By FREDERICK I. COWLES
On the main Shrewsbury-to-Ludlow road, about five miles beyond Church Stretton, stands the Craven Arms, a modern hotel inheriting its name from an old coaching-inn. At this spot the roads cross, and a finger-post pointing westwards indicates that Stokesay is only a mile away. The average tourist, eager to reach Ludlow, passes the sign with a casual glance, but the discriminating traveller will connect the name of Stokesay with the fortified manor-house that goes by the name of castle, and will turn aside to visit one of the most interesting mansions in England.
Who built the house we do not know, but in 1281 Lawrence de Ludlow obtained a royal licence to erenellate his house at Stokesay. He is said to have been a successful merchant who, having grown rich, gave up trade, purchased thc manor and settled down to found a family.
From the de Ludlows Stokesay passed by marriage to the Vernons, and then to the Mainwarings. In 1616 it was purchased by Sir William Craven, a former lord mayor of London, whose son became the first Earl of Craven. At the end of the nineteenth century the house was sold to Mr. J. D. Allcroft, who carried out extensive repairs, although he never resided there.
Entrance to the courtyard is gained through a fine Elizabethan gatehouse, the door of which is loop-holed for musketry. De Ludlow's moat has been drained and is now a pleasant garden. In some way or another a bit of Shropshire folklore was mixed up with this moat. On the opposite
side of the valley are too hills, Norton Camp and Yeo Ridge, where two giants once lived. These creatmes concealed a great treasure under Stokesay Castle. and when one desired to inspect the wealth the other had to throw the key of the chest over to him. One day the monster on Yeo Ridge was so afflicted with rheum itism that he missed his aim and the key fell into the moat. It was never recovered, and all trace of the treasure was lost.
Wandering through the deserted mansion is like visiting a tomb-a mausoleum of dead glories. There is the banqueting hall where generations of the de Ludlows feasted whilst minstrels sang sweet legends of the past. A solid oak stairway leads up to two rooms in the northern tower. one of which contains a case of relics discovered when the moat was drained. But you will look in vain for the magic key. You will see the magnificent solar with its chimney-piece of richly carved oak, the gloomy buttery and the deep cellars. From the roof of the aouth tower you can gaze out over the Welsh hills to the west and Wenlock Edge to the east, with the sunlit landscape between. Centuries have passed since the chatelaines of Stokesay peered out through the leaded windows. and never again will the grey walls echo with song and laughter.
Near the castle is the church of St. John the Baptist. which was so badly injured during the Civil War that it had to be practically rebuilt in 1654. But the south doorway is Norman, and there is an Early English arch between the nave and tower.
If you are going north from S'c.)kesay do not fail to visit Wistanstow. if only for the sake of the Saxon saint Wystan, who was killed there on the eve of Pentecost, 849. Wystan. the grandson of Wiglaf, King of Mercia, when called upon to succeed his grandfather, refused the crown, " wishing to become heir Only to a heavenly kingdom," and made his mother queen-regent. His uncle Bertulph conspired against him, and in an effort to bring about a peaceful settlement a council wa. railed at Wictanatnw RerInInh'c cnn.