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Stapleton Castle

HER no. 917, OS grid ref: SO 3232 6555

Stapleton is a small parish without a church, 1.5km north-east of Presteigne on the Herefordshire/Radnorshire border.

Description of the site today

The earthworks consist of a motte on the southern, higher end of a hill with a ditch cut into the hillside on the west and east sides.

On the north side is the main bailey with traces of an entrance and a slight ditch to the north. Further to the north there may have been a further outer enclosure, and a sunken trackway approaches the site on the east side of the bailey.

Medieval latrine chutes survive on the west side and in the right-angled south-east corner. 

The motte contains the remains of a farmhouse which includes much of the 17th century manor house that was defaced during the Civil War and had been abandoned by the 19th century. The house consisted of a long rectangular central wing, probably with two crosswings at the north and south ends. The whole of the north end and the western projection of the north cross-wing are now gone. The motte was probably much flattened and altered during the construction of the house. 

This site is inaccessible to the public due to the danger of falling masonry.

Foundation and history of the site

1086: At the time of the Domesday Survey Stapleton was held by Osbern fitz Richard.

1140s: Osbern fitz Hugh lost his castle at nearby Presteigne to Roger Port and built a castle at Stapleton to replace it.

The castle later passed to the Say family and then to the Mortimers of Richard's Castle.

1223: Henry III granted a licence to William de Stuteville (then Baron of Richard's Castle) to hold a weekly market in the manor of Stapleton.

1304: On the death of Hugh de Mortimer, Stapleton passed by marriage to Sir Geoffrey de Cornewall, whose father was a natural son of Richard Plantagenet. Later, on the orders of Henry IV, Stapleton was garrisoned against the Welsh rebels by Sir John Cornewall. He was the husband of Henry IV's sister, the Princess Elizabeth.

1415: Sir John Cornewall led a force of archers and men-at-arms at Agincourt, and was later made Baron of Fownhope by the King.

The Cornewall family went on to produce many more eminent descendants, including Charles Cornewall who was Vice-Admiral of the Fleet which defeated the Spanish forces who had tried to seize the island of Sicily. His grandson, Charles Wolfran Cornewall, was Lord of the Treasury and twice Speaker of the House of Commons, and another member, Foliot Cornewall, was successively Bishop of Bristol, Hereford and Worcester.

Early 17th century: An H-plan house was built within the former shell keep.

1645: The house was defaced by Sir Michael Woodhouse to prevent Parliamentary troops occupying it during the English Civil War.

1706: The Cornewalls sold the house to the Harleys, who repaired and occupied it.