History of Dudley Castle
Dudley Castle was originally built in around 1071 by Ansculf of Piquigny as a Motte & Bailey fortification. It is registered in the Domesday Book of 1086 as belonging to his son, William. In 1130 it was rebuilt in stone by Ralph de Paganel before being ‘slighted’ (demolition of the castle’s defences) in 1175 under orders of Henry II as punishment for Gervaise de Paganel’s rebellion against him.
It remained unfortified until permission was granted by the court in 1264 and during the next 60 years there were many additions to the castle, including the two Gatehouses that still stand today. However, controversy surrounding the reconstruction as the man responsible, John de Somery allegedly robbed and murdered in order to obtain the funds needed for the work. This lent him the nickname of ‘The Robber Baron’.
The castle fell into the hands of the de Suttons in 1321, and again much work was done to the building. It remained with the de Suttons until around 1536, when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland took control of it and ordered it to be rebuilt as a renaissance palace, one of the earliest examples of its kind in England. Unfortunately for John Dudley, he was accused of instigating the plot to make his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, the queen, and was executed shortly afterwards.
The Castle then became property of the Suttons, before the last of them, Frances, Baroness Dudley, married into the Ward family. During the Civil War it was held for the Royalists, but fell to Parliament in 1646 and was ‘slighted’ once again in 1647. And so it appears today, aging respectfully and still magnificent in its sprawling ruins.
Ghosts of Dudley Castle
Dudley Castle is one of the most haunted castles in the world, with many, many ghosts that have been seen for hundreds of years. Its most famous and frequently seen is perhaps that of Dorothy Beaumont, otherwise known as ‘The Grey Lady’. She lived for a time at Dudley Castle, but hers was a life of tragedy, giving birth to a daughter who died after only a few months. It is said that Dorothy then died of grief shortly afterwards, and because neither of her dying wishes could be granted (to be buried next to her daughter and for her husband to attend the funeral) she now wanders mournfully through the Castle grounds. She is most often seen by the entrance to the Castle keep, and in tribute a pub was recently opened in the grounds called the ‘Grey Lady Tavern’. Since opening though, this building has been the focus of strange occurrences, alarms go off in the middle of the night for no reason and staff have experienced extreme drops in temperature, accompanied by a strange blue mist that floats through the bar.
Update – October 2014: Has the Grey Lady been captured on camera? The media has been awash recently with the story that a couple visiting Dudley Castle took a photo which appears to show the apparition of a woman in a long, grey dress. Click here to see the photo and read the story.
Allegedly, the most haunted area in Dudley Castle is the Chapel Undercroft. Situated in this ancient room is a large stone coffin, rumoured to have once contained the remains of the Castle’s most evil and feared Lords, John de Somery, or ‘The Robber Baron’. On several occasions people have witnessed a pair of ghostly legs standing by the side of the coffin, believed to be John himself paying a regular visit to the place he perhaps still thinks he owns and rules over. Other spirits in the Undercroft include that of a little girl, who many people claim to have been touched, pulled or prodded by. On one occasion she even flipped a chair over in front of an astonished group of paranormal investigators. On another investigation a black shadow was caught on camera, and several groups have experienced a strange ‘grinding’ sound coming from the Chapel on the floor above. Upon investigation of course, there is no-one there and the sound has ceased.
Other ghosts of Dudley Castle include that of a drummer boy, killed by a single bullet during the Civil War, who is heard on many nights, drumming out his warning for all around. However it is considered bad luck to see or hear him, due to the ill luck that befell him, being killed by a single shot from one of the most inaccurate firearms ever invented, the 17th Century musket!
There are countless other ghostly tales to tell on the night, during a twilight tour of the Castle and its grounds, and if you are especially lucky then later on during the night you might meet one or two of the characters involved in those tales…