A hidden piece of Birmingham’s medieval past
This month my travels take me four miles west of Birmingham to Northfield, where lies the ruins of Weoley Castle. The ruins are one of the oldest buildings still visible in Birmingham and one of ten Scheduled Monuments in Birmingham, giving it the same heritage status at Stonehenge.
The ruins of Weoley Castle are over 750 years old and are the remains of a fortified manor house built as a hunting lodge by the Lords of Dudley.
This very atmospheric hidden gem is tucked away in the middle of an urban housing estate which once stood within a thousand acres of deer park. Although often referred to as a castle, the ruins are the remains of a medieval manor house that was once surrounded by a moat. It also had a curtain wall, towers, battlements, arrow slits as well as an imposing gatehouse and impressive great hall, however, it did not have a keep or the defensive position required by a castle due to its location in a valley. There were also private rooms for the lords and ladies of the manor and a kitchen with a large fireplace for cooking. The family had their own chapel and stable range with lodging rooms above, and there was a large brewhouse for beer production.
What you see today dates mostly from the 1270’s, when the Lords of Dudley were given permission by the King to build and fortify their castle in stone.
Managed by the Birmingham Museums Trust, the castle facilitates an education and visitor centre for school classes, local groups, youth clubs and history enthusiasts and at present the site is only opened to the public on selected days or for special community events, with guided tours hosted by local volunteers.
The ruins themselves were once the estate of William Fitz Ansculf. Weoley then changed hands several times between the centuries and fell into disrepair – stone from the castle was removed to build a nearby farm and the Dudley no.2 canal.
If you were to be intrigued by this hidden gem that I have recently discovered then it’s quite hard to find. You wouldn’t expect a historical monument to be in the middle of a housing estate. I found it entirely by accident whilst I was walking along the Alwold Road in search of a castle, as the name suggests. As it happens, there isn’t a castle. But there is a series of small 750-year-old walls which are pretty impressive in terms of longevity. You can’t walk amongst the ruins unless there’s an open day, or an event going on but there is a viewing platform.
The site is certainly most interesting when you know what you’re looking at so take a tour and let one of the volunteers bring the site to life for you! Take a look on the website for details of events.
Photography by Gail Braznell © Reflected Images www.reflectedimages.co.uk
Weoley Castle Ruins