History 1066 - 2002
It is almost certain that a Motte and Bailey castle of timber construction existed at Wilton at the time of the Norman Conquest. It was originally built to guard the important strategic position where the road between Anglo-Saxon England and Wales crossed the river Wye.
As part of their plan to consolidate their hold on their newly acquired lands the new rulers of England embarked on a vast program of castle building which included, in the Twelfth Century, construction of a new castle at Wilton using the locally available sandstone.
The first stewards of the new Castle were the de Longchamps, but after three generations title passed by marriage to the de Grey family who were to hold the Castle for the next three hundred years. A large part of the surviving ruins date from the earlier years of their tenure.
By the sixteenth Century the military importance of Wilton Castle had diminished, and a 'modern' (and doubtless more comfortable) Manor House was built into the fabric of the Castle using stone obtained by demolishing some of the old walls. At the end of the Sixteenth Century the resources of the Grey family were no longer sufficient to enable them to continue living at the Castle and the property was sold to Charles Brydges who was related by marriage to the Greys.
The new owners were not to enjoy their "fayre sweet dwelling" for long. With the outbreak of the Civil War Sir John Brydges refused to give his support to either side. This so outraged the local Royalists that one Sunday morning in the spring of 1645 Sir John and his family returned from church to find their home engulfed in flames. (Sir John's reaction was to immediately declare for the Parliamentarian cause!)
For a long period the site was abandoned until in 1731 the estate was sold to the Trustees of Guys Hospital. Under their stewardship a new house was built and extended during the Nineteenth Century.
The image to the left, circa 1755, is the oldest known illustration of Wilton Castle and is used with kind permission of the Herefordshire Record Office (HRO) - click [here] for a larger image.
The drawing shows the Castle, the remains of the Manor House and the house in amongst the ruins. In the foreground is the River Wye and a trading boat navigating up the river; possibly coming up from the wharves that were just above and below Wilton Bridge. In the middle of the shot is a slightly humorous observation depicting a washing line with washing hanging off it.
In 1961 the Trustees of Guys Hospital sold the castle to the financier Charles Clore.
In 2002 the castle passed into the ownership of Mr and Mrs Parslow. Since then a comprehensive programme of restoration has been undertaken working alongside English Heritage to stabilise the fabric of the buildings and developing the gardens so that we and future generations may continue to enjoy the romance and history of Wilton Castle.
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