The motte and bailey construction of Dudley Castle was completed in 1070 by Ansculf de Picquigny (northern France). He was succeeded by the Paganel family during the 12th century who became Lords of Dudley.
In 1537 John Dudley – son of Edmund Dudley, economic advisor to Henry VII, who was executed by Henry VIII – embarked on a building programme at Dudley Castle including the stunning Sharington Range, named after his architect, William Sharington.
Dudley rapidly rose through royal ranks to become Duke of Northumberland, and on the death of Henry VIII in 1547 became one of 16 executors of a Regency Council founded to supervise the nine-year-old successor, King Edward VI.
In 1552 Dudley became Lord Protector, but by spring 1553 the king had contracted TB and 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.
Mary’s Catholicism posed a threat to the recently-introduced religious reformation and the new-found wealth of those who supported it, and to boost his security Dudley arranged the marriage of his youngest son, Guilford, to Lady Jane on May 21.
King Edward VI died on July 6 and Lady Jane Grey proclaimed queen. However, the succession was challenged by Mary and her supporters who forced a coup d’etat against Dudley in the Privy Council, and he was charged with treason and executed on August 22, 1553.
His best-known son Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was a favourite of Mary’s successor, Queen Elizabeth I.
On August 11, 1575 Queen Elizabeth I visited Dudley Castle and a decade later the site was surveyed as a possible residence for the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots.
During the Civil War Dudley Castle was garrisoned by royalist troops. It was besieged in 1644 and 1646 and surrendered on May 13, 1646. The following year, by order of Parliament, the keep, gatehouse and sections of the curtain wall were slighted.
On July 24, 1750 a fire, which raged for three days, swept through the Sharington Range, gutting the once-magnificent palace. Dudley Castle was allowed to settle into the role of romantic ruin.
In the late 1800s and early 20th century fetes drew crowds into the courtyard and in May 1937 the Earl of Dudley opened Dudley Zoological Society with exotic animals from across the world.
Iconic Tecton enclosures designed by Berthold Lubetkin’s team attracted worldwide interest.
Within 18 months of opening Dudley Zoo had attracted one million visitors.
On June 24, 1994 Queen Elizabeth II visited Dudley Castle to open an Interpretation Centre.
Today the castle and its courtyard are the scene of living demonstrations organised by re-enactment groups, along with our highly popular ghost walks which enter into the true spirit of the site — reputed to be haunted by the ghost of The Grey Lady – plus open-air music extravaganzas, children’s events and amazing birds of prey displays.
The walls of Dudley Castle are embedded with trilobites — the only animals the world has ever known to have eyes made of crystal.
This now extinct family, distantly related to spiders and scorpions, is preserved in microscopic detail in the walls of both the 11th century castle and adjoining Tudor range.
Calymene blumenbachii is known worldwide as the Dudley Bug.