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Lyonshall Castle

HER no. 355, OS grid ref: SO 3315 5630

Within a fragmentary, partially-buried curtain wall just north-east of the church lies a circular inner bailey about 45m in diameter.

The inner bailey and motte are surrounded by a wet moat crossed by a modern wooden bridge on the south-east and lying within the south-west end of a rectangular outer bailey.
A third, almost square, enclosure lies to the north-east. The moats of the outer enclosures are incomplete and partly water filled. No stone walls or buildings remain.

On the north side of the inner bailey the wall projects out as thinner but better preserved

On the motte, remains of a circular tower keep with polygonal curtain wall survive. The walls of the keep are 12.6m in diameter and 2.8m thick. The keep stands on a sloping platform with roll moulding around the top.

The area surrounding the motte is fairly well wooded, and the ground begins to slope down almost immediately from the motte. 

History of the castle

At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, Lyonshall Castle was in the possession of Roger de Lacy. It had belonged to Earl Harold in the reign of Edward I the Confessor. It consisted of five hides with two ploughs in lordship. There were three villagers, eleven smallholders and three riding men, as well as five slaves, male and female. 100d was given by some men who had settled there for as long as they wished to stay. (Frank and Caroline Thorn (eds.),Domesday Book 17: Herefordshire, Phillimore, 1983, 10,44)

Late 11th century: The de Lacys or one of their knights probably founded this castle.

1188: Lyonshall was probably one of two castles belonging to John Devereux, which are mentioned in the Pipe Rolls for this year.

1220-27: Stephen Devereux is thought to have erected a circular keep on the site, in imitation of his overlord Walter de Lacy's at Longtown.

During Edward I's reign (1272-1307) Lyonshall was the chief seat of William Touchet, who gained a licence for a weekly market and annual fair at Michaelmas there.

The castle later passed by marriage to John de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

1386-1388: Sir Simon Burley held the castle until his execution. Lyonshall then reverted to Sir John Devereux.

1391: John Devereux made a contract with John Brown, mason of Hereford, for the erection of a hall 13m long and 8m wide, with walls 1m thick. The contract also included orders for the re-building of the gatehouse with portcullis and guard lodgings.

John Devereux died in 1393, leaving an heiress who married Walter, 5th Baron fitz Walter.

1404: Henry IV ordered the re-fortification of the castle against Owain Glyn Dwr.

Middle 15th century to 1641: The castle was back in the hands of the Devereux family, but there is no evidence that they lived in it. The Thynne family inherited it as a ruin and later sold it to the Cheese family.