St Briavals Castle, Gloucestershire
St Briavals, South of Monmouth
St Briavel's Castle is a fabulous find hidden away in the beautiful Royal Forest of Dean. Today it is a YMCA hostel, but you can get access to have a look round if you ask nicely as we did.
The gatehouse is quite impressive and in good condition, as is the small enclosed courtyard.
There are strong connections with King John who used this as a favourite hunting lodge in the early 13th century. There is a room to his name you can have a look round.
A lovely little castle well worth the visit if you are exploring the area.
~ History ~
1067 ~ William the Conqueror grants the Forest of Dean to William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford.
1075 ~ William's son and heir rebels against the King and forfeits the Forest of Dean to the Crown.
1100's ~ A wooden castle with defensive earthworks is built for the bailiff of the Forest.
1120 ~ King Henry I's only legitimate son is drowned at sea.
This disaster means the King has to make provision for his daughter Matilda to succeed to the throne.
1135 ~ King Henry dies. A majority of the barons favour his nephew Stephen against Matilda.
1139 ~ Miles of Gloucester openly declares his support for Matilda.
St Briavels under his control is placed under a state of defence.
1141 ~ The baron's loyal to Matilda defeat Stephen's forces at the Battle of Lincoln. Stephen is captured. Miles is confirmed as in possession of St Briavels by the Queen and is also created Earl of Hereford for his loyalty.
1155 ~ Matilda's son King Henry II recovers St Briavels Castle from Mile's son Roger following a short confrontation.
1158 ~ King Henry II stays at the castle for hunting in the forest.
1164 ~ St Briavels hosts a further Royal hunting visit.
1195 ~ Repairs are made to the castle. The motte is levelled and a stone keep is built under the orders of King Henry II.
1202 ~ King John spends £5 on maintenance on the castle, visiting it for hunting three years later upon completion.
1207 ~ King John hosts the Welsh lord Gruffydd ap Cadwallon at the castle.
1209 ~ During King John's stay at the castle. The town is granted the right to hold a weekly market. Hugh Neville, chief forester of the Forest of Dean, spends £29 upon the building of a hall block and curtain wall replacing the timber palisade around the bailey.
1212 ~ King John stays at the castle and returns the following year for hunting in the forest.
1224 ~ Roger Clifford bailiff of the forest makes repairs at the castle.
1226 ~ King Henry III stays at the castle for hunting as his father had done before him.
1228 ~ John Malemont and his brother William the Smith and William the Fletcher are sent to the castle to produce crossbow bolts during King Henry's stay at the castle.
1237 ~ The castle is the now the centre of the production of crossbow bolts, to some 12,000 in a 120 day period. 20,000 are sent from St Briavels to the Constable at Dover Castle.
1234 ~ St Briavels is garrisoned against a revolt by Richard Marshall and Llwelyn the Great. The rebels defeat the King's men led by Richard of Monmouth, who is custodian of St Briavels.
1235 ~ Repairs are made on the castle along with the ditch cleared out and a new drawbridge built.
1255 ~ Repairs are made to the curtain wall and drawbridge.
1266 ~ The castle is granted by King Henry to his son prince Edward.
1277 ~ King Edward I orders 200,000 crossbow bolts to be sent from St Briavels for his campaign in North Wales against Llewelyn the Last.
1307 ~ John Handlo becomes custodian of St Briavels at the same time King Edeward II accends the throne. He spends £323 on repairs to the towers, drawbridge and domestic buildings.
1310 ~ John is ordered to send 100 archers and 12 miners from the Forest of Dean to assist in the siege of Berwick-upon-tweed.
1326 ~ St Briavels is handed over to King Edward II's wife Queen Isabella upon his removal from the throne.
1330 ~ Queen Isabella's lover Roger Mortimer is executed by her son King Edward III in revenge for his father's murder ordered by Mortimer. The castle is taken back under control of the Crown.
1390 ~ King Richard II grants the castle and Forest of Dean to his uncle Thomas, Duke of Gloucester.
1397 ~ Thomas is arrested in Calais which results in the castle returning to the Crown.
1467 ~ Richard Neville "Warwick Kingmaker" is constable of the castle. Following his death fighting for the Lancastrian cause, the Yorkist King Edward IV consort Elizabeth Woodville is given the honor of constable of St Briavels. Further repairs are made.
The castle's primary role becomes courts for the adminstration of the Forest of Dean.
1580 ~ The reduced role of the castle and neglect of repairs see's the castle reported as half demolished.
1692 ~ A further report on the castle states "the greatest part of the castle is ruined and fallen down".