Having recently visited Castle Lodge, Ludlow (2015), I came away wanting to do my own research about the place. After ringing the doorbell twice, I was let in by an elderly gentleman who took the £3.00 entrance fee from me. I was a little perturbed that I was the only tourist in the house, but decided that as I had paid, I might as well take a good look around the Lodge. The owner didn't give me any previous history of the place with regard to it having been a prison, girls' finishing school, private lodgings, hotel, etc - but proceeded to tell me of its connections to Henry VIII. He said that the Tudor wall panelling came from Henry VIIIs Nonsuch Palace (the one that was never finished), as did the stained glass windows. He also mentioned the Catherine of Aragon connection. He then retreated to his own private lodgings and left me to wander around upstairs. The rooms were bare, apart from a couple of four poster beds, with persian carpets scattered over the floor. The original fire places were covered over with newer fire places, which detracted from the old feel of the place (as did the DFS sofa chair!). Unfortunately, no fires were burning brightly to warm up the place and make it feel a bit more homely! I felt quite alone in this dimly lit place, feeling hemmed in by the wooden panelling (or if I was in some M R James Ghost Story); so I made my way back downstairs. I met the owner again, who told me that it was haunted and then produced a calendar of his sightings and books showing pictures that, I quote 'The fairies had helped me take of other worlds.' He told my his wife used to be a Prima Ballerine and showed me a picture of her. She was quite beautiful and really did exist. He was obviously still missing her very much, as he then went on to say that she was now an angel, living with him still at the Lodge. At this point, I did wonder if I had entered into an unreal world - and wondered (too vivid an imagination), if I would ever enter into the real world again outside! Thankfully I did, and had a strong coffee and a chat with the waitresses next door. This place and the owner intrigued me, so I wanted to get a little bit of an insight into the place/owner - which I did from a couple of local shops. I then went home, and did a lot of research, as so many things just didn't add up. I emailed the Ludlow Historical group and asked them for the accurate facts and whether there was a royal connection. They said that there wasn't a royal connection, apart from the fact that Catherine of Aragon stayed at Ludlow Castle. If others, like me, are interested in factual history, then google the BBC History, Online History of Britain and many other historical sights, which will give you detailed information about every person who had ever lived at Castle Lodge - fascinating! As to the Nonsuch Palace connection, any artifacts are in the British Museum, and there seems to be no connection to the panelling having come from Henry VIIIs lost palace. Other sites say that the panelling came from older homes and that the owner was a restorer of panels too. This place has been on the market several times and unfortunately the owner can't sell it. It's empty without the wife he loved, and this place would be wonderful in the hands of The National Trust, or if they allowed him to stay in part of it, and they looked after the tourist/upkeep side, it could be a really worthwhile place to visit. I personally found it a very sad place,and I just didn't know whether the owner was making everything up to drum up business, or if he truly believed everything which he told me! Go and see for yourself, tread carefully!
The previous review was a little unfair on the owners, and a chat with the owner would have been rewarding. He was looking after a very very sick wife as well as being saddled with a heritage building he cared for very much and had spent every penny he had on keeping it standing. If it wasn't for the owner, the building could well be very derelict or even possibly a modern hotel.
The private areas are where they live, and as with most National Trust properties, where they encourage family to retain living space, visitors should respect that.
The reasons to visit are for the woodwork, of which there is plenty. And to visit a really old building in historic Ludlow. If you want more, ask English Heritage why they aren't being helpful!
According to a question reported in Hansard a question was asked in Parliament in the 1930's regarding the sale of the Lodge and its export to America. The immediate future of the lodge is not less certain.
It was a family day out in Ludlow and whilst I was sitting resting on the bench, waiting for my hubby to return from checking the car and the parking fees, I noticed this really old Tudor style house opposite and on closer inspection discovered that it was open to the public. We didn't go in straight away, but I did drop a big hint like, 'I want to go in there before we go home' to the family, so that they would not be surprised after the visit to the castle that we went in here.
After we had a lovely lunch in the café situated next door to the lodge after a amazing trip around the castle. We were all in high spirits and enjoying our food and refreshments, I dropped the bombshell that I wanted to see the house, they did try to dissuade me as they were now getting slightly tired and wanted to do a little retail therapy or go home. Well I can be a stubborn old so and so at times and with a soulful look and a please they came with me to the house; they had no choice really as I can't manage to see it all without hubby's help.
When you look at the outside it has the typical Tudor appearance with the black beams on white walls, but with the black window frames which have been covered with Perspex sheets to protect them, it does have a dismal and dark appearance to it. You go down a very slight incline to the front door which is arched with heavy oak doors which are open, these lead to a half glazed door with a hand written sign which says Open please ring the bell and an arrow pointing to the bell. We rang the bell a couple of times before a man came to the door, no offence to the man, but he reminded me of the old butler that answers the doors in the old hammer house of horror films, with his grey fuzzy hair and dark clothing, quite creepy looking and fits in the darkness of the house. This gentleman took our £3.00 entrance fee and gave us an A4 piece of paper with a little bit of history of the place for us to look at. He then left us to our own devices; there was a little donation box there for you to put your pennies in to help keep up the restoration of the building, but I would recommend that you wait until you have done the tour before putting any money in it.
~~ Our Tour starts here ~~
We went straight into the Living room with its dark oak panelled walls, the room itself was beautiful with the fireplace and the panels, but very dark and imposing with all this wood, as you would expect really, with an open fire in the winter months it would appear cosy and charming, but in the summer months dark and dismal; you can't win really, but it is definitely a product of its time. There was also a coal burning fire in the fireplace which is considerably younger than the rest of the house, there was also a bench with some nice carving on it, but was slightly ruined by old carpet thrown in it, little was we to know this was a sample of what was to come. The delights of the room were slightly ruined by a white sofa and two electric wheelchairs that obviously belong to the owners who needed somewhere to put them, they didn't actually fit in with the scene and neither did the orange dustpan that was left at the side of the fireplace, it just didn't match the copperware on the opposing side.
We moved into the next room which again had oak panelled walls this time they had pictures of ladies in Tudor outfits and other ones of males, no plaques or anything to say who they were and I admit I did not recognise them as anyone from history. Usually when you open a building out to the public you put little information boards up so people know what they are looking at, there was nothing like this here. In the centre of the room was a large oak table which seats up to six persons, the table had two silver looking servers on it. There was a small wooden table by the door to the next room and this had quite a nice wooden sculpture of what looked like a male in ceremonial robes. I should mention a couple more things about this room, the fireplace itself was stone, but the plinth was wooden and comprised of 10 carved faces; the ceiling also deserves a small mention as it was quite decorative with white panels and carvings, lions and fleur de leys etc.
Moving on we went into another room before going to the hall and stairs. In this room there was a large portrait (not a very good one) of who I believe to be Anne Boleyn, but I could be mistaken as history says the house has connections with Catherine of Aragon. This portrait was not even hanging on a wall; it was just leaning against the wall next to the fireplace.
Some of the windows downstairs had some very pleasant stained glass designs, some of these being suit of arms and family crests.
The stairs like every room in this house were again made of dark oak, the building actually has more oak than any building in the UK, or so I have read, when you walk around it you can definitely see why they say that as it is everywhere.
Downstairs was not very impressive, but it was ok as I do like looking at the carvings, windows, doors, old locks anything I just marvel at how things were put together all those years ago, but in saying this my family were very bored and very disappointed in the downstairs as it did have an unloved and uncared for feel about the place.
Upstairs - We climbed the stairs, they were very sturdy considering they are from 16th Century when the house was rebuilt, they were also quite deep even for the big feet of my hubby, lol. It was only a short climb up to the bedrooms, up here there were only two bedrooms which were furnished they both had 4 posters beds, one being very plain and the other was a nice wooden carved bed; both beds were spoilt though as they had large Chinese rugs covering them, but not only were these rugs thrown over the beds, they were also scattered all over the floors in these rooms and other rooms as well, with a big sign says rugs for sale. Apart from this extremely disappointing and unsightly mess, I tried to enjoy the building and look at the charms that history had left, I saw another rather bad portrait of Elizabeth I on one wall, the fireplaces were quite nice, and one had a line carved on each side of the fire surround. On the walls in some rooms there were sections of willow tied together across the wall.
The beamed ceilings were really low upstairs my 6ft 2in hubby only just fitted and often had to duck to get in and out of room; both he and my daughter had enough and left me to it. The wooden floors were uneven and possibly warped with age, so you do have to be careful when walking around and in some rooms you will be surprised by the odd step so be careful. The walls bowed and would be a decorators' nightmare; as there was not one level wall upstairs at all, one room was approximately 6 ft across at one end and about 12ft across at the other, some very weird size rooms.
The bits and bobs of furniture that was upstairs and the window sills were all covered in a thick layer of dust, and looked again very sad and unloved. The bathroom upstairs contained what looked like a Victorian sink and bath which was boxed in by mink coloured wood panels, there was also a skylight which I would have thought came from the same era bringing light into the room, the radiator in this room looked from a similar era as well, this is just my opinion as there was nothing here to confirm the time it came from.
If you like to have a go at pole dancing there was one in one of the upstairs rooms, it is possibly there for some structural purpose but it did look very out of place; a couple more items that really, really disappointed me were the no entry areas; I was totally gob smacked by what I saw, on one section you had a couple of breeze blocks and a big piece of card with no entry written on it, another section you had a plastic garden chair and a big white sheet hanging up with no entry written on it, how tacky is that.
~~ History ~~
There is not a lot of information on this building when I did my research by I will share with you the little bits that I found, firstly Castle Lodge was originally built in the 13th Century, but it was later rebuilt in the 16th Century. The arched doorway appears to be from the original lodge dating back to the 13th century (the Normans did like their arches). It was rebuilt around 1580 by Thomas Sackford a local gentleman of good standing and the upstairs was added around the 1600's by the next leaseholder Mr Robert Berry another local gentleman of good standing.
In 1965 the house was used for some scenes in the film Moll Flanders staring Angela Lansbury. It has also been used as a prison during its history and a school; it is written that Catherine of Aragon lived here when she was married to Prince Arthur before she married Henry VIII.
It is also rumoured that the lodge may be haunted by a young girl wearing Tudor clothing, I never saw or felt anything during my visit, but then again I wasn't on a ghost hunt so I wasn't really looking.
~~ How to get here ~~
These might seem very familiar as Castle Lodge is situated in the Castle Square right outside Ludlow Castle, so the directions are the same as for the castle.
As I mentioned earlier it is smack bang in the middle of Ludlow Town.
Address for your sat nav is -
Don't know the post code, so use the one for Ludlow Castle - SY8 1AX
Ludlow is off the A49, if you look out for the park and ride car park there is a frequent bus service that picks you up and drops you in the Castle Square, which is where you will find the lodge and Ludlow Castle.
If you travel from the Birmingham area you need to go west on the A456 through Kidderminster.
If you come from the M5 then leave it at Junction 3 and follow the A456 through Kidderminster.
There is also a train service that frequently visits Ludlow.
~~ Conclusion ~~
I do understand that this property has been the cause of some bitterness from previous owners as they have tried to maintain it and open it up to the public, without any help from the government or any heritage society. I am not sure who owns it now, but I will say as a visitor to this wonderful old building that they do not show it to its full potential and it really would not take much to make it more presentable, some proper signs and a little dusting would do for starters, if you are proud enough to want to show it off then show that pride by looking after what you have got; if you want to earn money from opening the house up then make a bit more of an effort, because you are really not encouraging anyone to make a return visit to come and see it further.
People like to know about the property, they like to do their bit to keep it going, but little information leaflets telling people of the work you are doing and what you are trying to achieve with the property would be a big help and it only takes a little bit of time and money to type something up and print it off.
Even if someone just tells them a little about the property when they come in it all helps and please, please if the owners read this, get rid of those breeze blocks and sheets they are so very tacky and really ruin the whole visit for people. I love old buildings and realise that they need a lot of TLC and I realise they do need a lot of money to keep them going, but a lot more effort needs to go into presenting this lodge to make it more appealing to visitors. At the moment it comes across like the owners really don't care if you visit or not as no effort has been made to present it at all.
Overall it was quite shocking and disappointing for an historic building to be presented in such a way, if you can see past all this grime and large rugs everywhere then you might be able to enjoy the craftsmanship that went into this once lovely house with its 15 rooms, but it does take a lot to over come them as they are very much in your face and do stick out like a sore thumb.
I am not sure if I would visit again, maybe one day just out of curiosity to see if they have made any changes, but I think it may be on my own as both my hubby and daughter were extremely disappointed in the visit, my daughter who had put some money in the box to help with the restoration and upkeep of the house, said she wished she hadn't bothered. You don't mind giving to help with caring for the house if you can see that they are caring for it, but when there is nothing to show that they are then you don't want to waste your money.
I think I have covered everything, I am not going to recommend a visit I will leave that for you to make up your own minds; but husband tells me that I should say definitely don't visit here as he feels it is a total waste of time and money.
Many thanks for taking the time to read this
Lyn x (Arnoldhenryrufus)