'Oh, Come you home on Sunday when Ludlow's streets are still
and Ludlow's bells are calling to farms and land and mill,
Or come you home on Monday when Ludlow market hums
and Ludlow chimes are playing the conquering hero comes'
Those are the well-known words of A. E. Housman who wrote 'A Shropshire Lad'
In ancient British times Ludlow was known as Dinan and Llystwysoc, whose derivation
implies it was the Palace of a Prince. The Saxon name Leodlowe implies an administration centre.
There was no settlement of any consequence on the present site of Ludlow before the Norman Conquest, although it is possible that there was a small Saxon agricultural hamlet at Dinham. The castle was founded by the de Lacy family of Stanton Lacy, probably between 1086 and 1094, at that time occupying a much smaller area than it does now. A planned town was laid out at the castle gate very soon afterwards. Ludlow seems to have been taken from the existing parish of Stanton Lacy, the church which lies about three miles to the north-west. Until the last century the keep of the castle remained an isolated part of Stanton Lacy parish, the boundary of the parish extended up to the very edge of the town.
In the late 12th and early 13th centuries the castle was extended, and part of the grid pattern of streets immediately to the south was obscured by the enlarged outer bailey. From 1233 onwards the town walls are constructed, and as at Southampton and Canterbury, the castle stood within the circuit of the walls and shared a common line of defence. Ludlow had several medieval suburbs laid out in a planned fashion beyond the gates.
Ludlow was a highly successful plantation. By 1377 it had 1,172 tax-paying residents, which placed it thirty-third in the list of English towns of that date.
Ludlow was a fortified town, one of just over a hundred in England and Wales which had a
full circuit of walls. Apart from the Castle, it retains some well-preserved stretches of town wall and the sites of its seven gates can readily be identified. As in most fortified towns, the walls and gates served many purposes other than defence. They were a means of controlling the entry of all sorts of undesirables, many of them far less formidable than invading armies.
They enabled market tolls to be collected easily and gave support to lean-to-buildings. In times of peace they were a ready source of building stone, and continued to exercise a strong influence on the topography of the town long after their defensive function had ceased.