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Huntington Castle

HER no. 944, OS grid ref: SO 2483 5385

On the western border of Herefordshire, 2½ miles south-west of Kington, lies Huntington village. Approximately ¼ of a mile to the north of the church of St. Thomas Canterbury is the site of Huntington Castle.

The site can be accessed via two footpaths which run from opposite the Village Hall. 

Description of the site today

The motte is 40m across at the base and is situated to the south-west of the oval-shaped inner bailey. Apart from the west, where there is a steep scarp, there is a ditch with traces of an inner bank to the south and south-east. The motte rises 10m above the bailey.

The outer bailey is a crescent-shaped enclosure with double scarping on the south side and a ditch to the north and east. The inner bailey is approached by a causeway on the east side, and is enclosed by a curtain wall.

Foundations survive on most of the circuit; one fragment on the west side of the motte stands 20ft high. Towards the north are the remains of a tower with a rounded outer face, with part of the chamber adjoining the curtain wall on the east still surviving. There are traces of a window and two small recesses in the west wall. This tower appears to be of the 13th century.

Another piece of stonework can be found on the south-east side of the motte, halfway up and under trees and undergrowth. This stonework appears to have a low stone wall leading from it towards the east, which eventually runs down the motte through the ditch and out the other side.

It is difficult to see the earthworks today as the site is covered by thick undergrowth. 

Foundation and history of the castle

The castle was in the possession of the de Braose, de Bohun and de Stafford families during the Middle Ages.

Huntington Castle was most likely built as the successor of nearby Kington Castle.

1216-1228: At some point during this period the nearby castle of Kington was destroyed. Although Kington still remained the head of the barony, Huntington was now the fortress at its centre.

During the reign of Henry III the castle is mentioned as being of the honour of Brecknock, which was at this time in the possession of William de Braose. William de Braose was a supporter of the king against Llywelyn, but Llywelyn caught him in bed with his wife. It appears that William de Braose had been plotting with Princess Jean to assassinate Prince Llywelyn and seize control of the principality of Wales for himself. Llywelyn was warned of the plot by Earl Hubert Burgh, leader of the English government who also had a personal grudge against the de Braose family. Llywelyn had William tried for adultery and hanged from a tree.

1228: The stone keep on the site is believed to have been built around this date by William de Braose. In July of this year King Henry III ordered the castle to be seized by the Crown on the death of Reginald de Braose, who had previously been lord of Kington.

1231-34: Prince Llywelyn continued to invade the barony and did much damage, although he never managed to reach Huntington Castle. After his death in 1240 his son, Prince Daffyd, invaded the lordship and in 1244 defeated the armies of Ralph de Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun in his attempt to seize the castle and its lands. Although he was victorious in battle he failed to take Huntington Castle before his death in 1246. Daffyd had no sons, but Ralph de Mortimer was succeeded by his son Roger.

1248: The widow of William de Braose died and Huntington Castle passed, through her daughter, to Humphrey de Bohun.

1256: The de Bohuns were given permission to hold a fair within the borough. In November of this year war once again came to this area when Llywelyn ap Gruffyd invaded the Welsh Marches and annexed them to the principality of Gwynedd.

1263-4: The Earl of Leicester's two sons depleted the territory of Roger de Mortimer. Prince Edward marched from London to Mortimer's aid, and committed the castles of Hay, Huntington and Brecon to Roger de Mortimer. Humphrey de Bohun regained his property in July of the same year.

1263-5: During the Barons' Wars the garrison at Huntington castle remained true to the de Mortimers, despite seeing the army of de Mortimer defeated many times. They managed to prevent the Baronial army from taking the castle until Simon de Montfort was defeated and killed at the Battle of Evesham on 4th August  1265.

1265: Royalists take prisoner Humphrey de Bohun at the Battle of Evesham. He died a prisoner at Beeston Castle in Cheshire. Huntington Castle stays with the de Bohuns for four successive generations.

1372: This was the year of the death of the last of the de Bohuns, who left two daughters as co-heirs. The elder daughter married Henry, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV), who was created Duke of Hereford by Richard II. Huntington was his property until his accession to the throne in 1399.

1399: The earldom and Huntington passed to Edward de Stafford, Earl of Buckingham. On 21st July 1403 he was slain at the Battle of Shrewsbury and possession passed to his widow.

1403: Under the orders of Henry IV, Edward de Stafford's widow undertook the re-fortifying of the castle against Owain Glyn Dwr, who was once again marauding up and down the Marches. John Smert, captain and constable of the castle, supplied a number of arrows and bows and a smith was employed to clean the arms. The keep was re-roofed, the gates re-hung, and palisading was created around the ponds and barn.

The first record of the fair at Huntington is in this year. This fair was held annually until 1956.

1460: The castle was recorded as being worth nothing.

1521: The castle appears to be still habitable as the office of constable continues. One of the towers was being used as a prison.

1564: The castle had been passed to the possession of the Crown. It was in this year sold to Sir Ambrose Cave for £6,328 5s 0d.

1568: The lands were sold to Francis Vaughan of Hergest. From him they passed through the hands of Garnons, Townsend, Holman and others.

1670: According to Blount, the keep and most of the walls were still standing.

1818: The castle became the property of Edmund Watkins Cheese, Esq.