History of Wilton Castle

Set Close to the River Wye in Wilton village near Ross on Wye, Wilton Castle itself dates back to the 12th century, whilst the adjoining manor house was built in the 15th century and was altered throughout the Norman, Tudor, Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian periods. The purpose of the castle was to safeguard the river crossing on the Welsh border in order to stop the thieving Welsh from plundering farms!
The first owners were the de Longchamp family, but after a relatively short time spanning three generations it passed to the de Greys, who used it to house a garrison of soldiers for some 300 years. It was the de Greys who built the original manor house using stone from the deteriorating castle walls, but by the end of the 16th century they were broke and were forced to sell to marriage related Charles Brydges.
Unfortunately, when the Civil War broke out, Sir John Brydges seriously annoyed the Royalists by refusing to take sides, and the house was torched. The castle and ruins of the manor house were left to their fate until 1731 when Guys Hospital bought Wilton Castle and built a new manor house on the site of the old one; they then rented it out to tenant farmers until 1961 when it was purchased privately. Since then it has changed hands again, been completely restored with the help of English Heritage, and is now used for functions and weddings, however the owners are now looking for new owners to take care of the estate.

Early 19th Century Furnishings of a small Manor House

One tenant in the early 19th century was Guy Hill who was described as urbane with a general good conduct through life which endeared him to all – he died in 1825
Guy Hill’s widow stayed on at the Castle until her death in 1860, whereupon the contents of the house were put up for auction by the Executors of her Will.
A fascinating insight into how the interior was furnished:

In the dining room and sitting rooms –

dining, Pembroke, work and reading tables in mahogany; sideboard fitted with cellaret, drawers and cupboards; invalid and easy chairs in various designs, hair stuffed and cane seated chairs; sofa beds and couches; book cases in mahogany, admirably fitted with all modern appliances, pier glasses, carpets and rugs.

In the drawing room –

massive and very handsome centre sofa; occasional tables, superb what nots; sofa; easy chair; set of chairs forming a suite in rosewood, nearly new and has sustained no injury from wear, also cheffioneer; splendid chimney glass, mirrors, vases, flower stands, fender and fire irons, carpets and rugs.

Bedrooms –

are appointed with down and goose feather beds; eider down quilts, blankets, coverlids and general bed linen; mahogany wash stands and ware; dressing tables and glasses; wardrobes; commodes; towel rails and every chamber convenience.
Choice oil paintings; water colour drawings and prints; library of standard works; plate, richly chased; plated articles and rare old china; cut glass; stuffed animals and birds; collection of curiosities of the most recherché kind.
Elegant bedroom apointments; requirements of kitchens, Brewhouse and cellar; conservatory plants; wire stands, garden tools.
A pair of grey horses of fine shape – good matchers and perfectly steady; two fashionable carriages; poles, lamps and travelling boxes.

Captain Lewis Paxton Walsh

In the latter part of the 19th century, Captain Lewis Walsh was in residence.  He was born on 10th July 1835 and married his wife in 1865 in Ross on Wye.

He was a keen dog breeder, and when things were not to his liking he was quick to voice his displeasure in the papers.

In November 1877 he wrote crossly to the “Man of Ross” paper, complaining about the fact that whilst dogs were being judged some exhibitors remained in the hall.  He declared the system to be a bad one which shook the confidence of exhibitors generally.   From this it is clear that at this time dogs were not “shown” by owners, but were left on their own to be judged – probably much as poultry and cavies are these days.

On another occasion during the same year, Captain Walsh wrote again to the Man of Ross accusing the Great Western Railway company of gross negligence when one of his prize terriers was being transported from Cheltenham to Ross after a show – he himself was a shareholder of the Railway company.

The little black and tan dog had been put in a box with Walsh’s name and address on the side and instructions to be delivered immediately.  Apparently two omnibuses met the train, but no attempt was made to deliver the dog to Wilton Castle just one mile from the station, and the poor thing was shunted to a sideline until late at night.    The little dog had been taken ill on leaving Cheltenham Show, and Walsh claimed that through the neglect of the Railway Company it died because by the time it was delivered it was too late to see a vet.

Apart from dogs,  Captain Walsh also bred poultry, and had great success at shows around the country.

Captain Walsh died in 1917

1851 – Wilton Castle Household

Catherine Hill 77 Widow, gentlewoman b. Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
Mary George 46 Housekeeper b. Canterbury, Kent
Sophia Dawson 31 Lady’s Maid b. Shropshire
Elizabeth Morris 26 Cook b. Herefordshire
John George 41 Coachman b. Kings Caple, Herefordshire

1891 – Wilton Castle Household

Lewis P. Walsh 55 Captain Royal Artillery b. Datchet, Buckinghamshire
Lydia Walsh 48 Wife b. Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
Ellen Buckland 45 Cook b. Windsor, Berkshire
Frances A. Probert 31 Parlour Maid b. Upton Bishop, Herefordshire

1901 – Wilton Castle Household

Lewis P. Walsh 65 Captain Royal Artillery, retired b. Datchet, Buckinghamshire
Lydia Walsh 57 Wife b. Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
Ellen Buckland 59 Cook b. Windsor, Berkshire
Annie Thomas 23 Parlour Maid b. Stretton, Herefordshire
Fanny Thomas 15 Housemaid b. Bridstow, Herefordshire

1911 – Wilton Castle Household

Lewis Paxton Walsh 75 Captain Royal Artillery, retired b. Datchet, Buckinghamshire
Lydia Walsh 69 Wife b. Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
Ellen Buckland 69 Cook b. Windsor, Berkshire
Lizzie Bryan 21 Parlour Maid b. Hoarwithy, Herefordshire