Caer Castell, St Mellons

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameCaer Castell, St Mellons
Alternative NamesPen y pil; Witla Court; Cae Castle
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityCardiff
1974 AuthoritySouth Glamorgan

Ringwork. Located on the edge of marshy ground, the mound about 45m in overall diameter its top once embanked to enclose an area of about 33m diameter, the bank now largely levelled. It is about 9m high above the marsh, 4m above the ditch on the N. Some garden landscaping has recently been carried out in the N and E ditch areas but the site is otherwise covered in trees, shrubs and brambles. (Coflein)

Pen-y-pill, or Cae Castell Mound. A crescentic bank and ditch on the edge of a steep-sided dingle, the inside probably having been levelled along the dingle. Caer Castell is a large circular mound, approximately 3m high and about 30m in diameter at the top, which is slightly dished. The mound is under grass, with trees planted outside the ditch on the northeast side and to the sound of the mound. The probable entrance is on the east side with a well-marked causeway. A small ravine lies immediately to the west of the mound. A bank on the northeast edge of the mound is 2m high on the interior, and on the southwest side there is a low bank with an internal height of 0.7m. The outer ditch runs along the northern and eastern sides of the mound, continuing just beyond the bank on top of the mound. This ditch is 3.5m wide, and 3m deep at its southern end, dropping to 4m below the top of the mound along the north side, and terminating at the ravine on the west side. A small outer bank, 1m high by 4.5m wide runs for a short length along the south end of the ditch. There are no visible remains of a bailey. Excavated in 1965 by Eric Talbot. A small section (12m x 2m) was cut through the northwest side of the northern bank, which showed two phases of construction, with the original bank being widened and heightened by approximately 0.6m. Twelfth century pottery was recovered. Marked on 1st edition OS maps as a camp and on 2nd edition maps as a Roman camp

Although Roman activity in the area is attested by the Roman Road, this interpretation of the earthworks seems questionable and is far more likely to be the remains of a medieval motte (E. Graham 2007). (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER)

The monument comprises the remains of a motte and ditch, dating to the medieval period (c. 1066 -1540 AD). A motte is a large conical or pyramidal mound of soil and/or stone, usually surrounded by either a wet or dry ditch, and surmounted by a tower constructed of timber or stone. The motte stands on the edge of a southeast facing scarp, overlooking the Levels and the Bristol Channel. The motte consists of a large circular mound, c.3m high. The top is c.30m in diameter, slightly dished, with a bank on the northeast edge with an interior height of 2m. At the north end of this bank a footpath has slightly lowered it. On the southwest side of the top is a very low, gently sloping bank, with an internal height of c.0.7m. To the west the mound is on the very edge of a small ravine, into which there is a very steep drop. On the south side there is level ground and no signs of an outer ditch. On the southeast side, just before the bank on top of the mound starts, an outer ditch begins. This is 3.5m wide, with, at its southern end, a small outer bank, 1m high on the ditch side, and 4.5m wide. The depth of the ditch here is 3m. There is no outer bank at this end. The outer ditch continues along the north side, and the ground level drops to 4m below the top of the mound (3m below ground level on the north). The width of the ditch here is variable and ends at the ravine on the west side. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST226803
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 238, 256 (listed trice)
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  • Coxe, W., 1801, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (London)


  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Talbot, E.J., 1966, Appendix II in Alcock, L., 'Castle Tower, Penmaen: a Norman ringwork in Glamorgan' Antiquarian Journal Vol. 44 p. 207
  • (Talbot), 1966, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 10 p. 196 download copy
  • Alcock, L., 1965, 'Recent archaeological excavation and discovery in Glamorgan' Morgannwg Vol. 9 p. 95 online copy
  • 1965, Archaeology in Wales p. 32
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • 1913, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 68 p. 85-6


  • Graham, E., 2007, Caer Castell, Cardiff desk-based assessment