Dudley Council
Dudley Skyline

Dudley Castle is situated in a commanding position in the Black Country Geopark on a high limestone ridge overlooking the medieval planned town of Dudley and the monastic remains of St James’s Priory. It was designated as a Scheduled Monument on the 8th February 1915 and on the 14th September 1949 the upstanding remains were placed on the statutory list as Grade I.

It survives as a good example of a motte and bailey castle c.1070  which was remodelled in stone in the mid-12th and early 14th-centuries. It was slighted in the 1180's and rebuilt in the mid to late 13th century. Later additions included the late 15th century Kitchen Annex. The domestic wing was demolished and rebuilt in the 1530's. The quality of the surviving remains has been enhanced by the archaeological excavation undertaken in the 1980’s which indicated the castle retains important structural and artefactual evidence relating to both its early history and to the 16th century structural improvements which converted it from a defensive castle into a high status domestic residence.

The 16th century Sharrington Range is of particular interest as one of the earliest known examples of the influence of the Italian Renaissance on the secular architecture of the West Midlands. The wealth and importance of the castle and its inhabitants is reflected in extensive surviving documentary records. The castle was held as a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and was slighted by order of Parliament in 1649. Although the domestic wing was still habitable, this succumbed to a fire in 1750 and thereafter it was considered to be a Romantic ruin. In 1936 a zoo was placed around it and the castle became a tourist attraction along with the 1930’s Tecton Structures. For more information about Dudley Castle and the Castle Hill Conservation Area look at the Castle Hill Conservation Area Character Appraisal.

For more information about visiting Dudley Castle go to the Dudley Zoo and Castle webpage  and the Discover Dudley webpage.

Dudley Castle Excavations

Between 1983 and 1993 a major archaeological excavation programme was carried out at Dudley Castle, it was undertaken in close association with the programme of repairs. The consultant Archaeologist was Philip Barker, an eminent British Archaeologist renowned for his work on excavation methodology. Excavation concentrated on the motte, within the adjacent Stable Block, between the Stables and Main Gateway, the ditch separating the Motte from the Bailey, the Great Hall and the Chapel. Large quantities of finds were recovered including ceramic building materials, clay pipes, coins, faunal remains, floor tiles, leather, plant remains, pottery, small find, stone architectural fragments, vessel glass, window glass, textiles etc. In addition to the excavations, a substantial amount of building recording was carried out in association with the restoration of some of the standing buildings overseen by ST Walker & Duckham. In the 1990’s ‘Background Information and Proposed Design for Research and Publication’ was published for the Dudley Castle Archaeological project. It is presented in three volumes, each of which provides information of specific aspects of the archaeological excavation.

The ‘outreach’ works as a result of this excavation was rather far ranging. The Dudley Castle Archaeological Project made use of funds from Manpower services, employing five professional archaeologists and 50 local people spanning the age range from 18 to 60, therefore it was not only a nationally significant research excavation but also a source of employment and training for local unemployed people.

Some of the finds from the excavations are on display in Dudley Museum and Art Gallery. Why not take the 3D walkthrough tour?

Friends of Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle is very fortunate to have an active Friends of Dudley Castle group whose mission statement is to ‘support and promote Dudley Castle in every way possible locally, nationally and internationally as a major treasure of British Heritage’.

They strongly promote the educational value of the Castle stressing that they believe that ‘Dudley Castle and its site to be of national geological, archaeological, historical and architectural importance with considerable educational value’.

The Friends Group began in 1989 when the Castle excavation was being carried out in the Castle courtyard. The Friends Group continues to work closely with Dudley Council on the excavation archive for the Castle excavations, taking a proactive role in working with Dudley Council, Historic England and the Museum of London Archaeology Service who were appointed to prepare a disposal policy elements of the Castle archive (mainly focused un-stratified animal bones).

For more information about the Friends Group, refer to their website http://www.dudleycastle.org.uk/