A manor house is a country house that historically formed the administrative centre of a manor, the lowest unit of territorial organisation in the feudal system in Europe. The term is applied to country houses that belonged to the gentry and other grand stately homes. There were manor houses in most European countries, where they were sometimes referred to as castles, palaces, and so on.
"Manor house" is also a technical term in the UK for a minor late-medieval English country house. They were often fortified but this was intended more for show than for defense.
Stokesay Castle is a fortified manor house in Stokesay, Shropshire, England. It was built in the late 13th century by Laurence of Ludlow, then the leading wool merchant in England, who intended it to form a secure private house and generate income as a commercial estate. Laurence's descendants continued to own the castle until the 16th century, when it passed through various private owners. By the time of the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1641, Stokesay was owned by William Craven, the first Earl of Craven and a supporter of King Charles I. After the Royalist war effort collapsed in 1645, Parliamentary forces besieged the castle in June and quickly forced its garrison to surrender. Parliament ordered the property to be slighted, but only minor damage was done to the walls, allowing Stokesay to continue to be used as a house by the Baldwyn family until the end of the 17th century.
In the 18th century the Baldwyns rented the castle out for a range of agricultural and manufacturing purposes. It fell into disrepair, and the antiquarian John Britton noted during his visit in 1813 that it had been "abandoned to neglect, and rapidly advancing to ruin". Restoration work was carried out in the 1830s and 1850s by William Craven, the second Earl of Craven. In 1869 the Craven estate, now heavily in debt, was sold to the wealthy industrialist John Derby Allcroft who paid for another round of extensive restoration during the 1870s. Both of these owners attempted to limit any alterations to the existing buildings during their conservation work, which was unusual for this period. The castle became a popular location for tourists and artists, and was formally opened to paying visitors in 1908.