Clifford Castle

Clifford Castle, Herefordshire

Clifford Castle (2)
Clifford Castle (3)
Clifford (3)
Clifford (2)
Clifford (1)
Clifford Castle (4)

~ History ~

1066 ~ William FitzOsbern Lord of Breteuil, in Normandy, relative and close counsellor of William the Conqueror, fights for his liege at the Battle of Hastings.

1067 ~ As Duke William takes control of England as William the Conqueror, FitzOsbern is given charge of the Isle of Wight and created Earl of Hereford as well as Earl of Gloucester, Earl of Worcester and Earl of Oxfordshire.

This western part of England is not yet fully under Norman control, the understanding that FitzOsbern is to take charge of the conquest of these regions in the Kings absence.

1068 ~ King William and FitzOsbern complete the subjugation of south-west England.

1069 ~ A major Anglo-Saxon rebellion in the West Midlands is crushed by FitzOsbern. He turns his attentions to expanding into Wales and the conquest of the Welsh Kingdom of Gwent.

1070 ~ trouble arose in Flanders, where King William's brother-in-law Count Baldwin VI of Flanders has died, leaving his county and his young sons in the hands of his widow Richilde, Countess of Mons and Hainaut. Her control of Flanders is under attack so she offers herself in marriage to FitzOsbern. He is unable to resist the chance to become also Count of this rich Principality, close to Normandy and hurries there with his army, where he is defeated by the Count of Flanders, and killed in the Battle of Cassel on 22 February 1071.

1071 ~ After Earl William's death, his son, Earl Roger, holds the castle for four years.

1075 ~ Earl Roger rebels and he is imprisoned. the castle passes to his father's brother-in-law, Ralph Tosny and he and his descendants hold the castle until the wars of Stephen and Matilda between 1138 and 1154.

During the years of Tosny lordship the castle is transformed into a strong stone castle.

With the wars of Stephen and Matilda the Tosny's hold on Clifford castle weakened, eventually losing the castle to his steward, Walter Clifford who had married his sister.

During the reign of King Henry II, Walter Clifford cleverly introduces his daughter, renowned as the Fair Rosamund for her beauty, to Henry. Soon the two become lovers and Walter's powerful daughter ensured that he never lost control of Clifford to its rightful owners.

1233 ~ Walter Clifford’s grandson, another Walter Clifford, rebels against King Henry III rather than return the castle to the Tosnys. This leads to the castle’s only known siege by Henry III. After just a few days the castle surrenders to the king under the threat of death. Walter himself had retreated into Wales and attempts to persuade his father-in-law, Prince Llywelyn Fawr, to join him in rebellion. On failing to achieve this aim Walter meets the king at Shrewsbury and makes his peace.

Within a month Walter is back in the Welsh Marches leading a royal army against Prince Llywelyn Welsh rebellion.

1253 ~ King Henry III serveds a writ on the now ancient Walter Clifford to pay off his considerable debts that he owes to the Jews. In a fit of rage he makes the royal messenger eat the writ, seal and all. Once more the King marches to Clifford, but this time a surrender without a fight. Walter loses all his hard won gains of independence. Walter died, having regained the king’s favour in 1263.

1263 ~ John Giffard, 1st Baron Giffard of Brimsfield, supports Simon de Montfort's rebellion against the Crown.

1264 ~ Giffard controls Kenilworth Castle, and successfully attacks Warwick Castle. His is captured at the Battle of Lewes and changed sides.

1265 ~ Giffard fights for King Henry III and the young Prince Edward at the Battle of Evesham where Simon de Montfort is finally defeated. He becomes a staunch king's man, for Henry III and Edward I.

1282 ~ Giffard fights at the decisive Battle of Orewin Bridge. Edward grants him Welsh castles, including Carreg Cennen.

He abducts Matilda Clifford, daughter of Sir Walter de Clifford and therefore, through marriage legally obtains Clifford castle of Clifford.

Their daughter marries the powerful Earl Henry de Lacy. Their son John is executed by Edward II as a rebel, and his castle at Brimpsfield is destroyed.

1311 ~ Upon Henry de Lacy's death the castle passes to the Mortimers of Wigmore Castle.

1381 ~ The Mortimers entertain King Richard II and John of Gaunt at Clifford castle.

1403 ~ During the Welsh rebellion Clifford castle is garrisoned for the King. However, Sir Edmund Mortimer is Owain Glyndwr's prisoner at Harlech castle and so is forced to change sides against the King.

1404 ~ The King grants the castle to Sir Robert Whitney is gratitude for his services as sheriff of Herefordshire. The castle is little used and falls into decay.


4 miles north east of Hay-on-Wye





Clifford Castle stands on an eastward flowing section of the River Wye near to the current boundary between England and Wales.

The castle was founded by Earl William Fitz Osbern in the period between his being made earl of Hereford soon after Christmas 1066 and his death at the battle of Cassel in Flanders on 22 February 1071.

In that time it is likely that his engineers found the natural knoll lying alongside the steep drop to the River Wye near a ford. This gave the site its later name, the cliff by the ford or Clifford. The land of Clifford was at that time waste, but under the earls of Hereford and their successors this waste was brought to blossom with castle, borough and church.

The castle lies on private land in the owners garden, but with consideration you can take photo's from the road as we did.