Ross-on-Wye Civic Society

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Ross-on-Wye & District Civic Society newsletter Winter 2006 (number 91)
Article by Philip Anderson (Hon Sec)

As reported in the last newsletter, the Society organised a very successful open day at Wilton Castle in September. Heather Hurley prepared some details of the history of the Castle for the information of visitors that day. For the benefit of those who were not able to come this is reproduced below.

"Wilton Castle was built to defend an ancient river crossing, and dates from the 13th century on the site of an earlier motte and bailey. The Longchamps were granted the manor by Henry I, and were Lords of the Manor until the end of the 13th century when the de Greys followed.

A small tomb in Bridstow Church is traditionally known as the heart tomb removed in the past from the chapel at Wilton Castle, and according to earlier historians the monument "in all probability belonged to the first Lord Grey of Wilton" when internment of the heart had become a fashion originating from the time when a heart "was all that friends could bring home of the soldier who had perished in a foreign land".

At the time of John de Grey, in the early 14th century, there was a 'castle with an outer court with two gardens, one courtyard and one pigeon house'. The east tower features nests which the surveyors of 1928 describe as a 'columbarium probably of the 16th c'.

In 1451 Richard Grey died and his wife Margaret was assigned all lands, rents, the Court of Wilton, a third of the fishery and 'the third part of the Gaol of the Castle of Wilton for her prisoners there to be imprisoned and guarded'.

The Brydges followed the Greys and immediately made alterations and added the Elizabethan Hall in 1578. During the rebuilding the manor court and gaol were held in the newly built Great House and Gaol, which are now Wilton Court and part of the White Lion Inn.

Unfortunately in 1645 during the Civil War, because of Sir Giles Brydges 'unwillingness to allow his house to be occupied as a royal garrison 'a body of soldiers came and set it on fire' one Sunday 'while the family were absent at church leaving charred and ruined remains'.

The Governors of Guy's Hospital purchased Wilton Manor and Castle in 1731 and later built part of the existing house into the gatehouse. The estate was sold in 1961 and the house, garden and castle ruins occupying two acres were sold as a private dwelling".

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