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Peterchurch: Snodhill Castle

HER no. 1557, OS grid ref: SO 3220 4030

In the Golden Valley between Dorstone and Peterchurch, just east of the hamlet of Snodhill and about 1¾ miles north-west of the Norman church, lie the earthwork and buried remains of a shell keep castle occupying a spur of high ground. The earthworks cover an area of c. 4 hectares.

Description of the site today

The site includes the remains of a motte and bailey with an earthen mound, roughly oval and with a maximum diameter of 35m. The motte is steep sided and c. 3.5m high; it is defended to the east by a c. 20m stretch of dry ditch, 5m wide and 2m deep.

A path on the west side leads to the shell keep, and was probably the original access to the motte tower.
The bailey is oblong in shape and lies just to the western side of the motte. It measures roughly 25m east to west by 18m north to south. The bailey is surrounded to the south, west and north by a level terrace roughly 10m wide.

A stone curtain wall surrounded the bailey, and the whole circuit of this can be traced. On the south the remains are most obvious. The eastern section includes a semi-circular tower which was re-built in the 14th-15th centuries. A round tower on the north side contained octagonal rooms and could have been associated with a hall block. There were probably at least two other towers around the circuit, as well as an entrance gateway to the south-west. 

Approximately one-third of the way down the north side of the slope is a series of rectilinear fishponds lying east to west and terraced into the hillside. There are three ponds contained by an earthen bank up to 1.5m high. They measure roughly 25m x 8m, 30m x 10m and 35m x 10m respectively.

The stone keep on top of the motte is an irregular elongated polygon with internal measurements of 7m x 11.5m. It contained a basement with walls 2m thick. The surviving walls of the keep narrow to become 1m thick, and the building appears to have had ten sides.

There is no ditch between the motte and the bailey. 

History of the castle and site

1127: Robert de Chandos built this castle after acquiring land by an exchange with Great Malvern Priory. Snodhill Castle was also known as Castle of Straddle, perhaps in reference to its position on a spur of ground.

1196: The castle was mentioned in the Pipe Rolls; most probably it was re-fortified in stone around this time.

c. 1355: Roger de Chandos died, and the castle was surveyed and found to be ruinous.

1403: King Henry IV ordered Sir John de Chandos to re-fortify the castle against possible raids by Owain Glyn Dwr.

1428: Snodhill passed to Gile de Bruges.

1436: Roger de la Mere, Sheriff of Herefordshire, held the castle. It later passed to the Nevilles.

Elizabeth I granted Snodhill to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and the estate later passed to the Vaughans.

1665: The Vaughans sold the castle to William Prosser of London who built or rebuilt Snodhill Court. He used material from the castle after it had been wrecked during the Civil War by a bombardment by an army under the Earl of Leven.

There is good reason to believe that the castle was built before the close of the 12th century as, judging by the remains, the keep tower is of Norman construction.