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Castles, drones and drawing

Survey and interpretation at Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Earlier this year we were commissioned by the architect to the Powis Estates to survey the Pendover Tower and Tudor Lodgings at Ludlow Castle. The aim of the project was to provide a set of accurate, photorealistic elevations and drawn elevations to the architects to plan a programme of conservation works. It was also to produce a written and drawn interpretation of this part of the castle to support a Scheduled Monument Consent application made to Historic England, and was funded through the Historic England Covid 19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Fund.

Over three days of survey on site, a control grid was set out using survey grade RTK-GPS and Total Station to enable the production of a dimensionally accurate 3D model. This control set a solid foundation for the capture of some 4,000 photos using a drone. Over 23 flights, the monument was photographed from all angles and heights to ensure a robust and high-resolution photogrammetric model could be produced, from which to understand the monument, and to draw accurate elevation and section drawings. All this work produced a dense point cloud of 241 million points, 49 million faces, and a resolution of 0.046cm per pixel making it clear enough to see the finest of detail within the masonry and mortar. With an RMS error of 0.14cm, it was pretty accurate too!

The results of this work showed the Pendover Tower and Tudor Lodgings to be a fine example of the complex development castles underwent during their transition from fortress to grand residence. In the tower and lodgings, the programme of investigation identified four main periods of work from the 11th, 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Each of these phases adopted the architectural styles and forms of their time, and this has left a rich and complex record in the surviving fabric of the monument.


The earliest development of this area of the castle comes between the years 1075 and 1115, not long after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. It was built by the de Lacy family after they received lands in Shropshire in payment for their support in the conquest. The castle they built consisted of a gatehouse, curtain wall and mural towers, and was one of the earliest stone castles in England. In the early-14th century, Roger Mortimer undertook a campaign of improvements at Ludlow, and built the first accommodation block in this area of the castle, integrating it with the Pendover Tower, to which he then added an extra storey. It consisted of a first-floor hall over a series of small private rooms at ground floor, providing accommodation for a steward or other important member of the household. The 15th century works to this area of the castle, undertaken by Richard and Edward Plantagenet, both future Kings of England, largely replace Mortimer’s work and created a three-storey range of smaller apartments, all heated by fireplaces in the new spine wall. This provided accommodation for stewards and administrators associated with the running of his Shropshire lands. The tower and curtain walls were also raised by a further storey, reaching the height seen today. The 16th century saw the final alterations to the tower and lodgings, heavily remodelling those built in the previous century. At first, the Bishop Rowland Lee makes repairs to the building, before Sir Henry Sidney undertakes a large programme of refurbishment. Sidney adds an attic floor, rearranges the internal plan to create smaller rooms and builds a vice (stair tower) to provide access. Heating for these rooms was then provided to through the insertion of new fireplaces to the spine wall, which were serviced by the fine brick chimney stacks seen surviving today. This work expanded the accommodation for members of the household associated with administering the areas from the Marches and into Wales. By the 17th century, the castle had begun its decline and would never recover its former grandeur, eventually becoming the ruins seen today.

The report is available to view here:

AD093 - Report - Pendover Tower, Ludlow Castle
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