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Historic England Research Records

Longtown Castle

Hob Uid: 105674
Location :
County Of Herefordshire
County Of Herefordshire
Longtown
Grid Ref : SO3208829139
Summary : The remains of Longtown Castle (known as Ewias Lacy Castle in the medieval period). The remains of the motte and bailey castle stand in a prominent location on a spur of ground between two river valleys. There is some evidence to suggest the castle occupies a former Iron Age enclosure and/or Roman camp. The site may also have been occupied in the 10th century. The Domesday Book of 1086 records the land as belonging to the Lacey family.Welsh attacks were frequent from the late 12th century, and the timber structure on top of the motte (mound) may be the 'new castle' referred to in Pipe Rolls in 1187. Between 1216 and 1231 the stone keep and bailey were built to improve the defences. The keep is of rare round shape, with walls 5 metres thick. It was a two-storey structure over an undercroft, with living accommodation on the upper floor. Notable features include the windows, possibly enlarged in the 14th century, a fireplace, corbels to support floor beams, and a projecting seven-seat latrine. The exterior originally had three semicircular projecting towers, one with a chimney flue, and another with a spiral stair. The curtain wall dates to the 13th century. Henry III visited Ewias Lacy in 1233 and ordered the lords of the area to attack his enemies and prepare their castles for sieges. At Walter Lacey's death in 1234 the castle passed through several families into the 15th century, none of whom lived at the castle, leaving it to fall into decay. In 1403 Henry IV ordered the castle to be refortified against the Welsh. The name Longtown derives from a planned medieval market town outside the castle ramparts; however, it was not a success and gradually declined into the small village existing today. The castle is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SO 32092916) Longtown Castle (GT) (Remains of) on Site of Roman Camp (GS) Moat (GT). (1)

"The fortifications consisted of a rectangular enclosure of about 3 acres with a motte at the NW angle on which stood a circular keep......The W. half of the enclosure is divided roughly into two parts, of which the northern formed the inner bailey and the southern the outer bailey. The inner bailey was bounded by a curtain wall on the NE, E & S sides with an entrance gateway in the S. wall. There appears to have been no wall along the W. side where possibly the steepness of the scarp made any formidable masonry unnecessary. The general fortifications appear to be of post-Conquest work, but very possibly placed on the site of, and incorporating an earthwork of earlier date. It has been suggested that the site is that of a Roman Camp, but apart from the general resemblance of the plan of the quadrangular enclosure to that of a Roman earthwork there is no evidence to support this theory. The Keep and the remains of the curtain wall to the inner bailey, together with the remains of the southern gateway are all of late 12th or early 13th century date.."

Traces of further earth outworks in the field to the north and of a slight platform or terrace in the NW corner of the same field. [Very full description and useful plan, but no history.] (2)

Excavations by M.G. Jarrett and G.D.B. Jones, for the Board of Celtic Studies, suggest that the earthwork NW. of the bailey of the castle, sometimes thought to be a Roman fort, is medieval. Despite surface indications there was no ditch within 7.0m of the bank on the NE side. (3)

A motte and bailey as described above, set within the SW half of a strong, nearly-square, univallate earthwork. No evidence has been found to date this work to the Roman period. But its situation upon the end of a ridge in a very commanding position and the large proportions of its rampart strongly suggest it to be an Iron Age 'C' ridge-end fort.

The earthwork measures, overall, 150.0m NE-SW by 135.0m transversely, and comprised a rampart, up to 20.0m in width and 3.5m in height with an outer ditch, up to 10.0m in width and 1.0m in depth. Three breaches in the NW, NE and SE sides, two taking the modern Longtown road, are of probable Md or later date.The ditch is extant on the NE side but elsewhere is fragmentary or missing.

The original entrance is midway along the SE side. The adaption of the SW half of the earthwork to a motte and bailey required the heightening, by scarping, of the outer slopes of the rampart to a height of 5.0-6.0m and a levelling-off of the inner slopes to saucer-like depressions within the two baileys, with the motte built up over the W corner to a height of 11.0m. The original entrance was probably deepend at this time into a ditch which was taken round the NE side of the baileys and motte and which now appears as an unsurveyable depression for much of the distance through construction of a school and playground etc. The earthworks are in fair to good condition, the keep, remains of curtain wall, and gateway, are at present undergoing restoration by the MPB&W. The ploughed down remains of a bank, up to 16.0m in width, 1.6m in height, run NW from near the N corner of the earthwork, for 110.0m. The purpose of the work, believed Md by Jarrett and Jones, was not ascertained during field investigation. Published 1:2500 survey revised. (4)

SO 321292. Longtown. Tall motte with rounded buttressing and large sub-divided bailey of rectangular form. Castle mentioned 1187-8, and ordered to be held against [Owain] Glendower in 1403. [See also SO 32NW 2]. (5)

Additional reference. (6)

Detailed account of the architectural development of keep and its relationship to the motte and bailey. The date of construction of the stone keep is equivocal though it is argued that it may relate to Walter de Lacy's favour with the Crown indicating a date between 1213 and 1223. The tradition of a Roman fort is also discussed, citing the current paucity of archaeological evidence to support this theory.(7)

The earthwork remains of the motte and bailey described by the previous authorities were seen centred at SO 3214 2914 (the motte at SO 3207 2917) and mapped from aerial photographs. (8)

The earthworks of Longtown Castle remain as described above. The castle consists of a sub-square enclosure of approximately 1.21ha defined by a single bank with an external ditch. Although ground and plan evidence suggests that this enclosure pre-dates the castle, an absolute date for it has yet to be determined and it could be of any period between the later prehistoric and the early medieval. The idea that it was a Roman camp has lost favour recently, the preferred idea being that it was the 10th century Mercian burh, recorded by Florence of Worcester as, established west of the Golden Valley by Earl Harold Godwinson. The original entrance to the enclosure is likely to have been on its southern side where there is breach in the rampart 20m to the west of the present road. The breach carries a hollowed trackway, is flanked by imposing ramparts and has traces of a stone revetment wall on its eastern side. The steep, conical, castle motte straddles the north-western corner of the enclosure, standing approximately 11m high, with a circular stone keep on its summit. The motte ditch has been filled in but traces of it can be seen in the inner bailey, where a broad shallow depression curves around the foot of the mound; to the west where a shallow ditch lies between Jews Lane and the mound; and where the enclosure rampart is broken immediately to the south of the mound. The keep is a massive stone structure constructed of local shale-like sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. Its walls, 4m thick, survive two storeys high above an under-croft. It has collapsed on its south-western side, where two large fragments of masonry lie below it on the slope of the motte. A masonry curtain wall, approximately 3m thick enclosed an irregularly shaped bailey south of the keep, encompassing the western part of the earthwork enclosure. Most of this wall has collapsed, but five portions survive on the eastern side of the bailey. The bailey was also sub-divided into inner and outer courts by a cross wall, which still stands. The inner court is accessed through a narrow, round-arched gateway flanked by solid half-round turrets. The bailey has a scooped profile but is otherwise largely devoid of earthworks, except for piles of rubble and a building platform south of the cross wall. The part of the castle outside the masonry bailey is known as the 'eastern bailey'. This also has a scooped profile and contains at least three small building platforms, which could well be medieval, as well as spoil mounds beside the road. The possibility that the castle had further baileys or outworks to its north and/or south is open to conjecture, but the fragmentary earthworks which exist in these areas are more likely to be remains of the medieval borough of Longtown (SO 32 NW 13).

Longtown Castle and borough was surveyed at 1:1000 scale by English Heritage in February-March 2003. For full details see Archaeological Investigation Report AI/26/2003 (11).

The castle was excavated in 1978. There was no evidence at all for there having been a Roman site before the castle was built. The earliest castle was built shortly after the Conquest and consisted of the motte, North and Soth baileys, the East bailey being a later addition. The keep was built at the end of the 12th century and the curtain wall and gatehouse added in the 13th century. (12)

Scheduled, RSM Number: 28886. (13)

An archaeological investigation of the castle and the surrounding earthworks was undertaken by English Heritage in 2003 (See also Source 11). The report also includes an historical background to the area. No records exist to suggest that the castle took part in the Civil War, although cannon balls have been found in the area. Even if it took no direct part it may have been deliberately destroyed at this time, and local tradition that it was slighted by cannon in the Civil War suggests that it may have been affected by the conflict. A map of 1718 depicts the ruined keep, house, and a shop. The inner and outer baileys appear to have been used as a yard and garden respectively. The castle was also the site of a gallows, last used in 1790. In 1869 a school was built in the eastern bailey. This was extended and Castle Lodge house was built to its north before 1904, by which time the house and shop of 1718 had been demolished. Several lean-to buildings were built against the curtain wall, and in 1930 a stable stood next to the eastern gate turret. These buildings are no longer extant, and the school has been converted into a house. (14)

Additional references. (15-16)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1905
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire. Volume I: south-west
Source details :
Page(s) : 182-4, PLAN PHOTO
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : English Heritage Field Investigation, N A Smith, March 2003
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club : transactions
Source details : 'Longtown Castle: a report on excavations by J. Nicholls, 1978', by Peter Ellis
Page(s) : 64-84
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 49 (1), 1997
Source Number : 13
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : Schedule Notification 22-Jun-2004
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 14
Source : Longtown, Herefordshire: a medieval castle and borough
Source details : Archaeological Investigation Report Series
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 26
Source Number : 15
Source : Heritage Unlocked: Guide to free sites in the Midlands
Source details :
Page(s) : 54-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 16
Source : Longtown Castle, Hereford and Worcester: botanical survey 1995
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 3
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details : (Wilson & Hurst)
Page(s) : 199
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1966
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 05-SEP-72
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details : (D J Cathcart King)
Page(s) : 208, 216 FN
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 1983
Source Number : 6
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire. Volume I: south-west
Source details : sketch plan
Page(s) : 242
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Notes on the history of Longtown, or Ewias Lacy, and the structural development of its castle. Hereford Archaeology Series 104 (1991)
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Source Number : 8
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : CUCAP AMQ 57-70
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Source Number : 9
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : CUCAP AWY 25-27
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Source Number : 10
Source : A guide to castles and moated sites in Herefordshire
Source details :
Page(s) : 167-74
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Vol(s) : vol.2

Monument Types:
Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HE 20
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 93250
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Hereford & Worcestershire)
External Cross Reference Number : 1036-7
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : MORPH2
External Cross Reference Number : MU.99.1
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 349
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 28886
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Herefordshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 1036
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SO 32 NW 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 105703
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : CITY OF HEREFORD ARCHAEOLOGY UNIT
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date :
End Date :
Associated Activities : OUTER EARTHWORK, LONGTOWN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1965-01-01
End Date : 1965-12-31
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1970-01-01
End Date : 1979-12-31
Associated Activities : FIELD OBSERVATION ON SO 32 NW 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1972-09-05
End Date : 1972-09-05
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1978-01-01
End Date : 1978-12-31
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND ADJACENT TO THE POLICE STATION
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1987-12-31
Associated Activities : RCHME: MARCHES UPLANDS NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 1993-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1994-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : GREEN COTTAGE, LONGTOWN
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : EH: LONGTOWN CASTLE AND MEDIEVAL BOROUGH
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2003-12-31
Associated Activities : LAND AT POST BOX COTTAGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLES PROJECT
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2016-01-01
End Date : 2017-12-31
Associated Activities : LONGTOWN CASTLE SIGNAGE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2017-01-01
End Date : 2017-12-31