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Regal role: What it's like to be the general manager of Ludlow Castle

Every day at work Gemma England is surrounded by the majestic surroundings of Ludlow Castle.

Gemma England is the general manager at Ludlow Castle
Gemma England is the general manager at Ludlow Castle

She took up the reins as general manager at the landmark known for its medieval ruins and rich history at the start of this year.

"Having grown up locally and living in Ludlow for many years, I now feel hugely privileged to work at such an important landmark," says Gemma.

Ludlow Castle was firstly a Norman fortress and later extended over the centuries to become a fortified royal palace.

It passed through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.

Ludlow Castle

In 1461, it became Crown property and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties.

Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into ruin, described as "the very perfection of decay" by Daniel Defoe.

Today, the historical monument welcomes tens of thousands of visitors every year, hosts overnight guests and weddings and is the setting for a wide range of events.

Gemma previously looked after weddings and events at the castle and now, in her new role, works alongside deputy manager Julia Hall, who has been part of the team for more than five years.

"I work very closely with Julia, our groundsman, Nigel Jones, and our small team of staff that operate the ticket office and gift shop.

Her wide-ranging role covers everything from liaising Nigel about work needed around the site, to looking after guests in the self-catering apartments.

Gemma with groundsman Nigel Jones preparing for a wedding

"I enjoy the sense of teamwork and pride that everyone takes in working here and the huge scope and variety my role brings me.

"We are a visitor attraction, a wedding venue, self-catering accommodation, gift shop and home to a café and gallery – so obviously I have to wear a lot of hats," says Gemma.

There is no such thing as a typical day as general manager of the castle, which is now privately owned and maintained by the Earl of Powis.

"Monday mornings start with catching up with Nigel, our groundsman and going over anything that’s urgent for the week and doing out a routine test of the fire alarm system," says Gemma.

"On changeover day for the self-catering apartments she will bid farewell to guests and then liaise with the housekeeping team to ensure the apartments are prepared to the castle's high standards ready for the next guests to arrive

In the afternoons, she can often be found in the office replying to emails, confirming bookings for weddings and the apartments and looking at marketing options.

Gemma will also liaise with deputy manager Julia throughout the day to make sure the castle is running smoothly and everything is how it should be for visitors.

"No two days are the same and it keeps me on my toes," she adds.

Gemma also gets involved in planning the events that take place at the castle which this year have included children's activities during the summer holiday based around the Heraldic roll, a preserved record of coats of arms.

Gemma in the gift shop with Deran Holmes, Noriko Horiuchi and Paige Bicker-Caarten

"We had a trail based around the heraldic roll and the children followed clues to create a shield. There was also a craft activity. It was enjoyed by lots of children," she says.

Preparation is also under way for Ludlow Castle's Festival of Light, which will see buildings transformed with Christmas-themed moving images, lights and sounds.

There will be a circular route, with interactive stops along the way, which will bring visits to Castle House Gardens where they can stop off at the Artisan Makers Market in the Beacon Rooms before finishing back in the outer bailey for drinks and food.

Tickets go on sale at a reduced, early bird price for Ludlow residents on Saturday, October 1, before going on general sale on Monday, October 10. Walk-in tickets on the night will be subject to availability.

Father Christmas is also taking time out of his busy schedule to visit Mortimers Tower where he will have a gift for all the children.

"I'm really excited about our Christmas events this year, it's always a special time," says Gemma.

Her favourite spot at the castle is the Round Chapel which boasts nearly 1,000 years of history. "It's such a magical setting for weddings and the Round Chapel is unique, there is no other wedding venue like it," Gemma says.

She describes being surrounded by the picturesque castle ruins every day at work as "amazing".

"We are so lucky that the castle is usually bustling with visitors, and we don’t often get a quiet moment, but I get so much enjoyment from looking out from the office window and watching everyone enjoying themselves and exploring the castle.

"I do however love the end of a busy day, when the gates are closed and the town drops quiet, especially in the early evening summer sunshine. There is something magical about the castle at this time. "

For more information and to book tickets for the Festival of Light and Father Christmas experience, visit ludlowcastle.com

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