Skenfrith Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameSkenfrith Castle
Alternative NamesYnys Gynwreid; Skinffrith
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent
CommunityLlangattock Vibon Avel

Skenfrith Castle’s original earth-and-timber form was built by the Normans during their settlement of England in order to protect communication routes between Hereford and England, forming a triangle of defences with Grosmont Castle and White Castle. The earthworks were later levelled in order to make way for the red sandstone castle begun in the late twelfth century to prepare for possible Welsh attack, in a design which was aimed both at military efficiency and domestic comfort. The castle is sub-rectangular, with a circular tower at each corner, a circular keep at the centre, and a hall and range of domestic apartments to the west, enclosed within a 12m wide moat. During the fifteenth century repairs were carried out at Skenfrith but by 1538 it had fallen into disuse, and passed through a number of hands before being given to the National Trust. It is now maintained by Cadw. (Coflein)

Situated at the SE corner of Skenfrith village, in the valley of the River Monnow, close to the W bank of the river and approximately 100m NW of Skenfrith Bridge.

One of three castles granted by King John to Hubert de Burgh in 1201, a powerful marcher lord who became the king's justiciar, who rebuilt it in stone between 1219 and 1232.

Ancient Monument. A ruined early-C13 curtain-walled castle built of roughly-coursed Old Red Sandstone; formerly surrounded by a moat fed from the river. It has a trapeziform plan, the NE side (to the river) approximately 80m long, the NW and SW sides approximately 60m, and the SE side approximately 40m, with a circular tower at each corner; a semi-circular tower added to the centre of the SW side in the late C13; and a circular keep-tower in the inner ward

Except for a wide breach in the middle of the NW side (now the entrance) the side walls still stand to a height of approximately 4m or 5m, the surviving towers slightly more, but at the NW corner little remains of the corner tower and the walls on either side have been robbed of much of their facing masonry. The original entrance is believed to have been in the middle of the NW side, and there is no other entrance except for a "water gate" in the middle of the NE side, where steps run down from the inner ward to a depressed-arched doorway. The circular keep tower, standing on a low mound offset slightly SW of the centre of the inner ward, is a little over 10m in diameter and about 12m in height. It has a battered plinth approximately 2m high, a former round-headed doorway at 1st-floor level on the N side (the masonry diagonally below it to the right breached); a convex extrusion on the W side (of which only the bottom remains) which appears to have been designed to accommodate a circular stair in the thickness of the wall; and remains of 3 round-headed window openings. Along the inner side of the SW wall are foundations of the basement of the former hall range; and near the NE corner is a circular well. (Listed Building Report)

Quadrilateral enclosure castle, mentioned, 1183, reconstructed in its present form in early C13, possibly still maintained into C16. The castle enclosure measures: 56m on the NW; 68m on the NE, river front; 34m on the SE and 54m on the SW, with c.8.0m diameter round towers at each angle and an additional tower on the SW front. Within the enclosure is a battered round tower, 13m in diameter overall, and remains of internal ranges. Away from the river there was a 12m wide stone-revetted moat. Constructed by Hubert de Burgh (1219-1232).

Gatehouse Comments

One of the Three Castles held in common ownership, with Grosmont Castle and White Castle.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* 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 ReferenceSO457202
Latitude51.8782615661621
Longitude-2.79022002220154
Eastings345700
Northings220270
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Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
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Photo by Philip Davis 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
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 141-145
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 332
  • Remfry, P.M., 2008, Skenfrith Castle and the families of Fitz Osbern, Ballon, Fitz Count, Burgh, Braose and Plantagent of Grosmont (Castle Studies Research & Publishing)
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 180-6
  • 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
  • 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. 51-3 (tenurial history)
  • 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
  • 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. 314-6
  • McNeill, T., 2003, 'Squaring circles: flooring round towers in Wales and Ireland' 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. 96-106
  • Newman, John, 2000, The Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire (Yale University Press) p. 532-5
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 140-2
  • Remfry, Paul, 2000, Skenfrith Castle 1066 to 1449 (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 131
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 32-33
  • Knight, J.K., 1987, “The Road to Harlech: Aspects of Some Early Thirteenth-Century Welsh Castles”, in J.R. Kenyon and R. Avent (eds), Castles in Wales and the Marches (Cardiff p. 75-88
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 379-80
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 311-12
  • 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. 837-8
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 109-10
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 98-9
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 159-163
  • Bradney, J.A., 1904-33, History of Monmouthshire Vol. 1 p. 62-3
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England (Heinemann) Vol. 2 p. 90-1 online copy
  • Bagnall-Oakley, M.E., 1896, Papers on Monmouth Castle, etc. (Mon and Caerleon Ant. Ass.)
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England  (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 467-72 (reprint of 1881 article) online copy
  • Coxe, W., 1801, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (London) Vol. 2 p. 326-7, 329-31
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta Antiqua or Observations on ancient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 75-9 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 191

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Skenfrith Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 21-25 (slight)
  • Evans, P., Troot, K. and Pannett, A., 2007 (published 2009), 'Excavations at Skenfrith Castle, Monmouthshire, 2003' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 156 p. 73-122
  • Bradley, J and Gaimster, M. (eds), 2004, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2003' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 48 p. 340, 341 download copy
  • Anon, 2003, 'Wild water and wharfs at Skenfrith' Heritage in Wales Vol. 26 p. 5
  • (Knight), 1973, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 166 download copy
  • 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
  • Craster, O.E. (and Talbot), 1967, 'Skenfrith Castle: When was it built?' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 133-158
  • 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. 129-43
  • 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)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • 1957, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 1 p. 158 download copy
  • Roderick, A.J. and Rees, W., 1954, 'The Lordships of Abergavenny, Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle: Accounts of the Ministers for the year 1256-57' South Wales and Monmouth Record Society Publications Vol. 3 p. 22-47
  • Roderick, A.J. and Rees, W., 1553, 'The Lordships of Abergavenny, Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle: Accounts of the Ministers for the year 1256-57' South Wales and Monmouth Record Society Publications Vol. 2 p. 68-125
  • 1909, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 64 p. 95-8
  • Bagnall-Oakley, M.E., 1895-97, 'Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle and Church, Pembroke Castle' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 20 p. 88-99 online copy
  • Clark, 1881, The Builder Vol. 41 p. 814-5, plan at 827
  • Banks, R.W., 1876, 'The castles of Grosmont, Skenfrith and Whitecastle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 31 p. 299-302 online copy

Guide Books

  • Knight, Jeremy K., 2009 (Rev.edn), The Three Castles: Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle, White Castle and Hen Gwrt medieval moated site (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Knight, Jeremy K., 2000 (2edn), The Three Castles: Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Knight, Jeremy K., 1987, The Three castles: Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Craster, O.E., 1970, Skenfrith Castle (HMSO)
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1949, Skenfirth Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Pipe Rolls 1163, 1183, 1187-88, 1190, 1193, 1199, 1201, 1205 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Brut y Tywysogion c. 1215 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli litterarm patentium in Turri londinensi asservati (Record Commission) p. 57a, 194b online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Charter Rolls Henry III 1226-1257 Vol. 1 (HMSO) p. 74 (Grant to John de Braos in 1228) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 502 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 2, 58, 445 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. 316-7
  • DL44/95 (Survey of 5 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference

Other

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