Ludlow is the chief town of South Shropshire. It is located 28 km (17 miles) SW of Bridgnorth and 37 km (23 miles) south of Shrewsbury. It has a population of 7450 (1987 census). It is located on the A49 Shrewsbury-Hereford road and can also be reached from Bridgnorth on the B4364, a fine drive over the Clee Hills and the A4117 from Kidderminster. Trains on the Shrewsbury-Hereford railway line also call at Ludlow.
Architecturally it is one the jewels of the Welsh Marches and is regarded by some as the finest town in England. It has a splendid castle, fine Georgian houses and a excellent parish church. It is most notable for its intimate human scale, to get to know Ludlow you must walk, this is not a town for the motorist let alone the air-conditioned luxury tourist coach. It is pleasantly far from the normal tourist track and lacks large hotels.
The building of Ludlow castle had started in 1094. It is situated on an excellent defensive site in a bend of the River Teme just south of where it is joined by the River Corve. As happened in many places in those troubled days a settlement soon grew up in the shelter of the castle. In Ludlow's case it was carefully planned and the rectangular street plan can still be seen in the medieval heart of the town. Town walls were built between 1233 and 1304, they were pierced by 7 gates, one of which, Broadgate at the bottom of Broad Street, still survives. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1461. In the later Middle Ages the town prospered from the sale of wool and the manufacture of cloth. By the 16th century the town had become the administrative headquarters of the Council of the Marches of Wales. This was founded by Edward IVth and administered the whole of Wales and five adjacent English Counties. During this period many of England's princes and princesses stayed in Ludlow. The castle was home to administrators and bureaucrats. When the Council of the Marches was dissolved in 1689 the castle became derelict but the town continued to prosper and became a fashionable centre for the local gentry and many of Ludlow's finest buildings date from this period between 1700 and 1740. In Victorian times the town was less prosperous and this happily contributed to the preservation of its special character.
The centre of the town is dominated by the great castle which is particularly well seen when approaching the town from the north along the A49 from Craven Arms. Castle square adjacent to the castle is the site of the open market and used to be occupied by the combined town and market hall, a singularly hideous building, that became unsafe and had to be demolished in 1986. It now houses an "open" market. Castle Gardens and Mill Street lead off Castle Square to the south towards the river. The open space occupied by the market, shown in the picture, used to stretch east towards what is now Broad Street and the Butter Cross, however the eastern end is now occupied by three rows of buildings that are "fossilised" market stalls which define three narrow lanes known as Church Street, Harp Lane and Market Street and the wider High Street. A larger version of the picture of the market is available (121kb)
The following pictures show shops in Church Street, Market Street and finally High Street showing the buildings at the top of Broad Street particularly well.
Larger versions are available.
Beyond the Butter Cross, Kings Street and The Narrows take the visitor to the Bull Ring where further "fossilised" market stalls can be seen. From here Corve Street drops away to the north and Old Street drops away to the south. Until the eastern by-pass road was built in the 1970's heavy lorries used to thunder through here making it difficult to appreciate such gems as the extraordinary Feathers Hotel and, opposite it, The Bull, probably Ludlow's oldest inn.
To the north of King Street is St.Laurence's parish church. This is a 12th century foundation mostly rebuilt between 1433 and 1471. The tower is a conspicuous feature on the Ludlow skyline and can be glimpsed above the rooftops from many places, the rest of the building is more difficult to appreciate since the medieval streets and buildings press close about it. The church is situated in a small square with Hosier's Almshouses (1758) and the Reader's House with a splendid porch dating from 1616 being the most interesting buildings.
Modern Ludlow is a thriving town with a full range of facilities. Apart from providing services to the many visitors who come to enjoy the town and the annual summer Arts Festival, employment is provided by the manufacture of agricultural machinery and clothing. The inhabitants are very conscious of the importance of their heritage and the need to conserve it, recently proposals for a large supermarket on a trading estate adjacent to the by-pass, have been rejected after a vigorous local campaign to protect the commercial life of the town centre.
The name of the town is believed to derive from two old English words hlud (meaning loud and describing the river) and hlaw (meaning hill), so a place 'on a hill by the loud river'.
Other towns and villages in South Shropshire