The Mortimers of Ludlow Castle

PUBLISHED: 15:56 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:02 20 February 2013

Ludlow Castle domestic apartments built by Roger Mortimer, used by Queen Isabella

Ludlow Castle domestic apartments built by Roger Mortimer, used by Queen Isabella

The Mortimers of Ludlow and Wigmore castles help to make the history of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys in the middle ages an exciting tale, says John Grove, chairman of the recently-formed Mortimer History Society

The medieval Mortimers

The Mortimers of Ludlow and Wigmore castles help to make the history of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Powys in the middle ages an exciting tale,
says John Grove, chairman of the recently-formed Mortimer History Society

Anyone interested in the Mortimers soon finds themselves reading about all aspects of English and Welsh medieval history. My fascination with the family began when I discovered Wigmore Castle in the 1980s. My interest was rekindled when I founded Usk Castle Friends, and traced the Mortimer connection with that castle in the late 14th century. After discovering several new history books on the Mortimers, and meeting an increasing number of people who share the same passion, we founded the Mortimer History Society with 37 members and held our inaugural meeting and first AGM in October at Wigmore.

The first objective was to set up a good quality website that would not only carry news and articles, but provide an interactive site with the first Mortimer Gazetteer an A-Z of all places, buildings and artefacts associated with the Mortimers. Internet surfers can now begin to explore the Mortimer dynasty at www.mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk

Those without the internet will still be able to receive a paper copy of the society newsletter, and come to the conferences and field visits.
The Mortimer dynasty began as vassals of William, Duke of Normandy in a castle at Mortemer in France. Although this main line ended in 1425, there were many continuing links not least with the Yorkist kings, Edward IV and Richard III, through the female side. The story of the family includes Mortimers who were friends of Edward I, and Edward III, marriages into the English and Welsh royal families, and Roger, the de facto regent of England, who had an affair with Queen Isabella, and helped depose Edward II. It is a story involving lords, estates, castles, abbeys, battles, marriages, intrigues and struggles for power that well illustrate every aspect of medieval life, and the fortunes of the ruling classes of the period.

The society was formed after a talk I gave last May at Much Marcle Community Hall at the invitation of the Friends of St. Bartholomews Church. This church contains one of the finest medieval tombs in the country that of Blanche Mortimer. Martin Toms and Paul Remfry joined me in establishing the society, and there is a fine team helping to develop it.

It has the support of the owner of Wigmore Castle, John Gaunt, and four honorary presidents John and Carol Challis of Wigmore Abby, Paul Dryburgh and the well-known historical author, Ian Mortimer, whose books The Greatest Traitor, and The Perfect King have opened up a new debate on the significance of the Mortimer family. The pioneer work was written by Herefordshire/Shropshire residents, Charles Hopkinson and Martin Speight and is entitled The Mortimers Lords of the March (Logaston Press).

The society plans a magnificent first national conference in Ludlow on May 8th, with a Welsh theme in this decade of celebrating Owain Glyndwyr. Dr David Stephenson is a Research Fellow at the School of History and Welsh History, Bangor University, and will speak on Prince Llywelyn and the Marcher Lords Paul Remfry, a leading expert on the story of the Welsh Marches and its castles, leads on The Battle of Bryn Glas Pilleth, 1402 where Glyndwrs army defeated Mortimer troops. I take on The Battle of Usk Pwll Melyn, 1405, where Glyndwrs forces suffered a dramatic setback at the hands of the Usk garrison.

A thrilling finale will be provided by a Ludlow resident, and ex-head of Drama at Ludlow College, Ian Barge, and the Teme Players, as they explore Shakespeares Glyndwr and the Mortimers from Henry IV Part One. Ian has cast the main roles and recruited a harpist and Welsh language coach for the big Glendower scene, with a very fine soprano in view.

More activities are planned. Members want to look at buildings, artefacts and documents linked with Mortimers, and toshare these experiences. It is hoped to have links in practice and via the website with other established societies such as the Richard III, Simon de Montfort, Owain Glyndwr Societies, and Usk Castle Friends. I gave a talk on The Mortimers and Edward II to the Friends of Ludlow Museum in February, and other members will be giving further talks this year.

The MHS wants to be of service to schools, colleges and local history groups. Socials, medieval music performances, and a look at medieval arts and crafts are further possibilities. A newsletter has already been published in two editions, and visits to Mortimer castles, tombs, and other sites will form part of the programme. Mortimer descendants and friends are already writing in from America, Australia, Spain, Hungary, and of course, Wales and Scotland. We hope that this renewed interest in the history of Herefordshire/Shropshire history will increase the number of tourists who are keen to see more.

Details of the conference and the society can be obtained from the Chairman, John Grove at 9, Preston Brook Close, Ledbury, HR8 2FL or email: johnusk@supanet.com

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