What to do with Castle Lodge? Standing on the corner of Dinham and Mill Street, the building has had a mixed history. Most recently it was museum of curiosities though much of what visitors saw having been brought in from antique sales and other buildings. Castle Lodge now needs a lot of work to bring it up to modern standards and meet fire regulations. That work will begin once planning permission is obtained to convert the building into a boutique hotel. I welcome this upmarket development. Bats in the attic. Ghosts in the bedroom. Jeeves to look after your car. Who could ask for more?
The Grade II* Castle Lodge on the corner of Mill Street and Dinham. Historical records suggest there had been tenement buildings on the site since at least 1270. The origins of the current building, which replaced the tenements, are likely to lie in the 14th to 15th century. It has late 16th and early 17th century additions. Castle Lodge has a colourful history as the home of Catherine of Aragon and a resident ghost. No doubt Ben Tagg, the new owner, will make play of these historical nuggets when he markets his 10-bedroom hotel. He hopes to open later in the year. That strikes me as a bit optimistic for converting an historic building. Buf Ben and his team can hit that deadline, all the better.
There are two parts to the application for planning permission which was submitted just before Christmas. The main application covers the change of use to a hotel and modifications to the building (19/05368/FUL). An accompanying application requests listed building consent for works that affect the historic fabric (19/05369/LBC).
“The concept is to create a commercial business that runs in harmony with the existing local businesses to increase tourism and adds to the local dynamic by using and promoting local produce and products while creating additional employment on a small scale.”
It is not the first time that there have been plans to turn Castle Lodge into a hotel. Thirty years ago, permission was given for hotel use but it was never implemented and expired. The same happened in 2002. An application for change of use to a hotel in 2007 was withdrawn.
In many ways, it is only possible to understand this application having been around the building. I was fortunate to have joined a tour provided for Ludlow Town Council and Ludlow Conservation Area Advisory Committee. That made clear just how much of the building – wall panels, ceilings, fireplaces – had been brought from other historic buildings or bought from antique dealers. It was also apparent that some of the interior was in a poor state and had no hope of meeting modern fire regulations.
To take just one example. At some point, the upper floor had been insulated with grain below the floorboards. That is to be replaced with sheep wool insultation to reduce noise transmission to the floor below and boost fire protection. This provides an interesting opportunity. Grains and other seeds can sometimes be viable over hundreds of years, even millennia. I hope a paleoethnobotanist will get a chance to study the seeds and test if any are still viable. This historic heat insulation could include old strains that could prove valuable in our constant fight against disease and monoculture.
The ground floor will have a kitchen, bar and dining rooms, as well as toilets. It will be accessible to disabled people. The other two floors, including the bedrooms, will not be disability accessible. There will be ten bedrooms in all. These are going to be quirky. The sort of bedroom you get if you rent a Landmark Trust property. And of course, they will be visited by the resident ghost. Allegedly.
The original plans were to use the attic for extra bedrooms. But droppings from Brown Long Eared Bats have been found. It is not known if the bats still use the attic. If they do so, they cannot be disturbed. There might be Pipistrelle bats also. Bat surveys will be conducted in May and June and the plans revised accordingly.
There is no parking available. Instead, a meet and greet chauffeuring service will be provided. Cars will be parked securely outside the town centre.
I welcome this scheme. It provides more accommodation in our town centre. It’s upmarket. Like the Feathers. It’s bound to be pricey. We need a range of accommodation. We need people to come to the town to spend money. People who stop in our town’s guest accommodation often eat in on the first night and then go eat around the town. Castle Lodge has bats in the attic. Ghosts in the bedroom. Jeeves to look after your car. Who could ask for more?