Clifford Castle (Herefordshire, England)
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Apparently Clifford Castle isn't all that well known outside of Herefordshire castle folks - and just castle folks, because I work in the area and no non-castle people I spoke to even knew it existed!
The original motte and bailey castle on this site was built c. 1070 by William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford (also responsible for castles at Chepstow, Wigmore, Berkeley, Monmouth and more; FitzOsbern was a prolific Norman castle-builder). After William's death the castle went to his son Roger, who then forfeited his lands to the Crown in 1075 (due to his role in the failed Revolt of the Earls).
The castle was granted by the Crown to Ralph Tosney, who rebuilt the castle in stone. Ralph's daughter Margaret married Walter FitzRichard, and the castle and surrounding estates became his. He took the name Walter Clifford sometime before 1162, thus giving the name to the castle and village that remains to this day.
Walter's daughter Rosamund was famed for her beauty and became the mistress of Henry II. She became the focus of legend and intrigue over the years. Most of these, like the one below, came about after her death (from a non-poisonous source) -
' The traditional story recounts that King Henry adopted her as his mistress. To conceal his illicit amours from his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he conducted them within the innermost recesses of a complicated maze which he caused to be made in his park at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Rumours were heard by Queen Eleanor, and she contrived to penetrate the labyrinth, confronted her rival, and forced her to choose between the dagger and the bowl of poison; Rosamund chose the latter and died. '
In 1233 Walter's grandson rebelled against King Henry III, resulting in the king's forces besieging Clifford Castle and forcing the garrison to surrender. This particular Walter Clifford was apparently tempestuous and impulsive, because not only did he march against his father-in-law Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (who was fighting on the side of the king who Walter had only just made peace with), he also once reportedly forced a royal messenger to eat a royal writ, together with the royal wax seal the size of a dinner plate.
With no son Clifford Castle went instead to his widowed daughter Margaret in the 1260s. John Giffard forcibly married her during the Second Baron's War (after kidnapping and raping her, he was an awful person) and they remained on the Clifford Estate until Giffard's death in 1299, whereupon the king granted the estate to the Mortimers of Wigmore.
Once Wales was conquered and the Welsh were subdued the value of many border castles fell heavily, and many crumbled into ruin or were left to deteriorate by owners who moved to their larger and nicer properties. Clifford Castle was unfortunately no exception, and excluding a brief garrison in 1402 agains the forces of Owain Glyndŵr, the castle was never used or inhabited again.
In the present day Clifford Castle sits on private property with no access to the public except on specific days during the year. I was lucky enough that for the first time in my working life I had the August Bank Holiday weekend off, and although the castle was scheduled to be open all 3 days this was amended in light of the awful weather and it was only open on Saturday. Definitely worth the visit - also had a wicked time driving over the super old toll bridge to get to Clifford! It's £1 either way but definitely something else!