Ancient Monuments

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Goodrich Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Goodrich, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 51.8767 / 51°52'36"N

Longitude: -2.6157 / 2°36'56"W

OS Eastings: 357711.434115

OS Northings: 219976.124672

OS Grid: SO577199

Mapcode National: GBR FQ.RV3K

Mapcode Global: VH86P.M313

Entry Name: Goodrich Castle

Scheduled Date: 27 October 1919

Last Amended: 31 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014904

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27547

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Goodrich

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Goodrich and Welsh Bicknor

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the ruined, earthwork, and buried remains of Goodrich
Castle, which rises dramatically from the sandstone bedrock of a promontory
overlooking a crossing point on the River Wye. The quadrangular castle
encloses an earlier tower keep and has an outer ward on its north and west
sides. It has a substantial dry moat, now grassed, on the south and east
sides, and the drawbridge and gatehouse are defended by an outwork, or
The first documentary reference to the castle dates to c.1100 and connects it
with a local landowner, Godric Mappestone. At this time the castle was
probably a simple enclosure with timber palisade and tower, although evidence
for this has been obscured by subsequent developments. The stone keep became
the focal point for reorganised defences during or shortly after the war
between Stephen and Matilda, 1138-53, when the Earls of Gloucester and
Hereford were disputing the area. At this time Goodrich belonged to Gilbert
Fitz Gilbert de Clare, and returned to royal ownership in 1176. In 1204 King
John gave Goodrich to William Marshal, who was probably responsible for the
construction of the first stone wall and towers around the keep, a common
undertaking of Marcher Lords along the Welsh border at that time. Under the
ownership of William de Valence some time later, grants of oak trees and the
presence of royal clerks and workmen recorded in the 1280s-90s suggest that
substantial rebuilding was taking place, and the majority of the present
structure dates from this period. The old keep was downgraded to create a
prison, and three additional ranges were built, each with a hall and three-
storey residential tower. William's wife, Joan, spent long periods at Goodrich
after her husband's death in 1296, and manuscript records of her expenses
provide a fascinating insight into life in a baronial household.
Goodrich was the principal residence of the Talbot family in the 14th century,
and it was they who founded nearby Flanesford Priory in 1346. The curtain
walls of the barbican and outer ward also date to the 14th century. Some
additional remodelling took place at Goodrich over the next 200 years'
occupation, but by 1616, when it was sold to the Earl of Kent, the castle was
disused. However, during the Civil War it was occupied for Parliament in 1643,
then by the Royalists under Sir Henry Lingen in 1645. In March, 1646, the
Roundheads laid siege and mined under the river side of the castle, which
eventually led to its surrender. Goodrich was subsequently partly demolished
to prevent its future military use, and the main timbers and lead roofs were
removed. The standing remains are Listed Grade I.
Evidence for the 11th century castle will survive buried beneath the existing
structure, and a burial ground cut by the south eastern corner of the later
moat may have been associated with this early phase. The graves were
orientated roughly east-west, and appeared to represent several generations of
use, perhaps as part of a parochial church within the outer court of the
The keep represents the first recorded stone structure on the site, and its
masonry is of a higher quality than subsequent work. It is of coursed ashlar
construction, using grey conglomerate probably from the Forest of Dean a few
miles to the south. Its square plan, with walls 2.3m thick, leaves an internal
area of only 4.27m square, and it is therefore unlikely to have formed the
principal residence of its owner; it may have been associated with a
free-standing great hall in the inner bailey. Externally there are shallow
clasping angle buttresses with shallow central pilasters on all but the west
side, a chevron-moulded stringcourse at second floor level, and a parapet,
which would have hidden a gabled roof. Sloping stones in the walls indicate
the pitch of the roof. Low on the north and west walls is a shallow chamfered
plinth, below which the masonry is of lower quality than above. The original
entrance was at first-floor level in the north wall, above the present
15th or 16th century doorway, and was probably reached by a wooden staircase.
It is now occupied by a window with two trefoil-headed lights of c.1300. Two
round-arched 12th century windows light the second floor in the north and west
sides, and a later opening on the east side was linked by a bridge to the
castle's south east tower. Internally, a spiral staircase, or vice, built into
the north west corner, linked the first and second floors and gave access to
the roof-walk. The present roof is a modern replacement. The position of the
original wooden floors is shown by the large, plain stone corbels. Today there
is a modern wooden staircase and platform within the keep.
During the 13th century the castle's fortifications were enhanced by stone
walls and towers around the keep, and the foundations of the 13th century
south west tower can be traced in the basement of the existing one.
The east curtain wall and the priests' seats, or sedilla, inside the chapel,
also date from this period. Around 1300 the quadrangular castle was
reconstructed in its present form from red sandstone quarried from the moat.
This impressive ditch averages 27m wide by 8m deep, and defends the south and
east sides. It was not necessary on the west and north sides of the castle
where steep slopes provided adequate natural defence. Roughly square in plan,
the castle has three round corner towers, with tall pyramidal spurs, with the
twin towered gatehouse occupying the north east corner. This was defended by
a D-shaped outwork, or barbican, which has its own shallower ditch and was
entered via a drawbridge from the south. Its present bridge is a modern
replacement. The lower parts of the barbican wall remain, with a stone bench
around the inside. A stone ramp leading westwards, with a guard chamber to its
north, leads to the main drawbridge, which was supported on arches and
approached by shallow steps. Once over the bridge, the gate passage in the
north east tower was overlooked by the porter's lodge to the north, which also
has views over the ramp and outer ward. The chapel is to the south of the
passage and shows several phases of modification. The trefoil windows at
either end and the piscinas and the corbels are parts of a 15th century
reconstruction. A staircase and upper doorways were added along with a wooden
gallery, and another building linking the chapel to the guest hall to the
south. The chapel's west window commemorates the Radar Research Squadron. The
chapel's wooden ceiling is a modern replacement, but the chambers above it and
the gate passage house the portcullis slots, `murder holes', and recesses for
the drawbridge's counterweights. The back-to-back fireplaces indicate these
were chambers of some comfort, probably accommodation for the constable in
charge of the garrison. The east range, south of the gatehouse, has a large
latrine block at its south end, and provided communal accommodation for the
castle staff and garrison. At least three phases of development here
culminated in a building with two upper floors, probably added in the 15th
century. The line of the roof of this building and of an earlier roof, and
vestiges of the 15th century fireplace, can be seen in the chapel's south
wall. The south east tower had three floors for domestic use and has window
openings with seats and large hooded fireplaces. Between this and the keep is
a vaulted `dungeon', which retains slots for an external door bar. A kitchen
area occupied the space south and west of the keep, and is probably 15th or
16th century in its present form, and the bases of the large ovens, fireplaces
and a wall drain survive. The angular southward projection of the south
curtain wall may echo the line of the earlier enclosure around the keep.
The west range housed the castle owner's suite and includes the great hall,
which was heated by a large fireplace and lit by three large windows in the
west wall, two of which survive. Corbels and wall slots survive to show the
level of the roof of what must have been an impressive chamber. There are
references to an oak roof beam 20m long and 0.6cm square. The south west tower
had two floors and a basement, the latter having a 15th century doorway and
stairs down to the stables in the outer ward. The ground floor chamber, the
buttery, was entered from a passage screened off from the hall. A doorway at
the north end of the hall leads to a small chapel for the family's private
use. Beyond this are the remains of the north west tower which was separated
from the lord's private chamber or solar, to the east, by two pointed arches
springing from a central pier, under a segmental relieving arch. These great
arches would have been closed by wooden screens. The solar, another important
room, also had large windows in its north wall, and was modified in the 14th
century by the insertion of a third floor. In its basement a sally port and
steps to the outer ward were protected by a portcullis and double doors. Here
also is a recess with a sink, which was linked by a pipe to the castle's 51m
deep well. The north range also originally housed guest accommodation, which
was later reorganised and linked with the main chapel and gatehouse. The
octagonal foundation of a late medieval archway remains between the latter and
the solar. All four main ranges were linked by covered alleys, now modern
paths, around the central courtyard.
The outer ward was created by partly levelling the slope around the north and
west sides of the castle, and is protected by a low curtain wall with small
turrets at the corners. On the west side, the foundations, stone paving, and
drain channels of the stables survive.
All modern structures, modern road and path surfaces, modern stairs and
walkways, information boards, rubbish bins and benches, all fences and gates
around and within the monument, and the flag pole in the barbican are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or
sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls
formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and
occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly
defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but
sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of
quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and
intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly
from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of
massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the
main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in
buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An
important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built
to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did
not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples
of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also
began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the
14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples
demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of
defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They
provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural
and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout
England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable
coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north
near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are
rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern
type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited
with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, they are
major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of
society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci
for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and
evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource,
both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of
medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date
are considered to be of national importance.

Goodrich Castle is a fine example of a quadrangular castle, with the most
extensive remains of this class of monument in Herefordshire. Its good
survival provides a valuable example of military architecture which retains
evidence for both methods of construction and for the sequence of military
modifications over time. In particular, Goodrich illustrates the way in which
12th century keeps came to be replaced by defended ranges grouped around an
enclosure in the 13th century. Buried remains within the castle will elucidate
the earlier phases of the monument's development, as well as contributing to
our understanding of the uses of the individual chambers. Deposits which have
accumulated in the moat will preserve environmental evidence for several
centuries of occupation and military activity at the castle, and for land use
in the surrounding area.
In its strategic position over the River Wye, Goodrich Castle forms part of
the wider picture of the medieval defences of the county. When viewed
alongside other similar monuments it can contribute to our understanding of
the social and political organisation of medieval Herefordshire. The
monument, which is in the care of the Secretary of State, is open to the

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Renn, D, Goodrich Castle, (1993), 21
held on HPG file - plan, Mays, S, Letter commenting on finds of human bones in 1976 landslip, (1991)
plans, elevations, Shoesmith, Ron, First preliminary report on keep survey, (1990)
plans, Shoesmith, Ron, Excavation of electricity trench, 1988, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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