Hen Domen, Old Montgomery Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameHen Domen, Old Montgomery Castle
Alternative NamesBaldwins Castle; Muntgumeri
Historic CountryMontgomeryshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

Hen Domen is substantial motte and bailey castle, the motte of which survives approximately 8m in height and 40m in diameter. It is the original site of Montgomery, named in memory of the home town of Roger of Montgomery, the follower of William the Conqueror who was given extensive lands in this area in 1071. The castle was built in what was then waste ground used as a hunting chase, and overlies an abandoned field system (NPRN 275944). It was the centre of a great lordship and a borough was founded outside its gate in the later twelfth century. The new castle and borough of Montgomery were established in 1223 and occupation at Hen Domen came to a close around the end of the century. As a result of excavations from the 1960s until the 1990s, the site is the most extensively excavated timber castle in Britain. The buildings revealed were unexpectedly grand and complex. The focus of the castle was the motte, crowned a towering timber building connected by a bridge over the ditch to a hall within the bailey. The bailey was defended by double ramparts and ditches. Remains of a wooden palisade which stood on the bailey defences were recovered during excavations, and evidence of wooden towers was also uncovered. Many other buildings stood within the bailey in addition to the hall, including a granary and a possible chapel. (Coflein)

Large earthen mound (c. 8 metres high and 40 metres in diameter) with the earthworks of the bailey. The site, which is now partially covered with trees, is the most extensively excavated timber castle in Britain. It was an important location just east of the ford of Rhyd Whyman over the river Severn. Built in the 1070s (not long after the Norman conquest) by Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury who named it Montgomery after his home in Normandy. Roger of Montgomery was lord of large areas of land in Powys and an important noble in the new Norman world

The castle became the property of the crown in 1102 when Robert of Montgomery rebelled against the king. The castle was then held by the de Boulers until 1207. In 1215 the area came under Welsh control and the castle fell into decay although it was briefly reoccupied in 1223 when the area came back under English control and the new castle of Montgomery was built. (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Although this castle had well over a hundred years use and was the caput of the de Boulers 30 years of extensive excavation found no high status finds and only one coin showing how frugal life, in the welsh marches, was in the C11-C12 even for quite powerful lords. The location of the castle is most interesting. It was built in a green field site (over earlier ridge and furrow), on a low hill overlooking the Severn valley. 1km to the NW lie the remains of a Roman fort, 1.1km to the SSE, on much higher land, is a strong Iron Age fort, Ffridd Faldwyn, close to the site chosen for the New Montgomery castle and 2km E lies Offa's dyke. Occupation, renewal and adaptation of any of these earlier earthworks could, arguably produced a larger, stronger defence for similar effort and the same strategic purpose. Something about the site was special in a manner not obvious from the modern map or from simplistic ideas of military considerations. Possible the reason for this location is to do with a reasonable water supply for horses, something not present at Ffridd Faldwyn.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO213980
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Guide Books

  • Lloyd, J.D.K. and Knight, J.K., 1981 (2edn), Montgomery Castle, Powys/Castell Trefaldwyn (HMSO) p. 6-7

Primary Sources

  • 253v 254a Great Domesday Book (Muntgumeri) online copy
  • The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ; Laud Chronicle AD1095 online copy (Text based on Everyman Press edn of 1912)
  • The Great Roll of the Pipe for the ninth year of the reign of King John : Michaelmas 1207 (Pipe Roll Society 60)
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