Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire
Wigmore, South West of Ludlow
Castle Street Off A4110
Wigmore castle stands in the north-west corner of Herefordshire a few miles from the current boundary between England and Wales. This, one of the largest of castles, 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. The castle was built over the lands of two Saxons who lost their lands during the Norman conquest of England.
It is an ancient site on which it is almost certainly the fortress held by Edward the Elder in 921. At one time Vikings had attacked the Anglo-Saxon fortress but were defeated.
The castle is impressively and strongly sited on a ridge. The large motte faces the higher ground to the north-west from which it is separated by a very deep ditch. There is a square platform below the motte to the east which may have borne the principle domestic buildings. A spacious bailey surrounded by strong stone walls, towers and gatehouse are overlooked by the shell keep with walls up to 6 feet thick.
When we first visited this castle it was lost and overgrown. Now the castle is being cleared and recovered from the undergrowth and trees that had claimed the castle. Therefore you can now reach and explore much more of the castle than previously.
Access to the castle you will need to park in the village hall car park, as the road that leads up past the church towards to footpath, that takes you to the castle, is far too restricted for local residents only. Although quite a walk from the car park, when you get to the wooded clumps of trees that start to reveal sections of the castle, it is a worthwhile visit, as there is plenty to explore.
~ History ~
1066 - William the Conqueror is crowned King of England.
William Fitz Osbern is made Earl of Hereford & builds Wigmore castle.
1071 - William Fitz Osbern is killed in battle in Flanders. Four years later his son is imprisoned for life after rebelling against the King.
1086 - The barony of Wigmore is granted by the King to Ralph Mortimer who sets about using it as his base for invasion into Wales.
1100's - Ralph Mortimer repeatedly rebels against King Henry I in an attempt to place his daughter Hawise on the throne of England as the wife of Stephen of Aumale, a grandson of King William I. On the final occasion Ralph forfeits Wigmore and retires to France.
1135 - With the death of of the King, Ralph returns to England and King Stephen grants him back Wigmore Castle, although by now the Welsh lands, including Cymaron castle, have been overrun by the Welsh.
1144 - Hugh Mortimer invades his former Welsh lands and starts a long war against the rival Earls of Gloucester and Hereford.
1151 - The defeated Mortimer makes his peace with his neighbouring Earls.
1155 - The new King Henry II demands some royal fortresses back from the Earl Roger of Hereford and Hugh Mortimer. Insulted, both barons rebel. The King moves against them and the Earl Roger capitulates and helps his King against Mortimer.
The King attacks Mortimer and for three months besieges his castles. Despite one castle falling to the King, Hugh and the King meet to agree terms. Hugh is to hold his remaining lands free of royal interference and taxation. However their relationship is forever strained.
1173-74 - Hugh Mortimer's son Roger plays a leading role in crushing the young King's rebellion in England and Wales.
1179 - Roger falls foul of the king when he murders the Welsh King Cadwallon ap Madog with a battle-axe. He is arrested & incarcerated in Winchester castle. The King takes Wigmore castle and imprison's all the Welshmen captured there.
1182 - Roger is released and returns to Wigmore castle. Nine years later he loses the castle to Chancellor William Longchamp.
1191 - Wigmore is captured by forces loyal to King Richard I due to Roger's support of Prince John's rebellion.
1195 - Roger leads a royal invasion of Wales and rebuilds Cymaron castle, only to be defeated by Prince Rhys ap Gruffydd the following year. The Welsh situation slides out of control following Roger's death in 1214 and the new leadership of Llywelyn the Great.
1230 - Hugh's brother and heir marries Llywelyn the Great's widowed daughter and makes his peace with his new father-in-law. Within a year the aging Earl has a son, Roger Mortimer, grandson of the Prince of Wales.
1242 - Roger is left at home to supervise the building of two new castles whilst his father invades France with KIng Henry III.
1256 - Roger's cousin, Prince Llywelyn the Last, rebels against the King and attacks Roger. The two cousins are now mortal enemies.
1262 - Llywelyn defeats Roger and chases him back to Wigmore castle.
1263 - Roger defeats Llywelyn's army at Abergavenny and later at Clun but not before being badly wounded by an arrow.
1264 - Civil War breaks out in England. A royalist victory over the rebel baron's is achieved with Roger's support at Northampton but the King's army is later soundly defeated at Lewes. Throughout the summer & winter Wigmore castle withstands sustained assault.
1265 - Roger gains his vengeance against the rebel baron's when he personally impales their leader Earl Simon Montford by a lance thrust through the throat. Simon's genitals are removed from his dismembered body and sent to his wife as a birthday present.
1281 - Roger makes a private treaty with his old enemy Llywelyn. Six months later Llywelyn attacks the King's castles in Wales. Roger is appointed captain of the King's army in central Wales and does nothing in response. Unexpectedly Roger dies of 'a bad cold'. Llywelyn advances into Mortimers lands but is killed by Roger's own son's and his replacement as captain of the King's army. The next dawn Llywelyn's army is routed and all hope for an independent Wales ends.
1322 - Roger joins the barons rebellion against King Edward II but is captured & imprisoned in the Tower of London. With the assistance of the Bishop of Hereford he escapes to France to become ally and lover to Edward's estranged Queen, Isabella. Four years later they return to England, depose and have executed Edward II, and rule in the name of the young King Edward III.
1330 - Edward III has Roger arrested and executed at Nottingham Castle for treason.
1402 - Acting on behalf of the King against the Welsh, Edmund Mortimer is captured by Owain Glyndwr. King Henry, seeing his potential rival to the throne out of the way refuses ransom. A furious Edmund declares for Owain, later marries his daughter and fights for the Welsh cause until his death at the fall of Harlech castle, which later proves to be the precursor to the end of Welsh resistance.
1425 - Wigmore passes to Richard, Duke of York and grandson to Edward III. He later becomes involved in a power struggle with the weak Henry VI. He is killed at the Battle of Wakefield but his son wins a notable victory at Mortmer's Cross near Wigmore Castle & seizes the throne as King Edward IV. Wigmore castle has by now been eclipsed in importance by nearby Ludlow Castle.
1642 - Wigmore Castle is dismantled to prevent its use by Royalists during the Civil War by the parliamentarian Harley family.