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Kingsland Castle

HER no. 340, OS grid ref: SO 4450 6125

The parish of Kingsland is situated some 5.5km north-west of Leominster. The castle mound can be found just to the west of the parish church of St. Michael. The name Kingsland means "the royal estate in Leen", and leen is Welsh for "district of the streams". (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 113)

Description of the site today

The site contains an oval motte with bailey to the east, about 56m across at its greatest extent. It rises to a height of 5m to the west. There is a ditch between the motte and the bailey to the north and east. A transverse ditch sub-divides the bailey. There are traces of ditches to the north-west and north-east of the bailey.

The motte contains a large hollow on the top edge of the north-west side. Stones are showing where the grass is worn; these display the partially-buried foundations of an octagonal shell keep, with seven or eight angle towers. Traces of a bridge abutment and barbican to the keep can also be made out. There is an outlet to the moat in the south-west corner and a stream on the south side.

In the bailey, mole tumps frequently expose white plasters and mortar. Some pottery of the early 12th century to the late 14th century has also been discovered.

History of the castle and site

Kingsland is said to have been the site of a palace of the Dark Age King Merewald, and up to the 19th century the adjoining meadow was known as Merwold Croft.

After the Norman Conquest of 1066 the area belonged to the king, hence the name of the parish.

1135: The parish had been given by Henry I to Philip de Braose of Radnor; the castle was probably founded about this time. 

1216: King John apparently stayed at Kingsland when he was wasting the lands of the de Braose.

1538: John Leland, the King's antiquary, noted that "there was a castle at Kyngsland ... the ditches wherof and parte of the keep be yet seen by the west parte of Kyngsland church". There is now no visible sign of the keep or any other castle construction.

It is thought that de Braose built the castle in the 1130s. It cannot have been a seat of importance by the mid 1400s as it is not mentioned in accounts of the nearby battle of Mortimers Cross, which was fought  in 1461 between the houses of York and Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses.

There is no mention of the castle in public records, but there is also the possibility that the Mortimers may have erected a fortified residence upon Saxon foundations.