Between Tidworth and Andover is the small town of Ludgershall, to the north of which stand the evocative ruins of a medieval castle and cross. Owned by English Heritage but free for all to visit, these ruins are a beautiful and evocative place.

The medieval ruins of Ludgershall Castle in the sunshine

The early history of the castle is hazy, but it was probably begun in the late 11th century by a sheriff of Wiltshire. It passed to the Crown at some point in the early 12th century, and was then substantially improved in the 13th century by King John and his son, Henry III, who both used the castle as a hunting lodge. Three walls survive, and also the extensive earthworks around them (with, curiously, a private farm in the middle).

It seems to have been a popular royal residence in the 13th century. Henry III is known to have visited at least 21 times and ordered many additions and improvements, including a great hall for dining and entertaining and new royal apartments. Two separate parks were delegated for royal amusement – the northern one was too small for hunting but probably staged other entertainments and tournaments which could be viewed from the castle buildings and earthworks. The southern one was much larger and kept well stocked with deer for the King’s pleasure.

 Aclose of the ruins showing the foundations of the rooms
The ruins show the different rooms of this once popular hunting lodge

The castle was visited less frequently in the 14th and 15th centuries and by the 1540s had already been dismantled and much of it levelled over. The most prominent survival is the tower.