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Dudley Castle

Visited April 2017

Location Dudley, West Midlands
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Dudley Port, approx. 2 miles
Parking Yes 
Facilities Toilets, Cafe, Gift Shop, Zoo


This is actually a great day out for families as it combines a visit to the castle with a visit to the zoo which has been established in the land surrounding it. Part of the moat has been used to create the sea lion enclosure, and parts of the Tudor domestic buildings now house a Creepy Crawly exhibition with nocturnal animals, spiders and reptiles.






The castles was built by a Norman knight called Ansculf, shortly after the Norman invasion. It was a typical motte & bailey. Like many castles, it then passed through many different owners and many different rebuilds through its history. The castle as we see it today was mainly the work of Sir John Dudley, who in 1532 took over the castle from a distant relative who had accrued many debts and could no longer afford the upkeep. Sir John was very rich, and began to rebuild the old castle in a more contemporary and comfortable style. The range of domestic buildings surrounding the motte were built under his custodianship.


Sir John Dudley came to a sticky end when he tried to put his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne instead of Mary Tudor, the catholic daughter of Henry VIII and rightful claimant of the throne. He was executed in 1553 after his plot failed, and the castle was returned to the Sutton family, whose relative had handed the castle over to John Dudley some twenty years previously.


Under the Sutton tenure the castle entered its most prestigious phase, as it received a visit from Queen Elizabeth I as she journeyed through her kingdom in the early days of her reign. That seemed to be the pinnacle of its importance and the castle fell into decline for many years after that. It was slighted after the civil war and was left as a ruin for many many years.





In the 1930's the then current Earl of Dudley decided that the castle site would make a good zoo. He instructed a group of modernist architects known as the Tecton Group to design the animal enclosures. The enclosures, or tectons as they became known, were made of concrete and represented a new concept in design. The tectons are today protected as the largest collection in the world. Not all of them are used to house the animals anymore, but they remain as a testimony to their design.





Visiting the castle today is a really good day out. There is a small chair lift which takes you up to the top of the motte, on the day we went there was a group of children having so much fun on it they were just riding up & down again the whole time! Once at the top the entrance to the castle is through the ruins of the gatehouse and into the inner courtyard. Here you find the remains of the keep, with the tower which can still be climbed. The view from the top is expansive, but not particularly pretty, looking down as it does over some of the least attractive parts of Dudley.


Built into the remains of the Tudor range is the Creepy Crawly exhibition which includes rats, bats, spiders and snakes to name but a few. The zoo is also home to some large animals- lions, kangaroos and some beautiful and graceful giraffe. The meerkats are also good fun to watch, they are sited at the back of motte so you get the added bonus of a good view of the back of the keep whilst watching them.


We spent most of our time in the castle or looking at the animals but be warned there is a fairground in the grounds as well but there were extra charges for the rides so you might want to steer your children away if you don't want to pay anymore. There are several options for eating on the site, we tried the cafe but were unimpressed as it was pricey, but there are plenty of picnic benches around if you want to bring your own. The gift shop was, in comparison, well stocked and reasonably priced.






More info:  Dudley Castle

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