• Lucy

Chepstow Castle (Monmouthshire, Wales)

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Chepstow Castle/Castell Cas-gwent (originally known as Striguil) is one of the oldest surviving fortifications post-Roman in Britain. It's the most southern in the chain of Marcher castles that were built along the Welsh border (other Marcher castles include Ludlow, Wigmore, Powis etc.)

Chepstow was built to conform to the landscape, and as a result the structure follows the limestone cliff of the estuary. Covering an important river crossing of the River Wye, it was a castle of extreme strategic importance. This is evidenced by the speed at which construction began after the Norman Conquest, with work started by William FitzOsbern in 1067 and the great tower likely completed around 1090. Although most of the stone was quarried locally, it's considered very probable that at least some of the stonework of the great keep (pictures 7, 8 and 9 among others) was pilfered from the nearby Roman town of Caerwent.

Over the following centuries Chepstow Castle was expanded by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (who built the present gatehouse, strengthened the defences in the middle bailey with round towers, and possibly rebuilt the upper bailey defences) and later Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk (who constructed a new range of buildings in the lower bailey as accommodation and was also responsible for building the Port Walls of Chepstow town. He also built the tower now known as 'Marten's Tower' and remodeled the Great Tower/keep).

By the 14th century the castle had declined in significance. It was garrisoned by not attacked during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr in 1403. As the centuries passed the castle was used less for defensive purposed and was remodeled and used primarily as accommodation for the contemporary owners.

During the Civil War (1642 - 1651) it saw renewed significance, becoming the boundary between Royalist Monmouthshire and Parliamentarian Gloucestershire. Held by the Royalists and besieged in both 1645 and 1648, it finally fell to the Parliamentarian forces in May 1648. After the war the castle was garrisoned and used as a prison for for political prisoners.

In 1682 the castle passed to the Duke of Beaufort. After the garrison was disbanded in 1685 the castle was either dismantled, left to decay, or leased to tenants. By the late 18th century it was a ruin. The castle is now in the care of CADW.

The wooden doors on display (picture 17) have been dendrologically dated as being over 800 years old, and are the oldest surviving castle doors in the whole of Europe!

Pictures were taken in February 2018

Castle Site Plan

Mike Salter Chepstow Castle Site Plan

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