The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Goodrich Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castello Godrici; Castellum Godarich; Coderick; Godrie; Godriz

In the civil parish of Goodrich.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Herefordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO57701998
Latitude 51.87680° Longitude -2.61582°

Goodrich Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Ruined, earthwork, and buried remains of Goodrich Castle, which rises dramatically from the sandstone bedrock of a promontory overlooking a crossing point on the River Wye. The quadrangular castle encloses an earlier tower keep and has an outer ward on its north and west sides. It has a substantial dry moat, now grassed, on the south and east sides, and the drawbridge and gatehouse are defended by an outwork, or barbican. The first documentary reference to the castle dates to c.1100 and connects it with a local landowner, Godric Mappestone. At this time the castle was probably a simple enclosure with timber palisade and tower, although evidence for this has been obscured by subsequent developments. The stone keep became the focal point for reorganised defences during or shortly after the war between Stephen and Matilda, 1138-53, when the Earls of Gloucester and Hereford were disputing the area. At this time Goodrich belonged to Gilbert Fitz Gilbert de Clare, and returned to royal ownership in 1176. In 1204 King John gave Goodrich to William Marshal, who was probably responsible for the construction of the first stone wall and towers around the keep, a common undertaking of Marcher Lords along the Welsh border at that time. Under the ownership of William de Valence some time later, grants of oak trees and the presence of royal clerks and workmen recorded in the 1280s-90s suggest that substantial rebuilding was taking place, and the majority of the present structure dates from this period. The old keep was downgraded to create a prison, and three additional ranges were built, each with a hall and three- storey residential tower. William's wife, Joan, spent long periods at Goodrich after her husband's death in 1296, and manuscript records of her expenses provide a fascinating insight into life in a baronial household. Goodrich was the principal residence of the Talbot family in the 14th century, and it was they who founded nearby Flanesford Priory in 1346. The curtain walls of the barbican and outer ward also date to the 14th century. Some additional remodelling took place at Goodrich over the next 200 years' occupation, but by 1616, when it was sold to the Earl of Kent, the castle was disused. However, during the Civil War it was occupied for Parliament in 1643, then by the Royalists under Sir Henry Lingen in 1645. In March, 1646, the Roundheads laid siege and mined under the river side of the castle, which eventually led to its surrender. Goodrich was subsequently partly demolished to prevent its future military use, and the main timbers and lead roofs were removed. The standing remains are Listed Grade I. Evidence for the 11th century castle will survive buried beneath the existing structure, and a burial ground cut by the south eastern corner of the later moat may have been associated with this early phase. The graves were orientated roughly east-west, and appeared to represent several generations of use, perhaps as part of a parochial church within the outer court of the castle. The keep represents the first recorded stone structure on the site, and its masonry is of a higher quality than subsequent work. It is of coursed ashlar construction, using grey conglomerate probably from the Forest of Dean a few miles to the south. Its square plan, with walls 2.3m thick, leaves an internal area of only 4.27m square, and it is therefore unlikely to have formed the principal residence of its owner; it may have been associated with a free-standing great hall in the inner bailey. Externally there are shallow clasping angle buttresses with shallow central pilasters on all but the west side, a chevron-moulded stringcourse at second floor level, and a parapet, which would have hidden a gabled roof. Sloping stones in the walls indicate the pitch of the roof. Low on the north and west walls is a shallow chamfered plinth, below which the masonry is of lower quality than above. The original entrance was at first-floor level in the north wall, above the present 15th or 16th century doorway, and was probably reached by a wooden staircase. It is now occupied by a window with two trefoil-headed lights of c.1300. Two round-arched 12th century windows light the second floor in the north and west sides, and a later opening on the east side was linked by a bridge to the castle's south east tower. Internally, a spiral staircase, or vice, built into the north west corner, linked the first and second floors and gave access to the roof-walk. The present roof is a modern replacement. The position of the original wooden floors is shown by the large, plain stone corbels. Today there is a modern wooden staircase and platform within the keep. During the 13th century the castle's fortifications were enhanced by stone walls and towers around the keep, and the foundations of the 13th century south west tower can be traced in the basement of the existing one. The east curtain wall and the priests' seats, or sedilla, inside the chapel, also date from this period. Around 1300 the quadrangular castle was reconstructed in its present form from red sandstone quarried from the moat. This impressive ditch averages 27m wide by 8m deep, and defends the south and east sides. It was not necessary on the west and north sides of the castle where steep slopes provided adequate natural defence. Roughly square in plan, the castle has three round corner towers, with tall pyramidal spurs, with the twin towered gatehouse occupying the north east corner. This was defended by a D-shaped outwork, or barbican, which has its own shallower ditch and was entered via a drawbridge from the south. Its present bridge is a modern replacement. The lower parts of the barbican wall remain, with a stone bench around the inside. A stone ramp leading westwards, with a guard chamber to its north, leads to the main drawbridge, which was supported on arches and approached by shallow steps. Once over the bridge, the gate passage in the north east tower was overlooked by the porter's lodge to the north, which also has views over the ramp and outer ward. The chapel is to the south of the passage and shows several phases of modification. The trefoil windows at either end and the piscinas and the corbels are parts of a 15th century reconstruction. A staircase and upper doorways were added along with a wooden gallery, and another building linking the chapel to the guest hall to the south. The chapel's west window commemorates the Radar Research Squadron. The chapel's wooden ceiling is a modern replacement, but the chambers above it and the gate passage house the portcullis slots, 'murder holes', and recesses for the drawbridge's counterweights. The back-to-back fireplaces indicate these were chambers of some comfort, probably accommodation for the constable in charge of the garrison. The east range, south of the gatehouse, has a large latrine block at its south end, and provided communal accommodation for the castle staff and garrison. At least three phases of development here culminated in a building with two upper floors, probably added in the 15th century. The line of the roof of this building and of an earlier roof, and vestiges of the 15th century fireplace, can be seen in the chapel's south wall. The south east tower had three floors for domestic use and has window openings with seats and large hooded fireplaces. Between this and the keep is a vaulted 'dungeon', which retains slots for an external door bar. A kitchen area occupied the space south and west of the keep, and is probably 15th or 16th century in its present form, and the bases of the large ovens, fireplaces and a wall drain survive. The angular southward projection of the south curtain wall may echo the line of the earlier enclosure around the keep. The west range housed the castle owner's suite and includes the great hall, which was heated by a large fireplace and lit by three large windows in the west wall, two of which survive. Corbels and wall slots survive to show the level of the roof of what must have been an impressive chamber. There are references to an oak roof beam 20m long and 0.6cm square. The south west tower had two floors and a basement, the latter having a 15th century doorway and stairs down to the stables in the outer ward. The ground floor chamber, the buttery, was entered from a passage screened off from the hall. A doorway at the north end of the hall leads to a small chapel for the family's private use. Beyond this are the remains of the north west tower which was separated from the lord's private chamber or solar, to the east, by two pointed arches springing from a central pier, under a segmental relieving arch. These great arches would have been closed by wooden screens. The solar, another important room, also had large windows in its north wall, and was modified in the 14th century by the insertion of a third floor. In its basement a sally port and steps to the outer ward were protected by a portcullis and double doors. Here also is a recess with a sink, which was linked by a pipe to the castle's 51m deep well. The north range also originally housed guest accomodation, which was later reorganised and linked with the main chapel and gatehouse. The octagonal foundation of a late medieval archway remains between the latter and the solar. All four main ranges were linked by covered alleys, now modern paths, around the central courtyard. The outer ward was created by partly levelling the slope around the north and west sides of the castle, and is protected by a low curtain wall with small turrets at the corners. On the west side, the foundations, stone paving, and drain channels of the stables survive. (Scheduling Report)

Thurlby (2006) notes various comparisons with monuments in the region, on both sides of the Welsh border. The preponderance of segmental, rather than semicircular arches is also a feature of the Great Tower of Monmouth Castle; the type of combined tympanum and lintel possibly seen in the Great Tower's internal doorway here is a common feature seen also at Ludlow Castle and Kinlet Church (both Salop), and more locally at Brinsop, Kilpeck and Mathon (all Herefords) and Dymock and Pauntley (both Gloucs). Thurlby also notes that the type of triple-scallop capital with sheathed cones seen on the Great Tower N doorway also occurs as a loose stone found at Monmouth Priory, and at Kilpeck (Herefords) and Gloucester Cathedral, but this kind of capital is anyway relatively common. These parallels combine to confirm a date between c.1120 and c.1145 for the Great Tower. The elaborate chevron ornament on the jambs of the Great Tower windows pushes the dating to the very end of this range. It should be noted that although this dating places the Great Tower well within the period of the Herefordshire School, those sculptors were obviously not employed here. (The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland)

The earliest identifiably dateable part of the castle is the small square tower dated as c. 1140 (although there remains some contention about the dating). The rock cut ditch cuts through a small cemetery of ?late Saxon date. So there must have been something here pre-Conquest (presumably a church/chapel and hall). As a ridge end headland the site would be easy enough to fortify with a cross ditch at any date in its existence but the massive post-Conquest rock cut ditch will have obliterated and evidence for any earlier defence. The site is called castello Godrici after the post-Conquest Saxon landowner by 1101, this, fairly clearly, suggests Godric's manor house had some castle like quality during the period he held the manor (from before 1086 to1100). The medieval crossing point of the Wye may have been more directly under the castle.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:48

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact