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Dudley Castle History

So much of this castle as time and the destroying hand of man have spared, may claim the honor of being part of one of the oldest fortresses in the English isle.

Dudo, an Anglo-Saxon, is said to have built and bestowed his name upon it, in A.D.700.

From the name of the founder of this castle, is derived the present appellation of Dudley, whose orthography has been much varied by writers at different periods.

At the time of the Norman conquest, as appears from Doomsday Book, this castle was granted to a Norman Baron, by the name of William Fitz Ausculph, who possessed, besides, twenty-five manors in the same county; but it remained not long in the possession of his family, for the daughter of William Fitz Ausculph, marrying Fulk Paganel, brought with her the inheritance of Dudley castle, which descended to her son, Ralph Paganel, who took up arms for the Empress Maud, and fortified it for her, when she contended with King Stephen for the crown of England.

In the reign of Henry, upon assessment for the marriage of the king's daughter, Paganel appointed his knight's fees de veteri feoffmento, to be fifty in number, and de novo, six and a third part.

Afterwards, because he took part with Prince Henry, in an insurrection against his father, the king dismantled his castle of Dudley.

Gervase, the son of Ralph Paganel, married Isabel, daughter of Robert, Earl of Leicester, and they had a daughter Hawyse, who married, first, John de Somerie, and secondly, Roger de Berkley, of Berkely Castle.

Ralph de Somerie, a son of Hawyse and her first husband, John de Somerie, was Baron of Dudley in right of his mother, during the reign of Richard. In the 17th year of Henry A.D. 1233, when it is styled an "honor", it was seized by the king, because its owner, Roger de Somerie, either neglected or refused to appear, when summoned to receive the honor of knighthood.

The writ is preserved, and may be translated thus,-"Because Roger de Somerie, at the feast of Pentecost last past, has not appeared before the king to be girded with the military girdle, the Sheriff of Worcestershire is hereby commanded to seize on the honor of Dudley, and all the other lands of the said Roger within his jurisdiction, with all the cattle found upon them, so that nothing may be moved off without the king's permission. Witness the king at Wenlock."

In the 48th year of this reign, A.D. 1264, Somerie obtained the royal license to castellate his mansion at Dudley, which had probably remained unfortified ever since its dismanteling.

This castle remained in the possession of the Someries till the 15th year of Edward A.D. 1322, when John de Somerie, the last male heir of the name, dying, left his two sisters, Margaret and Joan, coheiresses, the elder of whom, Margaret, married Sir John Sutton, of the ancient and respectable Saxon family of Suttons in Nottinghamshire, who became, in her right, Baron of Dudley.

This nobleman assisting Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, against the ministers of Edward II was for this cause compelled, in order to save his life, to convey all his right and title in the castle and manorof Dudley, with many other large estates, to Hugh le Despenser, son of Hugh, Earl of Winchester; but in the first year of Edward A.D. 1325, he obtained restitution of them all.

One of the Suttons, on account of owning Dudley castle, was summoned to Parliment in the reign of Henry. It continued in their possession till unwittingly conveyed by John Sutton, lord Dudley, to his kinsman, the grasping and ambitious John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. This nobleman, while in its possession, made great repairs and added a magnificent structure worthy of his wealth and fame, which was called the "New Building." He adorned all parts of the castle with the arms of the noble families, from which, by his mother, he was descended, so that in succeeding times it might not be supposed an acquistion, but the patrimony of his family.

This was certainly not very generous, but he went still farther; for, having despoiled his cousin of his castle and estates, he thrust the titles of Dudley and Somerie among his other Baronies, leaving his unhappy kinsman with the ridiculous title of lord "Quondam" in their stead.

At length, however, by a sudden revolution of fortune, this lord Quondam again became master of Dudley castle, and his son, Edward, obtained, out of the forfeiture of that potent duke, an ample fortune free from all encumberances, and a clear title.

These estates, Ann, the heiress of Edward Sutton's grandson, Sir Ferdinando, carried in marriage to Humble Ward, Esq., a wealthy goldsmith and jeweller to the Queen of Charles I. Mr. Ward was created Baron, March 23, 1643, by the title of lord Ward, of Birmingham, in Warwickshire.

During the civil wars this castle was a royal garrison. In the year 1644, it stood a seige of three weeks, and was relieved, June 11, by a detachment of the king's forces from Worcester; but May 13, 1646, it was surrendered to Sir William Brereton by Col. Levison, govenor for the king.

The part taken by lord Ward in these matters, rendered him liable to some of the inconveniences from the victorious party; for his was afterwards obliged to ask for lenity of the lord Protector, Cromwell, whose privy council declared in a paper dated July 16, 1656, that they "conceived the said Mr. Ward an object of his highness' grace and favor."

The lords Ward seem to have resided here but a short time afterwards, probably on account of its ruinous condition, which was owing to the injuries received in the seige.

Tradition relates, that, some years since, it served as a retreat to a band of coiners, who set fire to the buildings-whether accidently or purposely, is unknown.

The last information obtained respecting this castle is, that it belonged to the lord Ward, whose predecessor was created Viscount Dudley and Ward, of Dudley, by George April 21, 1763

The above text was taken verbatum from Dean Dudley's, "The Dudley Genealogies and Family Records", published in Boston in 1848 by White and Potter, printers.


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