An Anglo-Saxon Thane called Dudda who occupied a woodland estate called a leah was the person whose name survives in the present place-name. The origins of Dudda are now lost in the mists of time.
By A.D. 1070 the Midland Shires were being pacified by the French invaders under William The Conqueror. One of his followers, Ansculf of Piquigney, was given territory in the area and he built a castle above the village of Dudley.
Later Lords of the Castle were the Paganels and they converted the village into a Borough - a market and built St. James Priory beneath the castle. As the years went by Dudley became the most important town in the area.
The lords that followed the Paganels were the Somerys and they built the present keep, the chapel, curtain walls, and the Triple Gateway. One of the most important lords of Dudley was John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. It was he who built the Renaissance Range and Northern Gateway.
As a bastion of the king during the English Civil War the Castle was doomed when the Royalist garrison surrendered. Its defences were demolished by order of Parliament. All though it was occupied for another hundred years it caught fire in 1750 and the living quarters were gutted.
Although there was no longer an intact castle, it may be said that without the castle the village would never have become a town and without the influence of the Lords the country around might never have become the Black Country.
Dudley Zoological Gardens
With breathtaking views over the Black Country, there is something for all ages at Dudley Zoo and Castle. Set in 40 acres, the whole family can enjoy the feudal splendour of the Castle ruins and admire one of the most diverse collections of animals in the country.
The Zoo is home to many endangered species and plays a vital part in their continued survival. It gives everyone the perfect opportunity to see and learn about animals from every continent.
The Priory was founded by the then Lord of Dudley, Gervase Paganel, in the 12th century, and was closed by Henry VIII in the 1530's as part of the abolishment of Catholicism. After the closure, the monastic building became ruinous, although part of the church was patched up as a tanner's dwelling, and the rest of the site was used for a time for industrial purposes.
The Pools near the Priory were drained when Priory Hall was built in 1825. The grounds were cleaned and restored and the building put into its current state in the 1930's. The adjacent roads, Gervase and Paganel Drive, had their housing built at about this time and took the names from the founder of the Priory.