White Castle, Gwent
8 miles North East of
off B4521/ B4233
White castle gained its name from the white plaster that once covered it, but only traces of this can be seen today on the castle's crumbling walls. White's sister castles, Grosmont and Skenfrith, were built by Hubert de Burgh. He owned the so-called Three Castles of Gwent during the 13th century.
All three began as earthworks with wooden buildings. In the 12th century a stone wall was added, and in the 13th century a gatehouse and additional towers were built. White castle was near land claimed by Llywelyn the Last during his wars with Edward I, and the king ensured that its defences were strengthened and a garrison maintained.
~ History ~
1162-63 - The sheriff of Hereford renders accounts for expenses amounting to £19 17s 4d. on the garrison and buildings of the Three Castles.
1177 - Ralph Grosmont, a royal official, supervises building work for the king at the Three Castles.
1182 - The Welsh attack Upper Gwent, burning Abergavenny Castle and killing the sheriff of Hereford.
1184 - £128 16s is spent on building a stone curtain wall and small square keep at the White Castle. During the same period just £15 is spent over 3 years at Grosmont Castle, suggesting building work there is still in timber
1201 - King John grants the lordship of the Three Castles to Hubert de Burgh. By this time the castles are considered obsolete as more sophisticated designs are being developed in France.
1203 - Hubert de Burgh is away serving his king in France, as constable of Chinon on the Loire. He defends the castle against King Philip of France in a year-long siege until its fall in June 1205, after which he is taken prisoner of war for two years. As reward for his loyalty to King John the lordship of the Three Castles are granted to his rival William de Braose, Lord of Abergavenny.
1207 - William de Braose falls out with King John and is hounded to ruin and his family put to death by the vindictive king.
1215 - King John is forced to sign Magna Carta by his barons. Hubert de Burgh recovers much of his power.
1219 - With the twelve year old King Henry III on the throne Hubert recovers the Three Castles from the de Braose heirs. He now begins a rebuilding program on the Three Castles using his experience gained from the new castles being built by King Philip of France, in particular the Ile de France in Paris where he was prisoner. The White castle is re-built with the primary role as military garrison rather than a castle of high standard accommodation, as are Skenfrith and Grosmont.
1232 - A failed expedition against the Welsh sees Hubert's influential position with the king undermined, losing all his lands and castles throughout the kingdom. He later recovers these some two years later.
1239 - Hubert falls from the kings favour once more over the marriage of his daughter Megotta. He is once more forced to surrender his castles. He dies four years later.
1254 - The Three castles are granted to the Lord Edward, the king's eldest son, the future King Edward I. Major new building work is undertaken.
1260 - The castles are threatened by the rise of Llywelyn the Last, prince of Gwynedd. The castles are ordered to be garrisoned 'by every man, and at whatever cost'.
1267 - The Three Castles are granted to Edward's younger brother, Edmund 'Crouchback', Earl of Lancaster.
1296 - Edmund dies. By this time Wales has been conquered and the military role of the Three Castles rendered superfluous.
1300's - The castles are handed down and until finally Henry of Bolingbroke deposes of Richard II to become king as Henry IV. The castles are once again royal castles.
1404-05 - During the Welsh uprising under the leadership of Owain Glyndwr, the Three Castles experience military action for the final time, Grosmont is besieged.
1538 - The Three castles are disused and abandoned.
1613 - The castles are described as 'ruynous and decayed tyme out of memory of man'.
1941 - Rudolf Hess, Hitler's second in command, flies to Scotland to try to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain. Treated as a prisoner of war, he is held in a hospital near White Castle, and is taken often to feed the swans in the castle moat.