Hopton Castle Repairs, Hopton Castle
Consolidation and repair of 14th century stone tower
Nr Craven Arms, Shropshire
Hopton Castle Preservation Trust
Hopton Castle is situated approximately ten miles to the north west of Ludlow and six miles to the south west of Craven Arms. It stands in glorious isolation in the bowl of a minor valley between the Rivers Teme and Clun. Sitting on its own earth mound and surrounded by gently rising hills, which are mostly covered by coniferous plantations, the castle, at first sight, gives the impression of being a fortified Norman keep. This tower has architectural pretensions, however, that belie mere utility.
The tower’s appearance is superficially Norman but the Decorated Gothic portal confirms it as late 13th or early 14th century work. The tower design is similar to other manor houses in Shropshire built following the conquest of the Welsh in 1284. The earthworks may represent the inner and outer bailey of an earlier castle but the enclosure created probably contained an assortment of contemporary service structures and ancillary buildings: the tower is far too small to accommodate all that would be required by a locally significant household. This is, essentially, high status accommodation, built to impress rather than to house a garrison.
The castle apparently remained in occupation until the Civil War and the infamous siege by Royalist forces in 1644, after which it was laid waste to prevent re-use. It has remained an unoccupied ruin ever since.
The tower is constructed with rubble core walls faced with coursed and squared grey coloured siltstone: door and window dressings, quoins and the string course above the battered plinth are all formed in red sandstone. Areas of coarse lime plaster still cling tenaciously to the siltstone both above and below the string course, confirming that walls were once completely covered by render with only the sandstone elements left exposed.
John C Goom Ltd, in association with Weatley Lloyd Architects were appointed in 2010 to oversee the repair works. At which point, the ground floor was covered, internally, by debris two metres deep, all derived from the castle building fabric itself. The inner wall surfaces were also colonised by extensive ivy and other vegetative growth.
A programme of assorted repairs, both inside and out, was proposed, making use of conservative repair techniques such as deep re-pointing, the grouting of voids and fissures, stone and tile galleting, the poulticing of salt-laden masonry together with the pinning and propping of fractured or disrupted elements using non-ferrous metal pins and ties. The heads of walls, previously consolidated 40 years previously, were flaunched using a hydraulic lime mortar.
Limited replacement of badly eroded dressed stones was required as was the dismantling and rebuilding of core work and other structural elements such as arches and lintels in order to ensure long term stability. Where this was necessary, the interventions were conducted as repairs, matching original profiles and materials as closely as possible.
The new stone was, in fact, sourced from specially re-opened delves located within the nearby Forestry Commission managed woodland close to the village.
To appreciate and understand how the interior spaces were contrived, all of the debris within the tower was removed and existing openings were made secure in order to facilitate public access to the ground floor. In addition, a stair was constructed leading up to the central arch to facilitate access.
The conservation and repair of this C14 stone castle for Hopton Castle Preservation Trust was funded by grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
During the works the Hopton Castle Preservation Trust arranged for the Channel 4 programme Time Team to undertake a 3-day dig to ascertain more about the castle infamous history – click on the above link for the dig report.