Godric Castle Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 6HY

Godric Castle.

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 6HY

 Godric Castle, named after its owner, Godric Mappeston, is first mentioned in a document dated 1101-02. A three-storey tower was built in the mid 12th century using stone brought by river from the Forest of Dean. In 1204 the castle was given to William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. He added a square enclosure with round corner towers. These were completely rebuilt by a later Earl of Pembroke, William de Valence, in the late 13th century. The thick curtain walls and massive round towers were constructed from red sandstone that was quarried from the rock around the base of the castle creating a deep moat on the south and east sides. The round towers on three of the corners are built on square bases with tall pyramidal spurs that clamp the towers to the rock base, making them difficult to undermine. The fourth corner has a large gatehouse which protected the entrance to the castle with a drawbridge, two portcullises and two gates. These defences were added to by William's son, Aymer, who added a semi-circular barbican at right angles to the gatehouse. He also added an outer wall on the north and west sides of the castle where there was a steep slope but no ditch.

At the same time as the strong defences of the castle were being constructed the domestic and residential accommodation was also improved. The Norman keep was converted for use as a strongroom and prison, and ranges were added to the three other sides of the courtyard, each consisting of a hall and a residential tower. During much of the 14th and 15th centuries the castle was the home to the Talbots, before they abandoned it in favour of more modern accommodation.

The empty castle was reoccupied during the Civil War by Parliamentary forces in 1643 and then Royalist forces in 1645. Following their surrender after a two month siege the castle was slighted to prevent any further use.


Further Notes.

Godric castle in Herefordshire is sited on a high rocky spur over the right bank of the River Wye, commanding a crossing of the river. The area was known as the Welsh Marches, an area on the border of Wales. It is protected partly by a natural steep slope and valley, and partly by a dry moat cut out of the rock.

Godric was originally an early motte and bailey construction but, as was the case with most of this type of castle, it was relatively small and was used primarily as a military fortification. The development of Godric from a fortified site into a home and administrative centre can be approximately dated between 1160 and 1270 and reflects the phases of castle building and improvement that can be seen here.

Godric Castle, named after a local landowner, Godric Mappeston, is first mentioned in a document dated 1101-02. The first stone building was the keep, built between 1160 and 1170. Relatively small in size, having three floors of a basic design, it is thought that the chapel and main hall being sited away from the keep is an indication that the owners at the time were relatively poor nobility. William Fitz Baderon, lord of Monmouth, could not afford to build such facilities into his castle in the initial outlay cost.

The keep stood on its own for some time. In the late 13th century, when the castle was held by William de Valence, half cousin of Henry III, and his son Aymer, it was substantially renovated in a style more common with the Edwardian castles of Wales. It was converted into a substantial quadrangle with massive cylindrical towers on three corners and a vast gatehouse-tower on the fourth corner. The red sandstone was taken from the dry moat and contrasts with the imported grey ashlar used to build the keep. The cylindrical towers were raised on square bases with spurs that clamped the towers to the rock. This design was to limit the possibility of taking the towers down by mining. Within the quadrangle the Great Hall was built and the chapel was incorporated into the gatehouse.

Extending from the gatehouse is a sloping causeway and bridge which crosses over the moat into the barbican, similar in design to that found at the Tower of London. The barbican arrangement was a formidable defence, combined with the massive main gatehouse and forced the attacker to cross two bridges before assailing the main gate. The barbican and main gatehouse were certainly the main defence of the castle and reflected an arrangement thought to be highly effective in terms of withstanding any attempted siege.

Aymer de Valance died in 1324 and the castle passed into the hands of the Talbot family who were to become the Shrewsbury earls.

The castle passed through different families and was largely disused by the time of the English Civil War. It was briefly used as a garrison by the Parliamentary forces in 1643 and later by Royalist forces in 1645. Attacked by the roundheads in 1645, the castle was mined on the river side by June of that year. The garrison inside Godric surrendered, even though they still had sufficient supplies, but the King had given up by this point and explosions from the mines were imminent. In common with other castles, it was partly demolished to prevent it being used defensively again and gradually the splendour of Godric fell into disrepair.