Caldicot Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameCaldicot Castle
Alternative NamesCaldecot; Conscuit
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent
CommunityCaldicot

Caldicot Castle is a roughly oval moated enclosure, about 100m east-west by 72m, defined by stone curtain walls with towers and gates. The masonry is thought to be later twelfth century and later, and the enclosure need not be earlier than this. On the west is a rectangular enclosure, about 145m east-west by 100m, defined by a mutilated rampart with indications of a ditch on the west, facing the parish church, with steep scarps above formerly marshy ground on the north and south. The eastern part of the interior appears to have been levelled, apparently as a playing field. (see also NPRN 301132). Geophysical survey has indicated the presence of complex building remains within the main castle enclosure (Daintith et al. 2002 (AW42), 125-7). There are traces of false ashlaring wallpaintings on most window surfaces of the south-east angle tower. (Coflein)

About 300m east of the Church of St Mary and about 700m east of the centre of Caldicot Community.

Caldicot is a large motte-and-bailey castle which developed over the C13 and C14 and was completed in its medieval form in about 1389. The site was first fortified with some of the surviving earthworks by Milo Fitzwalter, High Constable to King Stephen, in the early C12. The stone buildings were added over a long period, beginning with the keep, which was built on the motte in the early C13. The keep was probably built by Humphrey de Bohun who inherited in 1221, and the curtain wall round the bailey will have followed fairly soon after this in the mid C13. The Great Hall seems to date from the 1340's; and then a large amount of money was spent in 1384-9 by Thomas of Woodstock who married the daughter of the last de Bohun who had died in 1373. This work probably included the Woodstock Tower on the north wall and the Great Gatehouse on the south. Caldicot was twice held by the Crown in the C15 and C16. It was dismantled after being held by the Royalist cause in the Civil War

Abandoned to stone robbers it gradually decayed although the Buck engraving from the 1740's shows it recognisable as today's building. Caldicot Castle was purchased from the Beaufort estate in 1885 by J R Cobb, with the intention of restoring it, as he had already done at Pembroke and Manorbier Castles; although with Caldicot it was to be as a house for himself. However, Bradney gives an alternative account. He says that the castle was purchased from the Crown by Charles Lewis of St Pierre on 7/3/1857 and was sold to Cobb in 1891. The castle was restored and rebuilt in varying degrees in the next twenty years so that it is in part consolidated, eg. the north and west curtain and the keep, part restored eg. the external appearance, and partly rebuilt in a full and fanciful manner eg. the Woodstock Tower and the Great Gatehouse. J R Cobb appears to have been his own architect. It continued to be occupied by the Cobb family until 1963 when it was bought by the Chepstow Rural District Council on the insistance of the Clerk, the local antiquary T T Birbeck. It then passed to Monmouth District Council in 1974 and to Monmouthshire County Council in 1996.

The gateway and house interiors are almost all of the 1890s but in the medieval character. There is a rebuilt Great Hall in the Great Gatehouse at first floor level. The south west tower has two restored rooms. The Keep has three restored floors with rooms with fireplaces and window embrasures. The basement is stone vaulted and little changed from the medieval period. The Woodstock Tower has a domestic interior part medieval and part 1920s including an unusual tiled bathroom. The surviving interiors of J R Cobb's house were not inspected at the time of resurvey.

The castle is built almost wholly of local rubble stone faced with squared blocks of local gritstone. The late C19 work used very closely matched stone with some red brick and pseudo timber framing in those additions to the Great Gatehouse which formed J R Cobb's own house. The house parts are roofed in red tiles while the towers are roofed in lead. The plan of the castle is a rectangle-to-oval circuit of walls round the bailey with the Great Gatehouse in the centre of the south wall and the motte and its crowning keep in the north west corner. Thus, clockwise from the main entrance : Great Gatehouse : South West Tower : de Bohun Gateway : Keep : Woodstock Tower : South East Tower : Great Hall and Private Apartments, and back to the entrance. The castle exteriors are described from the Great Gatehouse in this order, firstly the outer elevations and then the elevations to the bailey. Outer elevations : The Great Gatehouse is externally very largely of the late C19 to early C20 and is complete as rebuilt by J R Cobb. Central projecting section of two tall storeys over a battered base. Central entrance arch and oak drawbridge flanked by two lancets on either side. The first floor has three larger windows in projecting frames and two rows of small square lights. Battlemented parapet above. Three storey towers flank this section, each storey with one window as above; the towers rise to machicolated and castellated parapets all complete. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk, but without castellations. The South West Tower is a drum with battered base. It is complete apart from some damage to the parapets. The curtain was undergoing repair at the time of inspection. It is largely complete to the wallwalk, but without castellations. The de Bohun Gateway (or West Postern Tower) is complete to the parapet and has the unusual feature of an arched gateway to the outside. This is similar to one at Pembroke Castle. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk, which rises up the side of the motte, but without castellations. The Keep is a large circular tower of three storeys with an attached D-shaped tower on the outside which contains garderobe shafts and rises to provide a look-out tower. The keep is complete nearly to the roof, but the top floor is half gone and all castellations are missing. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk, but without castellations except for a few surviving by the keep. The Woodstock Tower was fully restored by J R Cobb and was converted to a house. It is a square three storey tower over a basement gateway, but the corners are chamfered off on the outer face; these chamfers have broach stops. The main face has a pointed arch gateway, a square window above and a smaller rectangular window above this. The tower top has a machiciolated and castellated parapet all complete. The arch of the postern is said to be inscribed for Thomas of Woodstock, son of Edward III. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk, but without castellations in the first section. It then has several windows into now vanished buldings and a major breach on the east side of the castle. The South East Tower is largely complete externally including castellations. It is a semi-circular tower with a battered base. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk, but without most castellations. The first section is pierced by the first floor windows to the Great Hall. Three large 2-light windows of the mid-C14 with mullion-and-transom and cusped heads. Some castellations to this section of the wall. The final section of curtain before the Great Gatehouse has windows for the private apartments on two floors, including another 2-light mullion-and-transom one on the upper floor. Elevations to the bailey: The interior of the Great Gatehouse is two storeyed in stone, with a recessed central archway with two 8-pane windows on either side in projecting frames as before. Four more windows on the floor above; the parapet rises into two tall stone chimneys. The house rises on either side of the upper floor and behind the parapet into an attic with gabled roof behind. All this is of the 1890s as is most of the stonework. The taller flanking towers of the gatehouse rise at the back. The house is in red brick with pseudo timber framing and with timber mullioned windows. A stairway rises on the right hand side to the Great Hall, the entrance to the private apartments is in the building on the left. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk with a restored staircase. The South West Tower was roofed and given rooms in c1890. It has a 3-light oriel window on the first floor. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk. The Keep is complete apart from the top storey. It has a first floor entry, and a roof of c1890. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk. The Woodstock Tower has a basement archway, a first floor entrance, several small windows and a castellated parapet with chimneys disguised as a corner turret. The curtain is complete to the wallwalk but it includes two fireplaces to now demolished lean-to buildings. There is a large breach in the wall on the east side. The South East Tower has an inserted modern floor, but is roofless. The curtain has the remnants of the hall undercroft and the interior faces of the Great Hall windows. The private apartments are a two storey gabled house of the 1890s in red brick with pseudo timber framing and tiled roofs. Modern gabled projection on the ground floor, 5-light canted oriel on the upper floor, roof with half hip. The bailey garden contains a well with dwarf stone wall surround and a large iron naval cannon from H M S Foudroyant. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The strategic location of Caldicot has been occupied since the Bronze Age. By the time of the 1086 Domesday Book a small village was established. In C13 a stone building was constructed by landowner Walter FitzRoger. He built the highly defensive round keep, on the existing motte, with walls nine feet thick. At the time, with the River Nedern navigable and the River Severn nearby, the keep was an important stronghold. The land passed to the DeBohun family at the end of C13. The politically powerful dynasty lived at the castle for more than two hundred years. The structure was expanded to include a curtain wall, towers and an unusual (for western Europe, although common in the levant) flank opening gatehouse. Phillips suggests the 'motte' is an earthwork built around the C13 tower, as at Skenfrith, which seems probably, but this does not exclude an earlier timber castle at this site.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST486885
Latitude51.5931282043457
Longitude-2.74225997924805
Eastings348680
Northings188510
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
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Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 181, 334, 335, 336
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 107-109
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 169-72
  • Griffiths, R.A., 2008, 'Lordship and Society in the Fifteenth Century' in R. Griffiths, T. Hopkins and R. Howell (eds), The Gwent County History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) Vol. 2 The Age of the Marcher Lords, c. 1070-1536 p. 241-79
  • Kenyon, J.R., 2008, 'Masonry Castles and Castle-building' in R. Griffiths, T. Hopkins and R. Howell (eds), The Gwent County History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) Vol. 2 The Age of the Marcher Lords, c. 1070-1536 p. 89-114
  • Courtney, P., 2008, 'The Marcher Lordships' in R. Griffiths, T. Hopkins and R. Howell (eds), The Gwent County History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) Vol. 2 The Age of the Marcher Lords, c. 1070-1536 p. 57-60 (tenurial history)
  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 110-164
  • Phillips, Neil, 2006, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (British Archaeological Reports) p. 141-3
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 624-5
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 123-5
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 42
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 12-13
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 281
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 333-4
  • Birbeck, T.T.. 1973, Sword and ploughshare: the story of the de Bohuns and Caldicot (Chepstow: Chepstow Society)
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 128
  • Bradney, Joseph, 1994 (reprint of original 1933 edition), A History of Monmouthshire, Vol IV, The Hundred of Caldicot (Merton Priory Press) p. 141
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 156-7
  • Tipping, 1921, English Homes period 1 Vol. 1 p. 67-82
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (Methuen and Co) p. 114-21
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England (Heinemann) Vol. 2 p. 76-9 online copy
  • Coxe, W., 1801, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (London) Vol. 1 p. 18-22
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 184

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Caldicot Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 81-107 (mainly, photos, prints and a plan)
  • Daintith, I. (et al), 2002, 'Caldicot Castle' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 42 p. 125-7
  • Walker, D., 1991, 'Gloucestershire Castles' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 109 p. 5-23 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1978, ‘Caldicot Castle’ 125th Annual Meeting in Gwent and the Forest of Dean, 1978, CAA p. 13-14
  • Birbeck, T.T., 1970-2, ‘Medieval Caldicot’ Severn and Wye Review Vol. 1 p. 11-16
  • 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
  • Birbeck, T.T., 1965, ‘Caldicot Castle’ Presenting Monmouthshire Vol. 20 p. 27-30
  • 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
  • Renn, D.F., 1961, 'The round keeps of the Brecon region' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 110 p. 142
  • 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)
  • Rees, W., 1953, ‘Caldicot Castle’ Programme of the 100th Annual Meeting at Chepstow, 1953, CAA p. 11-12
  • Cobb, 1919, Proc. Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Association p. 7-11
  • Tipping, 1918, Country Life Vol. 94 p. 238-44, 260-6
  • Cobb, J.R., 1895, Clifton Antiquarian Club Vol. 3 p. 35-40
  • Bellows, J., 1877, Cotteswold Field Club Vol. 6 p. 263-7
  • Morgan and Wakeman, 1854, 'Notes on Caldicot Castle' Proceedings of the Monmouth and Caerleon Antiquarian Association

Guide Books

  • Anon, n.d. (c.2005), Caldicot Castle, Where History and Tranquility Meet (Monmouthshire County Council)
  • Birbeck, T.T., 1965, Caldicot Castle (Pontypool; Chepstow Rural District Council)
  • Cobb, 1931, Story of Caldicot Castle (Privately published)

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli litterarm patentium in Turri londinensi asservati (Record Commission) p. 169b online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1216-25) Vol. 1 p. 233-4 online copy
  • Walker, David (ed), 1969, 'Charters of the earldom of Hereford, 1095-1201' Camden Miscellany Vol. 22 (Cambridge University Press) p. 67
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 310

Other

  • Phillips, Neil, 2005, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (PhD Thesis University of Sheffield) Download