The castle is named after the nearby town – no reference to Sedgley or Woodsetton! However, the maps of Christopher Saxton drawn in 1579 and John Speed, 1610, mark Dudley Castle in the County of Staffordshire not Worcestershire thereby linking it to the Manor. This helps to establish a local claim to one of the oldest buildings in the Black Country.
The significance of the castle comes from its development and construction. Set on a limestone ridge, with an ample supply of water, the site was an obvious choice as a save haven for the Saxon community led by Dud, [name variations include Duddah, Dodo and Dudda], around 700AD. By the 1200s walls and dwellings made from stone had replaced simple wooden structures of 1071 – the motte, [wooden tower on earthen mound], and bailey layout was taking on a more solid shape. The keep was added around 1300 and by the middle of the C16th there had been much rebuilding of the fortifications with local limestone and sandstones - some work even showed Italian influences.
The castle lacks events of major national importance – a passing visit by the forty two years old Queen Elizabeth in 1575 during one of her 'royal progresses', rejection as a possible place of imprisonment for Mary Queen of Scots in 1585, two minor English Civil War sieges in 1644 & 1646 and the Great Fire of July 1750 that destroyed the main living quarters hardly rate a mention in the history books.
In the Victorian age it was treated as a ‘romantic ruin’ with many prints selling an image of relaxation against a stylised castle background. The Earls of Dudley allowed public access and the grounds were used for parades, fairs, balloon ascents etc.
The last reincarnation was in 1937 as the centrepiece of the new Zoological Gardens. In this setting the castle reached an international audience. Currently  there are plans to redevelop the hill and market the castle and zoo as separate tourist attractions. The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and some of the zoo buildings are Grade II listed.
In 1985 the castle hit the headlines with the discovery of the world's oldest surviving condoms found at the bottom of a medieval toilet. They were thought to have been made from the intestines of sheep or pigs and dated at around 1640.
Further information on the history of Dudley Castle can be found on
the Friends of Dudley
Mall, and Sedgley
Manor websites, and while the BBC have a panoramic
view of the current ruins, the dedicated web surfer can also take a
of a reconstruction of the Castle. For those of a more classical nature
the most internationally famous representation of Dudley can be found
on the Revolutionary
Castle views -
1. Detail of 1686 print of the ‘east south east prospect’, the earliest known print of the castle. Source – a page from Dr Robert Plot’s book, ‘The Natural History of Staffordshire'.
2. Detail of 1731 print of the ‘south view’, a popular illustration. Source – an original print by Samuel & Nathaniel Buck.
3. August 1841 print of the north side of the Keep. Source – page from William Harris’s book, ‘Rambles about Dudley Castle’.
4. Detail of 1920s photograph of the north side of the Keep. Source - John Price & Sons postcard.
5. July 2003 photograph of the south side of the Keep taken from the town's bus station.