Resilience in the true sense of the word

  • August 14, 2013
  • David Middleton

For an example of resilience, it would be hard to surpass a 900-year old building complex that still performs a useful function today. While visiting England recently, my wife Helen and I stopped off at Stokesay Castle. It was built in Norman times as a small fortification in the badlands on the border with Wales, in what is now Shropshire.

As the long Anglo-Welsh wars ended, Stokesay was converted to the show-home of an upwardly mobile local wool merchant, complete with defences against the occasional marauders from the west. Over the centuries, various mod-cons have been added to suit the needs of wealthy owners and tenants, including fine panelling and the latest word in toilet facilities.

Residential priorities slowly predominated over military and in the mid-17 gatehouse was added to the property, timber framed with charming carvings of Adam and Eve.

Turbulent times returned and, during the Civil War, it was felt prudent to add the protection of a surrounding wall. Resilience is not just about blindly resisting damaging events, but thinking through how best to deal with them and, when Cromwell’s forces besieged Stokesay, it was decided that the best response was a swift surrender.

So the house remained undamaged and sensitive conservation by Victorian owners and English Heritage has left Stokesay the medieval jewel that survives today. It can be enjoyed by modern visitors and caters to them with a small café that serves what some claim is the best Victoria sponge in England.