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Parishes: C (castles)

Castle Frome: Castle Frome Castle

Historic Environment Record reference no. 930, Ordnance Survey grid reference: SO 6709 4584

Occupying a strong, wooded position south-west of Fromes Hill and 0.3km east of the church can be found a motte hidden by post-war forestry.

Description of the Castle Frome site today

This motte is 45m in diameter, rising 4m above the bailey. The motte has slight sinking to the top. Stone can be found in the structure and may indicate the presence of stone walls.

The bailey has a deep ditch that surrounds the ringwork to the north, east and south. Entrance to the bailey was via a causeway across the ditch to the south. The general outline is visible on aerial photographs. These photographs show traces of two poorly-preserved baileys to the north and south.

Foundation and history of the Castle Frome site

It is very likely that Castle Frome was a stronghold from which the estates of Walter de Lacy in the Frome Valley were controlled. This suggests that the castle was most probably built just after the Norman Conquest of 1066.

It was in the King's control from 1155 to some time after 1216, when it was restored to the de Lacys. In 1244 Gilbert de Lacy borrowed £600 from Walter de Lacy, perhaps to begin a period of rebuilding at the castle.

Castle Frome: Millend Farm, possible castle

HER no. 9999, OS grid ref: SO 6565 4540

Close to the River Frome and 1.3km south-west of the church. Aerial photography has revealed a series of cropmarks that form a large, square enclosure with a smaller wide, square feature in the centre.

This site has been interpreted as a possible temporary castle built outside of winter months, or even a Roman signal station.

Clifford: Bach, motte and possible bailey

HER no. 581, OS grid ref: SO 2982 4337

A small motte on a platform, surrounded on three sides by a steep valley. The motte is situated 2.3km north-west of Dorstone and 1km south-east of Newton Tump. It lies almost directly on the border between the parishes of Clifford and Dorstone.

Roughly 3-4m high, it is circular in plan and created by scarping the naturally steep slopes of a spur to the west, south and east.

The mound is slightly domed in plan with a diameter of 24m north-south at its base and 10m at the top. It overlooks Newton Tump (HER no. 1401), 1km away to the north-west.

A railway embankment has sliced into the mound on the north-west, and any evidence of a bailey was destroyed when the railway was constructed. In 1977 the land was bulldozed to create fishponds, the mound being used as a dam. A possible vestige of a ditch may exist on the west side. The railway is now disused.

Clifford: Betw Hawkswood

HER no. 1231, OS grid ref: SO 2485 4274

The site consists of an earthwork on a slight natural spur from the north scarp of the hillside. There is a ringwork with an internal diameter of 12m which has been formed by a continuous bank 6m-8 m wide with a small gap on the south side, which was probably once the original entrance. The bank of the ringwork is 0.5m-1.5m high externally and 1m-1.5m internally.

There is no longer any evidence to say whether or not the site was once surrounded by a ditch. The most likely explanation for this site is that it is a medieval ringwork, or possibly the site of a siege castle.

Clifford: Old Castleton, motte and bailey

HER no.1015, OS grid ref: SO 2830 4560

The name Castleton means "farm by a castle" or perhaps "estate with a castle" (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 54).

Clifford is in the west of the county, right on the Welsh Border.

Four kilometres to the east of the main castle in Clifford is a well-preserved motte and bailey castle, standing on a rise on a bend of the River Wye well above the flood plain.

The motte rises 10m above ground on the south side but only 3m above the kidney-shaped bailey on the south, from which it is separated by a dry ditch. The diameter of the motte is 40m, while the bailey is 60m east to west and 40m north to south. A large rampart 11m-20m in width and 2m-4m in height internally bounds the bailey. The rampart rises to 3m-4m above the base of an outer ditch, which is 10m wide and 1.8m to 3.0m deep. The original entrance was through the south side.

Traces of masonry have been recorded on the motte, and there may have been a hall on a slight platform to the south-east. On the east and west sides were two lightly defended outer courts, but the bailey ramparts were not walled in stone.
 
Tradition has it that the castle was built by William fitz Osbern, however it differs from other known fitz Osbern earthworks and was very likely built by a follower of fitz Osbern, perhaps even his brother-in-law Ralph de Toeni or Tosny.  

Clifford: The Tump, Merbach

HER no. 24184, OS grid ref: SO 3040 4530

The name Merbach means a "stream-valley on a boundary". The parish boundary between Clifford and Bredwardine runs along the eastern side of the Merbach Hill. (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 55)

A tump (mound) overlooks the stream crossing at Merbach Bridge and the River Wye.

Combe: motte castle

HER no. 207, OS grid ref: SO 3478 6345

Combe comes from the Old English word cumb which means "short, wide valley". There is such a feature at SO 358 630, between Combe and Combe Moor. (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 60)

On the western border of the county lies a mound 20m in diameter and 1.6m above the surrounding dry ditch. It sits on marshy ground to the south of the Hindwell Brook, close to where it joins the River Lugg. The mound is much mutilated and rises 1.6m above the ditch, which is 1.1m deep. It has a flat top with a diameter of 20m. The ditches are now much silted up due to regular flooding.

From the entrance to the site the mound appears to be very unimpressive, but on moving closer it is clear that there is a ditch around the site but that the top of the motte is almost level with the ground on the other side of this ditch.

A channel appears to have once run from the brook on the north of the site to the ditches. This would have ensured that the ditches were wet but now means that when the river floods the water runs down this channel and into the ditches, causing them to become silted up.

The area belonged to the Marcher Lordships of Stapleton, which the Lord of Richards Castle, Osbern fitz Richard, set up on several waste manors in 1086. This site was possibly a ditched house platform of medieval date, similar to nearby Monks Court at Eardisland (HER 1685).

All the Marcher Lordships of Stapleton mentioned in the Domesday Book can be identified with modern places except one, Querentune.  As Combe is known to belong to this Marcher Lordship but has not been identified as any other place mentioned in the Domesday Book, it is likely that this motte at Combe represents Querentune.

Craswall: motte and bailey earthwork

HER no. 13050, OS grid ref: SO 2893 3275

Craswall means "cress stream", from the Old English words cerse (cress) and wella (well) (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 62).

Aerial photographs show a motte and bailey earthwork, with a mound and slight double enclosure, as cropmarks. It is associated with a possible deserted medieval village site (HER no. 13051).

Cusop: Cusop Castle

HER no. 1229, OS grid ref: SO 2390 4140

About ½ mile south-east of Hay-on-Wye and just south-west of St. Mary's church. This site occupies a strategic position along the Wye Valley.

Description of the Cusop site today

An oval-shaped court with remains of a ditch on the north-east, the road has largely destroyed the counterscarp and only part of the scarp remains to the south. Traces of an entrance survive near the middle of the north-east side.

The building of Castle Cottage has destroyed the scarp on the south-west. The court consists of two levels separated by an irregular low bank and slope. The southern part of the bailey is slightly higher than the remainder, from which it is partly separated by a low scarp increasing in eminence to the eastern end. The higher area was defended by a broad rampart on the east, behind which are slight sinkings which may be indicative of turf-covered foundations.

The site probably held no more than a pele tower (a fortified tower-house). The area was encircled by a moat and the earthwork is estimated to have covered an acre. The entrance was via an earthen causeway across the moat in the middle of the eastern side.

Foundation and history of Cusop the site

At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086) the King held the land. The first known builders and occupiers were the Cianowes, who were representatives of the county under Edward II, Edward III and Richard III.

The building was probably a fortified residence of the 12th-14th centuries. In the centre are loose stones, most likely from the original mansion. There is no vestige of masonry above ground, but in the early 19th century a portion of the gateway is said to have been still standing.

Cusop: motte and bailey

HER no. 1234, OS grid ref: SO 2360 4260

The second part of the name Cusop is thought to derive from the word hop, a "secluded valley" (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 63).

In Norman times a small fortification, probably no more than a watchtower, stood in what is now an orchard behind a farm.

Nothing is visible from aerial photographs taken by the RAF in 1946, and there are no visible traces of earthworks in the orchard. Extensive linear quarrying may have destroyed any remains.

Cusop: Mouse Castle

HER no. 1227, OS grid ref: SO 2483 4247

On top of a hill, ¾ of a mile north-east of St. Mary's Parish Church and just over a mile east of Hay-on-Wye.

The mound is oval shaped and 43m in diameter. Unfortunately earth has been excavated from the sides, which for a height of 2.3m are precipitous and held in place by roots.

Surrounding the motte is a broad ditch, which may have served as a small bailey, and surrounding it is a fragmentary rampart. There is a further outer rampart on the north-east and east. The surrounding ground slopes downward rapidly, except to the north-east where the slope is gentler.

The summit of the motte is an average of 20m in diameter with 4m high sides, steepened by quarrying for underlying stones. The bailey encircled the motte and was enclosed, except on the south. A fragmentary rampart still exists. On the south side there are steep natural slopes crowned with a scarp up to 2m high. Facing a ridge on the north-east and east sides is a large outer rampart 15m wide and 3m high, now largely mutilated.

The castle was built by Roger de Lacy. The name is said to come from a confusion of the Welsh Llygad yr ael ("eye of the sun") with Llygod, which means "mouse". The construction of the castle is thought to be that of a prehistoric hill fort altered to form a motte and bailey.

A shell keep appears to have once crowned the motte and buried foundations are present. The wide counterscarp bank between the motte and bailey looks as though it may have had a narrow forebuilding or hall.