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Ludlow, Shropshire: Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern and St. Laurence’s Church

On February 7, 2007

After a morning spent elsewhere (actually, Wroxeter but more on that another day), we returned to Ludlow in search of sausages and with an eye to visiting Ludlow Castle.

Ludlow, like most of England, is full of alluring pubs, unfortunately two that we had put on our list the previous evening had already finished serving lunch –

The Two Crowns                                                       The Church Inn
obviously a picture from the might before

But as is often the case, and was certainly so this particular afternoon, good things happen when your original plans don’t pan out.  Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern hadn’t been on our list at all but we ended up there because it was the only place still serving food at almost three in the p.m.

Ye Olde Bull Ring Tavern

As with most pubs this one has an old and storied history; its windows are said to date from the 14th century.  The things I can tell you for sure are that it had sausages – I can’t personally attest to their flavor but I’m told they lived up to their reputation – vegetable lasagna – I can say that this dish was delicious – and cider.  An agreeable hour at least was lost here although found might be a more apt way to describe the time spent over our meal.

We never made it to the next place on our list either although just from the outside which we skirted several times I am sure Ludlow Castle is worth another visit to the town.  Instead we found ourselves at St. Laurence’s Church.  St. Laurence’s had not even been on our radar.  We literally stumbled across it when looking for a place to eat lunch and decided to take it in before heading to the Castle.  Being a church rather than a cathedral, St. Laurence’s doesn’t have the stunning interiors that a place like Wells Cathedral possesses; yet it has a drama and a beauty all its own.  We spend most of an hour investigating the magnificent windows and carvings and the miserichords.

St. Laurence’s Church as seen from the ground –
A. E. Housman is buried in the churchyard.

I had no idea what a miserichord was before visiting the UK.  They are carvings hidden under the push down seating in the choir stalls.  They are kind of like mini medieval Enquirer magazines.  Miserichords are quite often ribald in a very Chaucerian way with people gleefully indulging in certainly less than churchlike behavior.   Like gargoyles, miserichords are some of the most entertaining things to spot when travelling throughout the country.  Of course, none of my pictures of them came out but I’ll try again next year.

As with many visits to historical places largely run by older people, our visit to St. Laurence’s was greatly enhanced by a lady who was there preparing the church for Sunday.  Noticing how much we were enjoying ourselves she took time to point out the carved dogs in eternal sleep at the feet of their master and mistress who were buried in the church.  Almost at the point of leaving we decided to climb the church tower steps to see the much heralded view from the roof.  A very pleasant older gentleman led us to the entrance and cautioned us that the church closed at five.

The church tower is almost 135 feet tall, was built in the 15th century and houses eight bells weighing almost five tons.  What they don’t tell you before the tower door closes loudly behind you is that the winding, interminably tall stairway to the top is only about eighteen inches wide, dark and steep.  Thankfully it does have the modern convenience of a knotted rope to hang onto when the going really gets tough.  This is not meant to be a complaint because climbing that tower remains one of our trip’s fondest memories even considering the dead mice we discovered about half way up our climb.  Tower climbs like this and the uneven roofs to which they lead would most certainly be closed down in the United States but at what cost?

Atop the roof of St. Laurence’s Church –
no the rooftop is not dated for freshness

View of Ludlow from the St. Laurence Bell Tower

I would have climbed another 135 feet and battled living mice to have seen the view from the church roof.  Although I will admit we were somewhat taken aback when we returned to the bottom of the stairs and thought we might be locked in the tower for the night.  After a couple of minutes we discovered we weren’t locked in just lock challenged.  Moments later we were out in the dark, cold, cold Ludlow night looking for our car, knowing we had missed the Castle this year but satisfied that on this evening the view from St. Laurence’s Bell Tower was a fair trade.

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