Ewyas Harold Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameEwyas Harold Castle
Alternative NamesEwyasharneis; Mapheralt; Pentecosts Castle
Historic CountryHerefordshire
Modern AuthorityHerefordshire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishEwyas Harold

Remains of Ewyas Harold Castle, a motte and bailey castle located above the valley of the Dulas Brook one of a number of Medieval defensive sites located along the Golden Valley and adjacent Marches valleys. The earliest defence was probably built in 1048 and identified as Osbern Pentecosts castle of 1052 and recorded in the Domesday survey. The castle fell into decay in the 14th century although it was regarrisoned in 1402. John Leland recorded in 1530 that a great deal of the castle was still standing but by 1645 Royalist Richard Simmonds reported that it was no longer standing. The motte measures up to 15 metres high and 75 metres around the base. It is separated from the bailey by a ditch. The kidney shaped inner bailey is located to the south east of the motte. St Nicholas' chapel was located within the castle. The priory of St James and St Bartholomew was located in an area of the bailey formerly used as a garden enclosed by a moat. The remains of a water management complex are visible to the south west of the motte. (PastScape)

Earthwork and buried remains of the Ewyas Harold Castle, a motte and bailey castle, and the alien Priory of St James and St Bartholomew, located on a natural eminence above the valley of the Dulas Brook. The castle is one of a number of medieval defensive sites located in strategic positions along the Golden Valley and adjacent Marches valleys, indicative of the prolonged border status of the area which remained disturbed by disputes throughout the medieval period. The castle is believed to have been constructed prior to the Norman Conquest when the lands appear to have been held in succession by both Harold Godwinson and Ralph of the Vexin. It may have been built in 1048 and has been identified as Osbern Pentecost's castle of 1052. The Domesday survey records that William Fitz Osbern remodelled the castle and granted it to Alfred de Marlborough, by which time there was also a flourishing borough at Ewyas

The lands later reverted to Harold the son of Ralph. In 1100 Harold, whose name was added to that of the settlement at Ewyas, founded a priory located within the outer bailey of the castle. Robert, son of Harold, inherited the castle and in 1147 founded Dore Abbey. He had a reputation as a castle builder and is believed to have extended Ewyas Harold. The castle was still in active frontier use in the 1190s for Robert, grandson of Harold, who was killed nearby during a skirmish in 1198. The foundation charter of the priory refers to a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas located within the castle and served by the monks. The priory was dedicated to St James and St Bartholomew and was linked to the abbey at Gloucester. It was located in an area of the bailey which had formerly been a garden enclosed by a moat which also acted as a fishery. The permanent buildings of the priory were not completed until 1195, and the monks made temporary use of the parish church of St Michael until that date. Documentary references during the period 1190 to 1300 suggest that the settlement at Ewyas flourished, and the priory remained in use. After 1300 the castle saw only infrequent use, and the priory was suppressed in 1358. During the 14th century the castle fell into decay, although it was re-garrisoned during the Glyndwr rising of 1402. In 1530 the antiquarian John Leland reported that a great part of the castle, including the chapel of St Nicholas, was still standing. By 1645 however Richard Symmonds of the Royalist army reported that the castle was ruined and gone. The castle includes a motte measuring approximately 10m to 15m high and 75m in diameter around the base. The motte is separated from the bailey by a ditch at its base which measures 12m wide and up to 4m deep. The kidney-shaped inner bailey measures 120m by 100m and is located to the south east of the motte. It is defined by a steeply sloping bank up to 8m high, surrounded by a ditch measuring 6m to 8m wide and 1m to 3m deep, with traces of a counterscarp bank. Traces of a further outer rampart measuring up to 140m long, 10m wide and up to 2m high survive to the south east, defining the course of an outer bailey which measured up to 80m by 160m. This outer bailey is believed to be the early site of the priory founded in 1100. Antiquarian sources record the existence of a shell keep on top of the motte and further foundations within the inner and outer baileys. These remains are no longer visible above ground although they will survive as buried archaeological features. To the south west of the motte are the remains of a water management complex, with a large hollow way leading towards the brook. The remnants of a low lying shallow depression, which was formerly extended across the southern edge of the outer bailey, are believed to have been a fishpond complex. Both the eastern and western edges of the pond survive, although part of the central section of the complex has been removed by modern buildings. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Phillips speculates that the site may have originated as a Saxon burh, but does not specify if thegnal or communal. The identification as Pentecosts Castle is, not unreasonable, speculation but David King had some doubts.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO384287
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Primary Sources

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