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Dudley Council the historic capital of the Black Country
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Dudley Museums Service are the custodian of the collection of finds that were uncovered during the 'Dudley Castle Archaeological Project' which commenced in 1983 until 1993.

  • 2 Arrow Heads from Castle Finds

Dudley Castle has had a chequered history with the last occupancy during the Civil War. 

Items unearthed during the project included limestone (thought to be part of the Castle Keep), 16th and 17th century glass, 1,837 items of animal and bird bones were present as well as over 3000 small finds such as bronze, lead, precious metals and textiles.

We have selected a few of the more popular and significant pieces to focus on. If you want to know more about Dudley Castle and Archaeological finds you may contact the Friends of Dudley Castle. 

Pottery

The large collection of pottery spans an era from the Normans of the 11th century to the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century. 

The pottery from Dudley Castle is of regional and national significance. It provides us with details of how people lived, both rich and poor, how they cooked and ate. It also shows with whom the castle inhabitants traded or from where they travelled. Vessel forms, fabric, glaze and the use of slip are consistent. This suggests that the coarseware pottery was the product of a single kiln site, close to Dudley with the clay coming from an area close to the Silurian limestone outcrop on which the castle stands. 

Vessel Glass

The majority of glass seems to be late 16th and 17th century. The finds include fine ware such as goblets in the facon de Venise style and everyday wares such as bottles, flasks and urinals. Many glass vessels were blown very thin; for example urinals had to be as transparent as possible so that the contents could be examined to assess the state of the body. 

The Dudley Castle Condoms

The Dudley Castle condoms represent the earliest definitive physical evidence of the use of animal membrane condoms in post-medieval Europe. The keep's latrines ('garderobes') were sealed during the demolition of the Castle's defences in 1647.

The intact deposits, uncovered during excavations, contained both the domestic and organic remains of the occupying Royalists who defended the Castle under siege conditions between 1642 and 1646. They represent a microcosm of the castle garrison's lifestyle. The contents of the keep's garderobe were recovered intact and processed by sieving and hand-sorting. Seeds of coriander, figs, grapes, pumpkins and strawberries were uncovered alongside animal, bird and fish bones. 

Examination of the compacted mass produced a startling discovery - the blackened remains of five animal membrane condoms - presumably used and discarded and a further five condoms - presumably unused as they nestled one inside the other. After further analysis by the Dept of Scientific Research, British Museum, their significance was magnified due to the nature of the find and the extraordinary archaeological circumstances in which they were found.

Who might have used the condoms is not known; however the complexity of manufacture must have made them relatively expensive so perhaps the preserve of the officer class? It is known that officer's wives were present during the Royalist occupation. Dorothy Beaumont, the wife of Lieutenant-Colonel John Beaumont,  was recorded as having a child 'borne and buryd' on the same day in 1644. However, as this testifies this was neither the time or place to introduce children into the world. 

The Sharrington Range

In the mid 16th century Sir John Dudley gained control of Dudley Castle. He redesigned the whole of the eastern side of the Bailey in the latest Renaissance manner. He chose, as his architect, Sir William Sharrington (hence the title).

Sir John Dudley had risen rapidly through royal ranks to become Duke of Northumberland. On the death of Henry VIII in 1547 he became one of 16 executors of a Regency Council founded to supervise the nine-year-old successor, King Edward VI. In 1552, Sir John became Lord Protector, but in the spring of 1553 the King had contracted tuberculosis. In an attempt to control the succession, he encouraged the dying Edward to void the rights of princesses Mary and Elizabeth to the throne and put his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, next in line.  To boost his security, Sir John arranged the marriage of his youngest son, Guilford, to Lady Jane on 21 May.

King Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 and Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen. The succession was challenged by Mary and her supporters who forced a coup d’etat against Sir John in the Privy Council. He was charged with treason and executed on 22 August 1553.

His best-known son, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was a favourite of Mary’s successor, Queen Elizabeth I. On August 11 1575, she visited Dudley Castle and a decade later the site was surveyed as a possible residence for the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots

Civil War

During the Civil War, (1642-1646) Dudley Castle was garrisoned by Colonel Leveson for the Royalists. It was besieged twice; unsuccessfully in 1644 and finally in 1646, when after two weeks the garrison surrendered on 13th May, 1646 to the Parliamentarians led by Sir William Brereton. The castle was abandoned. Following a lengthy dispute between Parliament and the people of Dudley; the defensive capacity of the castle was destroyed in 1647. Dudley Castle was no longer used as a permanent residence. 

Whoever lived in the Castle and Keep during the Civil War must have been living in a state of comparative luxury. In addition to large quantities of pottery there was a significant number of artefacts of all types, from bone inlays to bronze work and, most surprisingly, the remains of glass vessels were uncovered.  These glass vessels range from locally produced forest glass bottles, beakers, urinals and drinking glasses to Venetian and Venetian style glass.