9. The Stables
The Stables were built by John Dudley, Robert’s father, who briefly held the castle in 1553. Both were Master of the Horse, a prestigious appointment responsible for organising the Queen’s public appearances. The decorative bracing of its upper storey timber frame represents the ragged staff of the bear and ragged staff crest of the Beauchamp earls of Warwick. The repeated use and reference to this crest was a claim to the Beauchamp-Neville noble ancestry.
Just outside of the stables is a brick-lined well (or more likely, considering its internal dimensions, a cistern), although it may have been of much later construction when the outer court was used as a farmyard. The exact nature of this important feature cannot be determined because it is currently hidden under a manhole cover. The maintenance of up to 50 horses in the stables would have required a constant supply of water from somewhere.
The Chirk Survey of 1563 describes stalls for 30 great horses and 20 geldings. Although the stables was one of the most impressive of its day, it is barely large enough to accommodate so many horses, even with two per stall along both sides of the stable. Each horse is tied facing the centre to avoid being disturbed by activity directly behind, but also to avoid its feet being permanently in the drains, which run both sides the length of the building.
Robert Dudley would have completed the boarding for the first floor, to store supplies of hay and straw, and possibly also to accommodate the stable staff.