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Almeley Castle

HER no. 1703, OS grid ref: SO 3323 5142

Almeley is a small village in the north-west of Herefordshire, approximately 5 miles from Kington. The motte and bailey earthworks can be found south-west of the village church. The name of the village is derived from the word for "Elm Wood" with the medieval form of Alme-. At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086) it was known as Elmelie, but by the middle of the 11th century it was known as Almeleia. (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Record British Series 214, 1989, p. 25)

Description of the site today

Beside the church of Almeley is a grass-grown mound, upon which the keep of a medieval castle once stood.

The circular motte is 35m in diameter and 8m in height from the base of the encircling ditch. The ditch is 1.3m deep on the south side and 2.5m deep on the north side below the bailey. The ditch is 8m in width.

The bailey is 50m square and bounded by a ditch on the east side, 12m in width and 2m in depth. The ditch formerly continued around the north side but has since been filled in to form a graveyard extension of the nearby church.
The west side of the bailey is bounded artificial steepening of the natural slopes, presenting a bank 4.5m in height.

Traces of an inner bank can be seen on the north-west side of the bailey, and the original causewayed entrance appears to have been in the east side. To the south-west of the castle motte are two rectangular depressions, which are thought to have been fishponds supplying the castle.

Roughly 50m south-west of the motte, traces of two medieval fishponds can be seen. These fishponds - now dry - are at the foot of a ridge by a stream. One fishpond measures 42m x 20m and the other 50m x 18m. The whole site of the ancient castle is now under pasture.

The motte would have once had commanding views across to the south and east, giving it a defensive advantage.

Foundation and history of the castle

Neither the Domesday Survey nor the earliest lists of border fortifications make any mention of an ancient castle on this site and no evidence exists as to when Almeley Castle was built. It is presumed that the castle was built during the unsettled state of the country during the reign of Stephen, and it appears as a castellum in the Patent Rolls of John and Henry II.

1086: According to the Domesday Book, Almeley had passed into the possession of Roger de Lacy. It included four hides which paid tax, and land for eight ploughs.  The men from another village worked in Almeley and paid 37s 8d to do so. It became one of the estates of the de Lacy Honour of Weobley and as such was occupied by Roger Pychard in 1242. 

1216: William Cantilupe was constable of the castle in this year.

1231: Henry III received homage from Simon de Montfort when he stopped in Almeley on 22nd September 1231.

In the reign of Henry VII the castle was brought as dowry to Thomas Monnington of Sarnesfield by one of the twelve co-heiresses of Sir Simon Milbourne. Descendants of Thomas Monnington were the owners of Almeley Castle up to 1670.

From the Monningtons the castle passed to the Pembers of Newport and then through purchase to the Foleys of Newport.