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Dudley Castle cannonOld Dudley mastheadDudley Castle cannon

Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle KeepDudley Castle was beckoning to us through its entrance gates by the Earl of Dudley's statue, and here we see a view of the Keep. It was never posted, but the shrubbery suggests it is slightly later than a similar card posted in December 1907. Even so, the timelessness of the view means that both cards could be much older.

Apart from the outer wall and entrance gate, the donjon was the only fortified building. Prisoners were often housed in the basement of such buildings, so the word donjon mutated into dungeon. Keep, a more modern word, then described the whole building, as we see here.

One reason why it was not as powerful a castle as some was down to its owners making bad choices at critical moments in history. One was early on, when the castle was mainly built of wood, but a more disastrous one was when the castle was held by Royalist troops in the civil war. When the King lost the war, the Parliamentarians held a reckoning on who had fought on which side - and what they deserved if they were wrong. The family escaped personal retribution, but the castle was "sleighted" (meaning defortified, or in the modern idiom, trashed), with the walls broken down and the triple-gate wrecked. The residential parts were left intact, however, and survived another 100 years.

The card showing a man and a young lady by the cannon emplacement is from the Dainty series. The card has a fake embossed monochrome photo image with a painted blue sky (giving a spikey look to the bushes around them. The clothing appears pre World War 1, but the exact period isn't clear, and the card was never posted. The second card was posted on 17th August 1915, and shows the triple gateway; each of the gates had once been fitted with a portcullis, but Cromwell's men dealt with that. The card is hand-coloured, and done rather nicely.

Dudley Castle battlements The triple-gate

castle interior buildingsInside, the castle courtyard buildings are but shells as a result of the disastrous 1750 fire (for details, see our brief history of the castle). Substantial walls remain, but roofs and interior timbering are all gone. At left are buildings by the postern (north) gate, then the main residential area, the kitchen block, the hall, the great chamber and the chapel.

This painted photo card also shows the publisher's eye for special occasions - the same card was usually published without the Christmas message. The card wasn't posted, but it was printed in Bavaria, so this suggests production before the Great War (1914-8).
Castle feteA view of the fete in full swing in the castle courtyard, sometime before the card was posted on 5 June 1905. On the left you can see the billowing dome of a partly-inflated hot air balloon, which used to be one of the regular attractions. (A balloon briefly returned as a regular feature circa 2000-1 but the weather during that period was particularly dismal and eventually it was taken away.) Money raised by the fetes went to local charities, Guest's Hospital, the Mechanics Institute, the Art School and the Public Library.

The castle wasn't just a collection of buildings. The land also embraced coal workings, woods, and areas used for agricultural purposes. Latterly, a canal ran under it, serving the mining galleries under the hill the castle sat on. Below are three postcards that looked beyond the castle itself. The card showing the canal tunnel is probably illustrating the junction close to the present Black Country Museum, and visited by trippers every week on short trips from the museum. Lovers Walk was probably more idyllic than the woods by the castle are today, which is a shame, for they were clearly once quite beautiful - even if this painted photograph has a trace of exaggeration. The canal card was posted on 11th February 1907. The pictures of the walk and the Keepers Cottage were never sent.

Keepers Cottage in the snow
The cottage card may have been a genuine photo, though the original looks as though the artist has had a hand - but it makes an evocative winter scene nevertheless.
Canal tunnel in the Castle grounds
Lovers Walk

[We also have a page giving a more formal history of the castle]

Text: Harry Drummond

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Postcards from David Clare's collection.

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