some of the country's more popular castles, and it's fantastic that it's still possible to discover a largely overlooked ruin tucked away in a quiet corner of the countryside.

I visited Wigmore Castle unexpectedly, so I believe it's the only site at which I've been forced to fall back on a phone camera. It's top of my list of places to re-visit soon, so I'm hopeful that the current images will be updated in due course.