Longtown Castle

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Longtown Castle
Longtown, Herefordshire, England
Longtown Castle - geograph.org.uk - 392612.jpg
The keep and inner gatehouse, 2007
Longtown Castle is located in Herefordshire
Longtown Castle
Longtown Castle
Coordinates grid reference SO320291
Site information
Owner English Heritage
Open to
the public
Yes
Site history
Materials Stone

Longtown Castle, also termed Ewias Lacey in early accounts, is a ruined Norman motte-and-bailey fortification in Longtown, Herefordshire. Built around 1175 by Hugh de Lacy, possibly reusing former Roman earthworks, the castle had an unusual design with three baileys and two large enclosures to protect the neighbouring town. Early in the next century the castle was rebuilt in stone, with a circular keep erected on the motte and a gatehouse constructed between the inner and outer western baileys. By the 14th century, Longtown Castle had fallen into decline. Despite being pressed back into use during the Owain Glyndŵr rising in 1403, it became ruined. In the 21st century the castle is maintained by English Heritage and operated as a tourist attraction.

History[edit]

Earlier sites[edit]

It is uncertain when the first fortification at Longtown was built. The first defences may have been built during either the Iron Age or Roman, or Anglo-Saxon periods, but this remains uncertain.[1] If Roman defences were constructed at the site, it was probably because of a Roman road that may have run nearby, and the defences may well have then been reused in the building of the current castle, parts of whose earthworks have square, angular corners, similar to those of Roman forts but otherwise unusual in 12th century English castles.[2]

Initial construction[edit]

Plan of the castle: A - northern town enclosure; B - motte; C - eastern bailey; D - inner western bailey; E - outer western bailey; F - southern town enclosure

After the Norman invasion of England and Wales in the late 11th century, a small castle was built at Pont Hedre, close to the site of the current castle, by either Roger de Lacy or Pain fitzJohn in order to protect the river crossing there.[3] Longtown was then probably built to replace this older castle, probably around 1175, by Hugh de Lacy, a successful favourite of Henry II and an administrator in newly conquered Ireland.[4] Hugh had acquired the local lands around Ewias Lacey, an important Marcher Lord territory, in the 1160s and early 1170s.[5] The early castle was occasionally also called Ewias Lacey, named after the wider lordship; "Ewias" was a term meaning "sheep district".[6]

Longtown Castle was designed as a motte and bailey castle, on high ground alongside the River Monnow.[7] More defensible sites on higher ground existed nearby, but this location was strategically well located close to the River, an important transport route.[8] It had a 10-metre (33 ft) high motte and an unusual rectangular bailey design around 125 metres (410 ft) by 110 metres (360 ft), divided into three parts, two baileys in the west and one in the east, each capable of being defended independently and enclosing around 1.21 hectares (3.0 acres) in total.[9] The 12th-century castle was built primarily of timber with at least some stone in its design, but this stone was then reused when the castle was rebuilt in the 13th century.[1] Two circuits of earthworks to the north and south of the castle, possibly with wooden palisades, enclosed the early settlement of Longtown.[10] The region was troubled for the rest of the century, with revolts by the local Welsh against Anglo-Norman rule.[11]

Expansion and decline[edit]

The castle was extensively rebuilt in stone during the early 13th century. The stone keep, dating from the 1220s or 1230s, was constructed in the form of a circular great tower, with walls 5-metre (16 ft) thick and three turrets spaced evenly around the outside and a hall on the first floor.[12] This circular design is particular to the Welsh Marches, and is also seen at Skenfrith and Caldicot.[13] The reason for this choice is unclear, as it appears to have carried few military advantages.[14] The stonework is made up of shale rubble with cut ashlar detailing; the walls are around 4-metre (13 ft) thick, but the keep's foundations are extremely shallow.[15] An inner gate to the western baileys was built to a simple design with two small turrets, and seems to have been fitted with a portcullis, while a 3-metre (9.8 ft) thick wall encircled the rest of the inner western bailey; another stone wall seems to have protected the outer half of the bailey.[16] Inside the inner western bailey appears to have been the castle's great hall and other service buildings.[17] The work on the castle cost the de Lacys around £37, a large sum of money for the time.[18] The settlement of Longtown was probably established at the same time as the castle, and initially prospered.[3]

Motte and keep in the snow, 1978

The de Lacy family controlled Longtown Castle until Walter de Lacy's death in 1234.[19] John Fitzgeoffrey then acquired the castle, during a period of increased conflict and tension between the Welsh princes Llywelyn the Great and Dafydd ap Llywelyn and the English marcher lords.[20] The castle then passed to John Verdon and his sons, who struggled with local lawlessness and the Welsh revolts which continued until the end of the century.[20] Edward temporarily confiscated the castle and estates from John's son, Theobald Verdon, and in 1316 the castle passed to Bartholomew de Berghersh.[20] The castle continued to be used as a fortification, and in 1317 orders were given to garrison it with 30 men.[20]

The castle began to decline in importance, however, and in 1369 passed to the Despensers and then the Beauchamps, neither of whom used the castle.[20] It was temporarily refortified by Henry IV in response to the Owain Glyndŵr uprising in North Wales in 1403.[21] The Nevilles acquired the property in the 15th century and it remained in the control of the Lords of Abergavenny until the 1970s.[20] After the Black Death the town's population fell away sharply as well, the protected area north of the castle was abandoned, and by the 16th century it was no longer a functioning trading centre.[22]

It is unclear if the castle and town played any part in the English Civil War between 1642–45, although cannon balls from the period have been discovered within the castle.[3] Local oral tradition states that the castle was slighted, or deliberately destroyed, during the war.[23] Stones from the castle were used for local building work by the 17th century onwards, and by the 18th century a house and shop had been constructed in the eastern bailey of the castle, along with a yard and garden.[23] A gallows operated at the castle until 1790.[23] Buildings continued to encroach on the castle. By the end of the 19th century a school and a house, Castle Lodge, had been built in the castle grounds.[23] Other buildings were built as lean-to's against the castle walls.[23]

20th - 21st centuries[edit]

Longtown Castle was acquired by the Ministry of Works in the 1970s.[24] It was in a poor condition and extensive restoration work was carried out, including the removal of many of the buildings that had encroached on the walls.[25] In the 21st century, the central parts of Longtown Castle, including the ruined keep, the internal gatehouse and fragments of the curtain wall, are maintained by English Heritage as a tourist attraction, although the wider earthworks lie on common land. The castle is protected as a scheduled monument.[26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 4. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; Smith 2003, p. 27
  2. ^ Smith 2003, p. 5; Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 4. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Prior 2006, pp. 125, 150; Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  5. ^ Prior 2006, p. 150; Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  6. ^ Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; Smith 2003, p. 6
  7. ^ Pettifer 1995, p. 100
  8. ^ Smith 2003, p. 2
  9. ^ Prior 2006, p. 125; Smith 2003, p. 12; Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 4. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; Pounds 1994, p. 24; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  10. ^ Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. pp. 4–5. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  11. ^ Smith 2003, p. 7
  12. ^ Goodall 2011, p. 181; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; Pettifer 1995, p. 100
  13. ^ Goodall 2011, p. 181
  14. ^ King 1991, p. 99
  15. ^ King 1991, p. 50; Smith 2003, p. 14; "Longtown Castle". Gatehouse. 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  16. ^ King 1991, p. 117; Smith 2003, pp. 14–15
  17. ^ Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. p. 4. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  19. ^ "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; "Longtown Castle". English Heritage. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f Smith 2003, p. 8
  21. ^ Pettifer 1995, p. 100; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Buteux, Victoria (2005). "Archaeological Assessment of Longtown, Hereford and Worcester". English Heritage and Worcestershire County Council. pp. 2, 7. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 
  23. ^ a b c d e Smith 2003, p. 9
  24. ^ Smith 2003, p. 3
  25. ^ Smith 2003, pp. 3, 9
  26. ^ Smith 2003, p. 1; "Longtown Castle". Gatehouse. 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2012. ; "History and Research: Longtown Castle". English Heritage. 2004. Retrieved 10 December 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Goodall, John (2011). The English Castle. New Haven, US and London, UK: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300110586. 
  • King, D. J. Cathcart (1991). The Castle in England and Wales. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-00350-6. 
  • Pettifer, Adrian (1995). English Castles: a Guide by Counties. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. ISBN 9780851157825. 
  • Pounds, Norman John Greville (1994). The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: a Social and Political History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45828-3. 
  • Prior, Stuart (2006). A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War. Stroud, UK: Tempus. ISBN 9780752436517. 
  • Smith, Nicky (2003). Longtown, Herefordshire: a Medieval Castle and Borough, Archaeological Investigation Report Series AI/26/2003. London, UK: English Heritage. ISSN 1478-7008.