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Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, England close to the Welsh border and in the Welsh Marches. It lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of 350 acres (1.4 km˛) and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castle and the market place. From there the streets of the medieval town slope downward to the River Teme, and northward toward the River Corve. The town is in a sheltered spot beneath the Clee Hills which are clearly visible from the town. With a population of around 10,000, Ludlow is the largest town in the South Shropshire district and home of the district council headquarters.
Ludlow has nearly 500 listed buildings. They include some fine examples of medieval and Tudor-style half-timbered buildings including the Feathers Hotel. The parish church, St Laurence Church, is the largest in the county .
The name 'Lodelowe' (Welsh: Llwydlo) was in use for this site before 1138. At the time this section of the Teme river contained rapids, and so the hlud of Ludlow came from 'the loud waters', while hlaw meant hill. Thus Ludlow meant a place on a hill by a loud river. Some time around the 12th century weirs were added along the river, taming these rapid flows. Later in the same century the larger outer bailey was added to the castle.
The town is close to Wales and also very close to the county border between Shropshire and Herefordshire. It was included in the latter in the Domesday Book. This strategic location, invested it with importance in medieval times and its large castle remains largely intact. Ludlow Castle was the seat of the Council of Wales and the Marches and a temporary home to several holders of the title Prince of Wales, including King Edward IV and Arthur Tudor, who died there in 1502.
The site features heavily in the folk-story of Fulk FitzWarin, outlawed Lord of Whittington, Shropshire and a possible inspiration for the Robin Hood legend. Fulk is brought up in the castle of Joce De Dynan, and fights for his master against Sir Walter de Lacy – these battles are also the source of the story of Marion de la Bruyere, the betrayed lover whose ghost is still said to be heard crying "Goodbye, Cruel World!" as she plummets from the castle's turrets.
At the time of the Domesday Book survey Ludlow was the location of the unoccupied large Stanton Manor, a possession of Walter de Lacy. Walter's son Roger de Lacy, began the construction of a castle on the crest of the hill between about 1086 and 1094, forming what is now the inner bailey. Between about 1090 and 1120, the Chapel of St. Mary Magdalene was built inside the walls, and by 1130 the Great Tower was added to form the gatehouse. The castle was an important border fortification along the Marches of Wales, and played a significant role in local, regional and national conflicts.
The town also provided a useful source of income for the Marcher Lords, based on rents, fines, and tolls. They developed the town on a regular grid pattern, although this was adapted somewhat to match the local geography. The first road was probably High Street, which formed the wide market place to the east of the castle gates. The town continued to grow, joining an old north-south road, now called Corve Street to the north and Old Street to the south. Mill Street and wide Broad Street were added later.
The town was licensed to build a wall in 1233. It was constructed about the central part of the community with four main gates and three postern gates. The castle complex continued to expand (a Great Hall, kitchen, and living quarters. were added) and it gained a reputation as a fortified palace. In 1306 it passed through marriage to the ambitious Earl of March, Roger Mortimer, 1st Baron Wigmore. Queen Isabella and her son, the young Edward III, were entertained at the castle in 1328.