Longtown Castle, Herefordshire
Longtown, 20 miles South West of Hereford
Off A465 & B4347
Longtown Castle is one of a series of motte and bailey castles erected in this area to defend the territory against the Welsh.
Until 1066 the area had primarily been in Welsh hands, although Edward the Confessor had granted large tracts of land in the area to his Norman allies, in the hope they would defeat the local Welsh lords and stabilise the area for the Saxons. In the end the experiment of colonising the area with Norman knights failed.
The Castle stands on the Welsh border at the base of the Black Mountains. During the early thirteenth century the timber defences were replaced with stone walls and towers. The circular keep, uncommon in England but relatively common in Wales, was two storey upon a motte some thirty five feet high. It was built on a sloping plinth and was strengthened by three semi-circular buttresses. The buttress that contained the spiral staircase has collapsed leaving a gash in the side of the towers fifteen feet thick walls.
Dividing the two baileys is a wall six feet thick and thirteen feet high. Originally it also had a dry ditch in front of it for added protection. A strong portcullis would have added even further protection to the inner bailey and keep. The position of the site on the edge of a ridge is very commanding, and would have been superb in terms of lookout and defence.
~ History ~
1055 - Gruffydd ap Llewleyn sacks Hereford and his Welsh army force the Norman's to flee. Harold Godwinson, Earl of Hereford, is returned from exile to help restore order in the region.
1140's - Hugh de Lacy builds himself a timber motte-and-bailey earthwork castle, establishing the town of Longtown on an enclosure of Roman origins. The sum of £37 is spent on both Longtown Castle and the nearby motte of Pont-hendre also belonging to de Lacy.
1189 - Hugh's son Walter inherits the Castle.
1216 - Walter de Lacy, Sheriff of Herefordshire, builds a stone keep upon the existing motte of the castle. During the following fifteen years he replaces the timber bailey walls in stone.
1233 - King Henry III visits the castle on his tour of the Welsh Marches and orders it to be garrisoned and provisioned for use in attacks on the Welsh. Other castles in the area such as Hay, Monmouth, St Briavels and Abergavenny along with Longtown, become strategically important between the wars between the royal house of Richard Marshal and Llewelyn.
1234 - John Fitz-Geoffrey aquires the castle following his marriage to the widow of Walter de Lacy's only son Gilbert.
1241 - The castle passes by marriage once more to Walter's daughter Margaret upon her marriage to John de Verdon.
1242 - A survey of the castle values it at £20.
1299 - A complaint by the Priory of Llanthony refers to cattle rustling by those leasing the castle.
1316 - John de Verdon's grandson dies in Longtown and so again through marriage the castle passes to new owners the de Berghersh family.
1317 - The Sheriff of Hereford is ordered to garrison the castle with thirty men.
1324 - Further complaints from local inhabitants concerning the plundering of goods, breaking into houses, fish poaching and cattle rustling by the inhabitants of the castle are made.
1328 - The castle is valued at £44 12s.
1369 - Bartholomew de Berghersh dies and so again the castle passes through marriage to the powerful Despencer family, and then to the Beauchamps and Nevilles. As each of these families live elsewhere the castle is left to decay over time.
1403 - Owain Glyndwr's Welsh rebellion see's the castle, along with twenty one other decayed castles, back into active service by orders of King Henry IV. The re-fortified and provisioned castle is aloud to once more decay following the end of the rebellion.