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Ewyas Harold Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Ewyasharneis; Mapheralt; Pentecosts Castle

In the civil parish of Ewyas Harold.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO384287
Latitude 51.95391° Longitude -2.89698°

Ewyas Harold Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


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)

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.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 52, 62
      Shoesmith, Ron, 2009 (Rev edn.), Castles and Moated Sites of Herefordshire (Logaston Press) p. 120-4
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 164, 176
      Boucher, A., 2007, Ewyas Harold Castle (Hereford: Archaeological Investigations)
      Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 110-164
      Phillips, Neil, 2005, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (University of Wales) p. 193-6 Download from ADS
      Salter, Mike, 2000, Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 29
      Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 95
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 43, 45, 59
      Stirling-Brown, R., 1989, Herefordshire Castles (privately published) p. 6
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 111-2
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 205
      Nigel Kerr and Mary Kerr, 1982, A guide to Anglo-Saxon sites (London: Granada) p. 96-8
      1981, Herefordshire Countryside Treasures (Hereford and Worcester County Council) p. 49
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 228
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 184-5
      Toy, I., 1953, Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 39
      RCHME, 1931, An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire Vol. 1: south-west p. 63-4 No. 2 (plan)
      Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 6, 148
      Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 150-1 online copy
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Chalkley Gould, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Herefordshire Vol. 1 p. 237-8 (plan)
      Bannister, 1902, History of Ewyas Harold (Hereford) esp. p. 100-1
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 102-3 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 39-43 online copy
      Robinson, C.J., 1869, The Castles of Herefordshire and Their Lords (London: Longman) p. 58-61 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Shoesmith, Ron, 2007, 'Archaeology: Report of Sectional Recorder 2007' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 55 p. 122
      Lowe, Ros (ed), 2002, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 73 p. 3-5
      Shoesmith, R., 1999, 'Archaeology, 1999, Report of Sectional Recorder' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 49.3 p. 445
      1995, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 63 p. 9 (plan)
      1993, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 60 p. 18-20
      Halliwell, P.R. (ed), 1992, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 57 p. 7-11
      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)
      1988, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 48 p. 19-25 (plan)
      1987, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 47 p. 13
      Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 313
      Coplestone-Crow, B., 1986, 'The fief of Alfred of Marlborough in Herefordshire in 1086 and its descent in the Norman period' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 45.2 p. 376–414
      Shoesmith, R., 1983, 'Archaeology, 1983, Report of Sectional Recorder' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 44.2 p. 250
      1978, Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 35 p. 15-16 (plan)
      King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
      Brown, R. Allen, 1969, 'The Norman Conquest and the Genesis of English Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 1-14
      Davidson, Brian K., 1969, 'Early earthwork castles: a new model' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 37-47
      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
      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., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
      Marshall, G., 1938, 'The Norman Occupation of the Lands in the Golden Valley. Ewyas, and Clifford, and their Motte and Bailey Castles' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 144 (geneological)
      Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 230 online copy
      Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 83, 86 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 204 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1877, 'The Castle of Ewias Harold' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 32 p. 116-24 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1873, The Builder Vol. 31 p. 763-4 (reprinted in 1877 Arch. Camb. and in MMA)
      Bull, 1869, 'Ewyas Harold, its Name and Castle' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 28-33 (history)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1086, Domesday Book Di, 186a, 1; 185a, 2 online copy
      Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Laud AD1052 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
      1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 44 online copy
      Stamp, A.E. (ed), 1929, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry IV (1402-05) Vol. 2 p. 111 (1403 as defensible) view online copy (requires subscription but searchable)
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 241
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 222, 225, 228
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 167 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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