Who were the Mortimers?

Warlike, ambitious and powerful, the Mortimers bestrode the medieval stage. Inextricably linked with the great events of their time, their story is the tale of a turbulent England racked with dissension, rebellion and open warfare at home and abroad. To read more about this amazing family click here

Forthcoming Events

Wednesday 13th December 2017 - Hereford Cathedral's Mappa Mundi
Organised by Leominster Historical Society. A talk by Sarah Arrowsmith, Head of Schools and Family Learning at Hereford Cathedral about the famous map of the world. Dated around 1300 and on a single sheet of vellum, it is the largest medieval map known to exist.
7.30 Grange Court, Leominster. Non-members £3.

2018 Events - coming shortly


We are delighted to be able to report that, following a successful appeal for grants and donations, the Ludlow Castle Heraldic Roll has been purchased and four excellent facsimiles have been made by the National Library of Wales. One of these has already been into several primary schools as part of the heraldry unit of the MHS Schools Local History Programme. The background to this fascinating and important document is described below.

Around 1473 King Edward IV set up a council in Ludlow castle to support and advise his young son Edward in his role as Prince of Wales. Over the next century this council became the Council of Wales and the Marches, the highest tier of the administrative and legal system for Wales. The most important of its Lord Presidents was Sir Henry Sidney KG, a strong Protestant and brother-in-law to both Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey. 

BpHooper350Students at Bishop Hooper School
in Ashford Carbonel, Shropshire being shown
the facsimile of the roll by Hugh Wood
Sir Henry Sidney was President for 26 years from 1560 to 1586 alongside his role as Lord Deputy of Ireland. He liked to make a big show and was very fond of processions and heraldic display. In 1574 he put up, in the round chapel in the inner bailey of Ludlow castle, the coats of arms of lots of people associated with the castle and its history. A few years later he decided that a permanent record should be made of these coats of arms and they were copied onto a long roll of parchment.

The collection consisted of three groups of people. Eleven of the owners of the castle are included from its founder, Walter de Lacy, down to the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. These included Roger Mortimer 1st Earl of March with Joan de Geneville; Edmund Mortimer 3rd Earl of March with Philippa, Countess of Ulster as well as Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville; Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville; Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, and Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Also included were nine of the previous Lord Presidents and all 22 members of the Council appointed by Queen Elizabeth in 1570.
These coats of arms were a feature of the castle for many years, and were recorded in detail, but they eventually disappeared. On the other hand we've been able to find no reference to a roll having been created, so it came as a complete surprise when it came to the surface a couple of years ago, in the hands of a dealer in London. Its significance to Ludlow and to the Mortimer History Society was quickly realised and an appeal was launched to buy it for the town. The Society has been at the heart of this initiative. All the key members of the Roll Team were members and we are grateful for all the donations we have received from members far and wide.

The roll is over 4.5m long but only 10cm wide. It has been created by sewing seven pieces of parchment together. Parchment is virtually indestructible except that, as it is made from animal skins, it is attractive to rodents. Our roll has suffered significant damage from rats or mice together with some fading. Much of it is in excellent condition, however. It is too fragile to put on permanent display, so we decided to have first-class facsimiles made which could be handled more easily.

A page from the booklet for schools
When we launched our appeal, we explained that we wanted to take a copy of the roll into schools as part of the MHS Schools Local History Programme. As you can see, the facsimiles have now been made and one copy has been into six local primary schools during July as part of the heraldry unit.To enhance the experience, each student has been given an attractive booklet to take home. As well as giving the background to the roll, it illustrates many of the coats of arms and even includes a heraldry quiz.


To see the complete booklet for schools click here 
If you'd like to download the booklet and make up your own copy click here.
To see a list of the coats of arms on the roll click here
To learn more about the roll itself click here
To learn more about the Roll Project and the appeal click here
To support us by making a donation, go to the button at the top right of this page


Wigmore was once one of the richest and grandest of the Marcher castles.  It was built shortly after the Norman conquest to establish control over the Welsh frontier and, as we all know, was the powerbase of the Mortimer family in medieval England. From the Mortimers it passed to the Crown and then to the Harley Family in 1601. It met its demise during the Civil War when it was slighted by Lady Brilliana Harley to stop the Royalists from fortifying it against her. After hundreds of years of neglect the site became an  important wildlife haven  and at the end of the 1990’s came under the guardianship of English Heritage and was their first ‘soft-capping’ restoration.

Wigmore church
 Just below the castle stands the very impressive church of St James.  The nave dates back to the 11th century and is a fine example of herringbone masonry; the tower, chancel  and aisles were added by The Mortimers in the 14th century and make for a very grand building as one would have expected in a medieval village that was frequented by royalty. It has withstood the ravages of wars and time and is in fine structural shape but it sadly does not have a large enough congregation to sustain it. 

The church was on the brink of closure when a team of enthusiastic locals stepped in and managed to obtain a Heritage Lottery Fund grant  to transform the building into an Interpretive, Heritage and Community Centre for the whole area. The work has started: the architects are working on the designs and surveyors and specialists are keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.

It is hoped that The Wigmore Centre will be up and running by the end of 2018. As well as providing a welcome meeting place for enthusiasts and walkers – there will be a café and toilets – it will have a parking space for disabled access and house displays, exhibitions and a research resource for those interested in The Mortimers and the history of the Marches. 

For updates and further details see the website www.thewigmorecentre.org .  We are organising a castle tour for MHS on the morning of Sunday May 14th and the team behind the project will give us a short talk on progress.  If you haven’t visited the church then take time out to do so. There is much to see inside and it is a very imposing building.  The tower houses a rare birdcage clock and six fully functional bells that were donated by The Harley Family in 1721 – tower tours are available by appointment during the summer and  details will be posted on the website.

There is no parking at the church: for weekend and evening events parking will be available in Wigmore School car park; visitors during the week please use the village hall car park.
The herringbone masonry at Wigmore

The Results of the 2016 Essay Prize

Lady We were delighted to receive 9 entries in the first year of the competition and the judges commented on the high standard. 

Miraculous Marches: The Cult of Thomas de Cantilupe and the Mortimers
by Ian Bass
Legal Culture in a medieval marcher lordship: a comparative analysis of the Dyffryn Clwyd court rolls
by Angharad Jones

Heartless, Witless, Graceless, Thriftless: Roger Mortimer and the Scots 1326-1328
by Ethan Gould
How to make an Entrance: an overlooked aspect of native Welsh masonry castle design
by Craig Jones
Networking through the March: a history of Hereford and its Region from the 11th through 13th centuries
by Matthew Lampitt
To read abstracts of these essays and biographies of the writers CLICK HERE

MHS Schools Local History Experience Day

On 8th June 2017 classes from eight local primary schools went to Ludlow Castle for a day of historical experience. This was the highlight of a programme of local history organised by the Mortimer History Society. The groups rotated around six different locations where they met a variety of "medieval" people who introduced them to a wide range of subjects relating to life in the Middle Ages and gave them the opportunity to learn some dances that were popular at the time. During the lunch break, a mounted knight arrived demanding the release of Sir Hugh Mortimer who had been imprisoned in the castle. Unfortunately it was a rather wet day, so the images below are from the 2016 event.

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