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Dorstone: Dorstone Castle

HER no. 1559, OS grid ref: SO 3122 4165

Dorstone Castle is situated in a valley about 300 yards south-west of the parish church and east of the centre of the village. At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086) Dorstone was know as Dodintune, which means "the estate of Doda". The village name later changed to Dorsitone, which is probably a reference to the River Dore which runs nearby to the north of the village. (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 73)

Description of the site today

An oval-shaped motte 67 yards x 61 yards across the base. The ditch surrounding the mound is crossed by an earthen causeway on the north-east side. The mound has very steep slopes which lead up to a very flat top rising 28ft above the bottom of the surrounding deep, dry ditch, which has its outer bank facing west towards the Pont-y-Weston Brook.

A kidney-shaped bailey adjoins the motte ditch on the north-east and there are remains of a ditch on the south side. Buildings and a garden have largely destroyed a former scarp on the east side. The area covered is c. 2.5 acres; a scarp slope and outer ditch suggests a bailey was included this area. 
The flat top of the motte is crowned by mature trees. There is a partially-buried shell on the motte with indications of a D-shaped gate tower with portcullis slot. Pieces of dressed tufa can also be found in the ditch, which was formerly a wet defence. The ditch of the former large outer enclosure has recently been filled in. 

Foundation and history of the site

In the Domesday Survey for Herefordshire, Drogo son of Poyntz held it.  The land had been held by Earl Harold as 7 hides. No value for the land is given, nor is there any information on how many villagers, smallholders or ploughs existed there.                          

The de Sollers family held Dorstone in the late 12th century - 14th century, although the castle probably dates from earlier.

Silas Taylor (Harley. MS 6726) relates a curious tale taken from the Register of Bishop Trillec:

"In 1326 William Solers, Lord of Dorstone, and John Eggesworth chaplain to the Cantary, which ancestors of said Will. Solers founded, fell out about some of the profitts belonging to the foundation and it grew so high that by force William seized the lands and kept the proffitts soe that there was high doings, which comeing to ye Bishop's eares at that time, he gives an order and in it enjoynes the Deacon of Webbley to seize on the profitts and sequester them to his own use and soe they two snarling at another the Bishop went away with the Bone!"
1399: Johannes de Sollers holds Dorstone under the Mortimers of Wigmore.

1403: Henry IV entrusted the castle to Sir Walter Fitzwalter, asking him to strengthen it against possible raids by Owain Glyn Dwr. Unfortunately, many castles on the Welsh border fell to Glyn Dwr and it is possible that Dorstone was one of them, as no mention is made later of the castle as a fortress.

After this time Dorstone Castle changed hands several times. Lady Fitzwalter died about 1422, and afterwards the castle belonged to Richard de la Mare, a hero of Agincourt, whose death in 1435 is commemorated by a brass in Hereford Cathedral. The castle was then owned by the Lysters, who sold it to Morgan Aubrey. It was then purchased by the Cornewall family in 1780.

1645: It is possible that Dorstone Castle sheltered King Charles I for one night, for Symonds in his Diary tells us that on "Wednesday 17th September the whole army mett at a rendevous upon Arthurstone Heath neare Durston Castle, com. Hereford; and from thence his majestie marched to Hom. Lacy the seat of the Lord Viscount Scudamore". Lord Scudamore was a supporter of the Royalist cause.