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Parishes: S (castles)

St Devereux: motte and bailey

Historic Environment Record reference no. 6813, Ordnance Survey grid ref: SO 4507 3199

St. Devereux is 6½ miles to the south-west of Hereford. Around two miles north-east of the parish church and in the grounds of the early 16th century Didley Court Farm are the remains of a motte and bailey castle, much cut into by the existing farm buildings. The name St. Devereux comes from the "Church of Saint Dyfrig", a well-known Anglo-Saxon saint who is thought to have been born at Madley. There is also a chapel and piscina dedicated to him at Woolhope.

The motte is roughly round in shape, 24m in diameter and 5m high. The ditch only survives on the south-west, and it dies out to a berm on the south-east and east.

Traces of a crescent-shaped bailey can be seen on the north and north-west, with a ditch on the west and scarping on the rest of the circuit. To the south-west of the bailey a scarp encloses a platform or court of an irregular shape and perhaps later date.

Only the motte now remains.

Shobdon: castle mound, Shobdon Court

HER no. 559, OS grid ref: SO 3995 6284

Shobdon is a parish in the north-west of the county, close to the town of Leominster. The site is approximately 1 mile north of Shobdon village, near the church and Shobdon Court.

At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086) Shobdon was known as Scepedune, the second part of which comes from the Old English word for hill,dun. The first part of the word is probably a personal name and may be Sceobba. So Shobdon means "Sceobba's hill". (Bruce Coplestone-Crow,Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 180)

Description of the Shobdon site today

In the parish of Shobdon, 1km north of the village, lies a round, flat-topped mound 50m in diameter and 3.3m-4m high. The surrounding ditch has been recently filled in on the north and east sides.

The mound is surrounded on two sides by an egg-packing plant and by a tarmac road on the north and east.< /p>

Oak trees have been planted round the upper perimeter, which may be part of an 18th century landscaping project. Where they are still standing they have grown to enormous proportions.

There are slight traces of an outer bank and causeway towards the north-east. The mound is recorded in the Victoria County History of 1908 as being 16ft high. By the time of the Royal Commission for the Historical Monuments of England's visit in 1934 the mound had diminished to a height of only "10-12ft". At the time of both visits a substantial ditch is recorded; this ditch has since been infillled, perhaps when the manor house was demolished in 1933.

Foundation and history of Shobdon

In the past Shobdon was part of the borderland between England and Wales. It is likely that this mound is the remains of one of the many timber motte-and-bailey castles built along the border after the Norman Conquest as a means of consolidating Norman control and dividing the conquered from the unconquered.

Shobdon is mentioned in the Domesday Survey for Herefordshire of 1086, and is recorded as being part of the lands of Ralph de Mortimer, a powerful Norman lord who had his base at nearby Wigmore. Shobdon was an important estate which had previously belonged to Queen Edith.

Excavation at Shobdon

In 1988 an excavation was carried out at the mound by the Archaeology Section of Hereford and Worcester Museum. The purpose was to determine the depth at which significant archaeological deposits occurred. The results of the excavation were to establish whether the proposed extension of the neighbouring Sun Valley hatchery could take place.

Three trenches were excavated, and all produced a similar stratigraphic sequence:

  1. Natural deposits - shale and silt.
  2. Ditch.
  3. Ditch fill - grey-brown silt and gravel. This layer is most probably consistent with the disuse of the mound.
  4. Recent deposits - rubble, modern pottery, fragments of asbestos roofing.

No trace of the internal edge of the ditch could be determined, and it was decided that it was unlikely that any traces of the timber structure that once crowned he mound would remain, since the height of the mound had diminished considerably. Advice was given on the extent of the works that could be carried out during the proposed extension, and in some areas restrictions on the depth of ground disturbance were laid down.

Sollers Hope: motte

HER no. 6635, OS grid ref: SO 6124 3315

Sollers Hope is a parish to the south-east of Hereford, not far from Fownhope. "Hope" means a small enclosed blind valley and perfectly describes the location of this castle.

This site is in the classic location of a castle, with church and later Elizabethan manor house all in one complex, indicating the centre of the manor with the lord supporting the church and then building a better, more comfortable house. It is largely in a non-defensive position, which indicates that this was more a residence than a castle, although there is a deep stream on the west side and a series of lynchets in the valley on the north, to the east of the stream, that may in some way be connected to water management and the castle site.

In the 13th century the manor belonged to the Sollers family.

The mound is 36m in diameter and rises 1.6m-2.3m above the wide ditch that surrounds it. The ditch has an outer bank. The eastern corner of the outer bank, along with the south-eastern corner of the mound, has been destroyed by the construction of a garden.

Staunton-on-Arrow: mound

HER no. 341, OS grid ref: SO 3696 6003

Staunton-on-Arrow lies 3km north-west of Pembridge, on the north side of the River Arrow. The site lies to the south-west of the parish Church, through the churchyard.

Description of the Staunton-on-Arrow site today

Immediately to the south-west of the church is a circular motte with a flat top, 19m across and surrounded by a just-visible dry ditch. The mound rises 8m above the bottom of the ditch.

On the motte there are traces of the foundations of what is almost certainly a polygonal shell keep. On the north side of the mound, opposite the church, are partially-exposed stone ledges, which may once have been stairs up to the keep.

Ill-defined scarpings to the south and west may indicate one or more baileys. The ditch is no longer visible except where it runs up against the churchyard wall. The bailey is poorly defined, but there is an area with a spring-fed pool and buried foundations.

The entire site of the castle is above the ground level of the surrounding village, which would have helped defensively. The ground of the baileys slopes gently away from the motte before dropping more steeply to the south.

The motte is now covered by mature trees but remains in good condition, as does the bailey area. A house to the south of the site appears to have been built within one of the baileys and possibly on the site of the ditch. The church to the north-east of the site has been built in the bailey area.

Stoke Lacy: motte

HER no. 6664, OS grid ref: SO 6253 5054

Stoke Lacy is roughly 6km south-west of Bromyard. The site lies 1.5km north-north-east of Stoke Lacy Church.

It is a moated mound recently cleared of trees and undergrowth. There are no indications of buildings and no evidence of a bailey associated with the mound.

The mound is oval in shape, 27m by 16m and 4.5m high. The ditch - supplied by a stream to the north - is largely obliterated on the west by a modern road. This ditch exists to a depth of 1.4m on the south-east.

Stoke Lacy means "dependent settlement". The de Lacy family held this area from soon after the Norman Conquest.

At the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 Stoke Lacy was part of the Plegelgate Hundred and was held by Aelmer Young. There were ten hides which paid tax and three ploughs in lordship. It also had 22 villagers with six ploughs and there was land enough for six other ploughs. It also had eleven slaves and a mill worth 5s. The value before and after 1066 was £10. (Frank and Caroline Thorn (eds.), Domesday Book 17: Herefordshire, 10,63, Phillimore, 1983)