Clifford Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameClifford Castle
Alternative NamesClyfford; Castellaria de Cliford
Historic CountryHerefordshire
Modern AuthorityHerefordshire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishClifford

The remains of a Motte and bailey castle, probably constructed between 1067 and 1070, with additional C13 fortifications in stone. The motte is 55m in diameter and 8m in height above the base of the ditches and 5m above natural ground level. It is surmounted by a shell keep the walls of which are 2m in thickness and 8m high. An earthen causeway connects the summit with a large bailey, some 2 acres in area, divided into two parts. Excavations in 1952 and 1953 revealed the outer gatehouse. (PastScape)

Castle, ruined. Late C13 with some C19 and C20 repairs. Rubble with ashlar dressings, the latter heavily robbed. Irregular polygonal court on motte, gatehouse to north-east with circular towers, hall on north- west front, 3 round towers at south and west angles. Hall of 2 storeys, battered plinth capped by rounded string course, remnants of a first floor window to east end of north (external) wall; stack at east end with ground floor hearth. West tower is only one surviving above one metre; 2 storeys, plinth as hall, 2 loop embrasures on first floor; curtain wall to south-east of tower contains 3 garderobes, external vents with triangular heads. Base of gateway includes remnants of portcullis slot. Ruins of barbican with 2 round towers standing about one metre high about 50 metres to east of motte. (Listed Building Report)

Clifford Castle was built by William fitzOsbern shortly after 1066 on "waste land", and the castle and borough of Clifford were held by Ralph de Tosny in 1086 when 16 burgesses were recorded. It is generally accepted that the castle and borough recorded in 1086 were located at Clifford itself (Robinson 1872, 25; Noble 1964, 64; Stanford 1991, 145; Stirling-Brown 1991, 27); there does not seem to have any supporting evidence for the suggestion that the borough was actually located at Old Castleton in 1086 and only later moved to Clifford

It has also been suggested that the borough was confined to the bailey of the castle, but a site to the north of the castle is more likely (Stirling-Brown 1991). The medieval settlement pattern was dispersed: the parish church of St Mary's is located at Llanfair, 1km southeast of the castle; and south of Llanfair lay the small Cluniac priory of Clifford. The castle formed the centre of a marcher lordship held by the Cliffords in the 12th and 13th centuries, and by the Mortimers in the 14th century (Davies 1978, 55; Hillaby 1985, 246-8). The early post-Conquest castle was replaced by a stone castle, probably in the early 13th century (RCHME 1931, 39), although it has been suggested that this replaced an earlier stone castle (Stirling-Brown 1991, 27-8). The castle probably declined in military importance from the end of the 13th century although it was repaired in 1377-8 (section 5.3). It was garrisoned briefly in the early 15th century (Bannister 1928, 148). Although constables are recorded up to the 16th century it is uncertain how long it was inhabited (Robinson 72, 28; Trumper 1889, 367-8), although artefactual evidence indicates some occupation in the post-medieval period. (Dalwood and Bryant, 2005)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO243456
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 62-3, 181
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  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 94
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  • Stirling-Brown, R., 1989, Herefordshire Castles (privately published) p. 2, 6
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 203
  • 1981, Herefordshire Countryside Treasures (Hereford and Worcester County Council) p. 90
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 209
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  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Herefordshire Vol. 1 p. 234 (plan)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 98-100 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 393-7 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 508-10 online copy
  • Robinson, C.J., 1869, The Castles of Herefordshire and Their Lords (London: Longman) p. 25-30 online copy



  • 2002-3, 'Clifford Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter Vol. 16 p. 35 (news report)
  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Stirling-Brown, R., 1991, 'Field meeting at Clifford' Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 56 p. 28
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 312
  • Tonkin, J.W., 1982, 'Herefordshire Castles' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 44.1 p. 31
  • King, D.J.C., 1974, 'Clifford Castle' The 121st Annual Meeting in South Brecknock, 1974, CAA p. 36-7
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Noble, F., 1964, 'Medieval boroughs of west Herefordshire' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 38.1 p. 62-70
  • Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
  • 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
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • 1956-8, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 35.2 p. 153
  • Iron, D., 1955, The Field Vol. 205 p. 576-7
  • Iron, D., 1952-3, 'Excavations at Clifford Castle' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 34 p. 27-8, 82-4
  • Bannister, A.T., 1928, 'Clifford Castle' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. lxvii-lxviii, 147-8
  • Watkins, Alfred, 1925, Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 151
  • Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 224-5 online copy
  • Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 86 online copy
  • Trumper, T.W. Walwyn, 1889, 'Clifford - The Castle, Fair Rosamund, the Church and the Priory, with plan' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 366-72 (plan)
  • Clark, G.T., 1871, The Builder Vol. 29 p. 984-5 (reprinted in MMA)

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book Di, 183a. 2 (1086 – probably built 1067-70 but may refer to Old Castleton) [online copy >]
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 25, 41 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1321-24) Vol. 4 p. 179-80 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward II (1318-1323) Vol. 3 p. 575 view online copy (requires subscription but searchable) [alternative online copy >]
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 238-9
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 296 online copy


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  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Parkinson, Mrs Charles G., typewritten sheet