Caldicot Castle (Monmouthshire, Wales)
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
An earth and timber castle was thought to have been constructed here by Walter fitz-Roger after the Norman Conquest located very close to the site of Harold Godwinson's former Saxon castle. The castle was later held by Miles of Gloucester, earl of Hereford, and in 1158 passed via his daughter Margaret to Humphrey de Bohun II. Their son (Humphrey de Bohun III) is the likely builder of the stone keep and curtain walls. The castle remained in the Bohun family for over 200 years until 1376.
In 1376 the castle, along with many other estates, passed to Thomas of Woodcock, the third son of Edward III, when he married 10-year-old Alianore de Bohun. When Edward III died the throne passed to his grandson, 9-year-old Richard II. As the new King’s uncle Thomas held an important role advising on Royal matters and was appointed Constable of England, he rarely visited Caldicot and spent much of his time at his main estate at Pleshey Castle, Essex.
In 1381 the Peasants' Revolt threw Essex into chaos. This may be why Thomas decided to spend part of that year in Caldicot. During his time at Caldicot a new gatehouse and drawbridge were constructed. At the rear of the castle a dovecote was replaced by a new tower with private chambers, now known as the Woodstock tower (1385). At the foot of the Woodstock tower two carved stones were to be placed, one marked 'Thomas' the other 'Alianore'.
As time passed relations between Thomas and King Richard grew increasingly strained. Thomas was the leader of the Lords Appellant, a group of powerful nobles whose ambition to take control from King Richard II of England culminated in a successful rebellion in 1388 that significantly weakened the king's power. Richard II managed to dispose of the Lords Appellant in 1397, and Thomas was imprisoned in Calais to await trial for treason.
In 1398, on the orders of the king, Thomas was executed. His property was confiscated and passed into the hands of the Crown.
After 1521 the castle became part of the Duchy of Lancaster, who subsequently leased it to the earls of Worcester.
Caldicot Castle was neglected and fell into ruin, suffering the fate of many castles and becoming little more than a farmyard. The castle was sold to Charles Lewis of St Pierre in 1857. In 1885 he sold it to Joseph Richard Cobb, lawyer and antiquary, who began the restoration of the castle as his family home. The restoration was continued by his descendants.
In 1964, Chepstow Rural District Council bought the castle from the Cobb family for £12,000. The building, including a small museum, was opened to the public in 1965. Today the castle is open to the public and is managed by Monmouthshire County Council.
Site visited September 2018.
Photos © Completely Castles 2018