Chepstow Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameChepstow Castle
Alternative NamesStrigoil; Strigul; Striguil Estrighoel; Estrighoiel
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent
CommunityChepstow

Chepstow Castle is a Medieval Castle in spectacular defensive situation located on the vertical cliffs above the River Wye. The creation of Chepstow Castle is a cause of historical debate; according to the Doomesday Book, William fitz Osbern built the castle in Chepstow, while there are also those who believe until recently that Earl William built at Chepstow. However, most recent research suggests that the great tower of Chepstow Castle was commissioned much later by one of the Norman Kings of England, most likely William I during his visit to South Wales in 1081. The castle remained unaltered until 1189, when it passed by marriage to William Marshal, who at the time was one of the most powerful men in the country. Marshal began to remodel the castle with revolutionary designs in the early 1190s and until his death in 1219 with the construction of a new gatehouse, the creation of the lower and middle bailey defences, the heightening of the upper bailey curtain and a brand new tower in the South West corner. Later, in the thirteenth century, Roger Bigod, the fifth earl of Norfolk transformed Chepstow into a palatial stronghold by building a range of accommodation and service rooms, the creation of a massive tower at the South East corner Marten’s tower and an extension of the upper storey of the great tower. Considerable repair work was required throughout the Civil War as the Castle was garrisoned on a number of occasions. (Coflein–ref. Turner, 2006)

In a commanding position on the W bank of the River Wye. Modern access from Bridge Street, at the base of the slope.

The Domesday Book (compiled 1086) records that a castle had been built by William fitz Osbern who died in 1071, and the Great Tower has traditionally been held to be part of that Castle. Yet it is perhaps more plausible that the Great Tower belongs to the period following the forfeit of the castle to the Crown after 1075

A major programme of building took place under William Marshal (between 1189 and 1219) who rebuilt the upper and middle bailey defences including a rectangular tower at the SW corner of the Castle, perhaps accommodation for William's wife. The D-shaped towers of the middle bailey are very early examples of their type. Recent dendrochronological analysis has dated the doors of the main gatehouse to no later than the 1190s indicating that William was also responsible for the lower bailey although this was subsequently rebuilt. William was succeeded by 5 consecutive sons. The upper barbican dates from this period, as does the remodelling of the Great Tower by addition of an extra storey at the W end. In the last quarter of the C13, Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk succeeded to the ownership of the Castle, and built the major suite of appartments in the lower bailey, as well as the massive SE tower (Martens Tower). The Great Tower's upper storey was extended, and the upper barbican tower built. In the C16 timber domestic ranges (lost) were added to both sides of the middle bailey curtain wall. During the C17 the Castle was refortified to resist artillery fire especially on the S.

Within the Castle Walls- Outer Bailey. Outer Gatehouse at E leads immediately on right to the hall range, comprising chamber block, kitchen and service rooms and great hall. Modern entrance and shop constructed under chamber block; upper rooms probably provided accommodation for Bigod's household officers and guests; from outside an asymmetrical range of windows, one with quatrefoil head. Kitchen is situated between chamber block and cross passage, a tall room probably formerly with central hearth; tall 2-light transomed window with quatrefoil head onto outer bailey; wall stands to battlement level with arrow slots. Service passage with wide pointed chamfered arch from bailey separates kitchen from hall range but because of rising ground unusually incorporates additional rooms: lower service rooms entered through steeply pointed arches from main passage which also leads to stairs to rib-vaulted cellar; buttery and pantry are adjacent to hall at intermediate level with large private chamber above - now a display area; renewed paired arched lights to bailey. Square embattled corner entrance tower with angle buttresses, renewed and glazed similar transomed window; paired arched lights under a double hood-mould above; pointed arched doorway in uphill face. This led externally to Great Hall which was also reached internally by stairs from the cross passage. Hall was open to roof and would have had dividing timber screen at service end and dais with high table at upper end, opposite the 3 pointed arched service doorways. Marten's tower at far side of lower bailey is entered through a pointed-arched doorway with studded wooden door of wide planks with heavy iron hinges, protected by a portcullis; flat rear face of D-shaped plan fronts bailey with projecting corner towers; stands to battlement level ( and was still inhabitable in early C19); small trefoil-headed lights at upper level; inserted inward-facing C16 transom and mullion windows with cusped heads to the lights under a square hoodmould. The now floorless interior has wide embrasures to openings on 3 levels, windowless basement; chamfered pointed-arched doorway to mural tower staircase; upper chapel window with floral ornament; intact battlements and access to wallwalk. Middle Bailey. Entrance to the middle bailey is through what was originally an outer gateway to the earlier complex, a large projecting round tower to right with arrow slits, later Tudor insertion of doors and fireplaces, pointed-arched doorway of two orders with massive boarded studded wooden double gates with heavy hinges; remains of Tudor buildings against the adjoining wall; round corner tower to left incorporated into the curtain wall; inner side of wall also has later features. S curtain wall range, reinforced with buttresses, extending from round tower has wall-walk behind the C17 musket slots and access to the D-shaped wall-tower. At upper end is the earliest structure, the Great Tower or Hall Keep; steps up to entrance on 2-bay E side which is a square headed Norman doorway with chip-carved tympanum and two orders of round arches; N side is similar to S which is incorporated into the curtain wall, but with windows: originally hall was lit by the three small round-arched windows on this river side; the C13 modification included inserting heavily moulded pointed-arched first floor windows with quatrefoil tracery, mullions and transoms; internal Norman wall arcade with some surviving plaster and at upper gable end two round openings. Adjacent outside is the gallery, a passage through a double-arched doorway between the Keep and the riverside wall with stepped chamfered-arched openings. Upper Bailey. Small and narrow and bounded at lower end by the end wall of the Keep and at the upper end by the Corner or South West Tower, built to provide domestic accommodation for persons of high status (including Countess Isabella de Clare, William Marshal's wife). Windows have wide embrasures edged with roll moulding, remains of painted plaster. Outer wall removed but that which remains stands to battlement level Adjacent is the high pointed-arched doorway, 2-orders on upper side, with wooden gate with studs and heavy hinges, leading to wooden bridge to barbican. Here the defensive walls are intact; two upper storeys to barbican tower/gatehouse, wall-walk on corbels with intact merlons, range of internal round-arched embrasures to the arrow slits; at SW the corner tower now open originally had a timber inner-facing wall. Postern gate at lower angle.

Magnificent Medieval Castle in spectacular defensive situation on vertical cliffs above the River Wye, aligned predominantly E/W, over rising ground. Constructed of stone, rubble and dressed. Main entrance at E through the Outer Gatehouse comprising twin round towers with battered base, cruciform and plain arrow slits at 3 levels, later square-headed windows with mullions and trefoil-headed tracery; central double arched gateway with portcullis slots, remains of barbican, murder holes, metal-reinforced wooden double doors; high detached arch above. Adjacent to left (S) is a stretch of battered curtain wall standing almost to battlement level with arrow loops. This adjoins Marten's tower, D-shaped in plan with rectangular corner turrets, one with high E facing arched window, deep spur buttresses, deep arrow loops at 3 levels and trefoil-headed lancets, deep coped battlements with arrow slits, crowned by eroded stone figures (C14); also a later 2-light Tudor window. Curtain wall continues at a right angle, slightly curved and following the crest; signs in the masonry of alteration and rebuilding, including a blocked arch; two wide buttresses and range of rectangular cannon slots along the top; this forms the S wall of the lower bailey. At the junction between this and the S wall of the middle bailey is a round tower with battered base, 3 storeys, battlements, arrow slits. Further to W a second D-plan tower, with battered base, battlements, arrow slits. Curtain wall continues to adjoin the rectangular Great Tower; outer wall of 5 bays separated by pilasters of large square stone blocks; originally no windows, one C13 insertion. Curtain wall continues from upper end enclosing the upper bailey extending to the outer face of the Corner Tower with ashlar quoins standing to battlement height with cruciform arrow slits, 2 round-arched windows at wall-top level and blocked arch to plinth, low large blocked arrow loop; this is the top of the upper bailey. At the W end comes the Barbican complex, comprising a tall circular corner tower on a rocky outcrop, with cruciform arrow slits at 3 levels and all angles. The wall between tower and barbican is curved rising from bare rock, intact to battlements and incorporating arrow slits. The tall Barbican Tower itself, also rising from high bare rock, stands in front of the W gateway; sides of tower are battered for 3/4 of their height; three large arrow slits below a corbel table beneath the battlements; tall outer arch (remodelled C20); pointed inner arch with portcullis slots within the pointed tunnel vault; heavy double doors. The N side of the castle complex standing directly on the river cliffs can only be seen from a distance but follows the same sequence except at the E lower end where the outer wall of the great hall, kitchen and service block and chamber block adjoin the E side of the outer gatehouse. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceST533941
Latitude51.6438217163086
Longitude-2.67593002319336
Eastings353360
Northings194120
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 113-118
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 168, 332
  • 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. 47-9, 63-5 (tenurial history)
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 172-5
  • < >Turner, R. and Johnson, A. (eds), 2006, Chepstow Castle: its history and buildings (Almeley: Logaston Press) (major text) < >
  • 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. 159-60
  • Avent, R., 2003, 'William Marshal's building works at Chepstow Castle, Monmouthshire, 1189-1219' in Kenyon, J.R. and O'Conor, K. (eds), The medieval castle in Ireland and Wales: essays in honour of Jeremy Knight (Dublin: Four Courts Press) p. 50-71
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 125-30
  • Newman, John, 2000, The Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire (Yale University Press) p. 168-82
  • Eaton, T., 2000, 'Counting the cost at Chepstow' in Eaton, T., Plundering the past: Roman stonework in medieval Britain (Stroud) p. 31-57
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 57-60
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 15-18
  • Shoesmith, R., 1991, Excavations at Chepstow 1973-1974 (Cambrian archaeological monograph 4)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 83-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 282
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 338-40
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 140-1
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 607, 650-1 (slight)
  • Clark, A., 1951, Chepstow its Castle and Lordship (Newport)
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 153-156
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 125-6 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (Methuen and Co) p. 126-8, 162-4
  • Wood, James G., 1910, The Lordship, Castles and Town of Chepstow, otherwise Striguil (The Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Association: Newport)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England (Heinemann) Vol. 2 p. 79-81 online copy
  • Marsh, 1883, Annals of Chepstow Castle (Exeter)
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 472-5 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 185
  • Grose, F., 1756, Antiquities of England and Wales Vol. 3 p. 151-5 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Portcullis - design and development' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 132-201
  • Marshall, Pamela, 2012, 'Some thoughts on the phenomenon of multiple doorways and large openings in Romanesque donjons' Château Gaillard Vol. 25 p. 233-242
  • Burton, Peter, 2010-11, 'Original castle gates and doors – A Survey' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 246-59 online copy
  • Creighton, O.H., 2010, 'Room with a View: Framing Castles Landscapes' Château Gaillard Vol. 24 p. 37-49 (slight)
  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008-09, 'Chepstow Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 108-124 (photos, prints and a plan)
  • Trott, K. and Blockley, K., 2004, 'Excavation in the middle bailey, Chepstow Castle' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 44 p. 87-93
  • Turner, R.C., with contributions by Allen, J.R.L., Coldstream, N., Jones-Jenkins, C.,Morris, R.K., and Priestley, S.G. 2004, 'The Great Tower, Chepstow Castle, Wales' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 84 p. 223-318
  • Bradley, J and Gaimster, M. (eds), 2004, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2003' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 48 p. 339 download copy
  • Ashbee, J., 2004, ''The chamber called Gloriette' living at leisure in thirteenth and fourteenth-century castles' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 157 p. 17-40
  • Coldstream, N., 2003 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
  • Turner, Rick, 2001-2002, 'Chepstow Great Tower' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 15 p. 23-24 online copy
  • Avent, Richard, 2002, 'The late twelfth century gatehouse at Chepstow castles, Monmouthshire, Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 20 p. 27-40
  • Avent, Richard, 1999-2000, 'Earliest castle doors in Britain discovered at Chepstow Castle Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 13 p. 34-36 online copy
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • Knight, Jeremy K., 1994, 'Welsh Fortifications of the first Millenium A.D.' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 277-284
  • Booth, K., 1992, 'Chepstow Castle: excavations in the Great Gatehouse, 1991' Monmouthshire Antiquarian Vol. 8 p. 19-25
  • Thompson, M.W., 1992 Feb, 'Keep or Country House? Thin-walled Norman 'proto-keeps'' Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 12 p. 13-22
  • 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) p 371-92
  • Walker, D., 1991, 'Gloucestershire Castles' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 109 p. 5-23 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 308, 316
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1984, ‘Castle gates and garden gates’ Architectural History Vol. 27 443-5 (slight)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1963, 'Castle Planning in the 14th Century' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 120 p. 215-35 (on domestic arrangements) online copy
  • 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)
  • Baker, W.H., 1959, ‘An inventory of the contents of Chepstow Castle, 1313’ Presenting Monmouthshire Vol. 7 p. 10–11
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
  • Perks, J.C., 1946-48, ' The Architectural History of Chepstow Castle during the Middle Ages' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 67 p. 307-346 online copy
  • Morris, A., 1909, 'Chepstow Castle and the Barony of Striguil' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 64 p. 407-32
  • St John Hope, 1904, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 61 p. 212-3 online copy
  • Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 223-4 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
  • Clark, G.T., 1881-82, ' Chepstow Castle' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 6 p. 51-74 online copy
  • Wakeman, T.,1855, 'Observations on the town and castle of Chepstow' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 10 p. 249-57 (history only) online copy

Guide Books

  • Turner, Rick, 2010 (rev edn), Chepstow Castle, Chepstow Bulwarks Camp, Runston Chapel (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Turner, Rick, 2006 (2edn), Chepstow Castle, Chepstow Bulwarks Camp, Runston Chapel (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Turner, Rick, 2002, Chepstow Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Knight, J.K., 1991 (rev edn), Chepstow Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Knight, J.K., 1986, Chepstow Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Perks, J., 1967, (2edn) Chepstow Castle (HMSO)
  • Perks, J., 1957, Chepstow Castle (HMSO)
  • Wood, J.G., 1910, The Lordship Castle and Town of Chepstow (Newport)

Primary Sources

  • 162r Great Domesday Book (Castelle de Estrighoiel) online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1185-88 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 427, 430, 432, 435 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 254, 468 online copy
  • Roberts, C. (ed), 1835, Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turro Londinensi Asservatis, Henrico Tertio Rege, A.D. 1216-1271 (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 347 online copy
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 311-2
  • C145/71(14) (Survey of 1311) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 26 No. 112 [online copy > https://archive.org/stream/calendarofinqu02grea#page/26/mode/1up])

Other

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