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Castell Bryn Amlwyg: a ringwork and enclosure castle

A Scheduled Monument in Bettws-y-Crwyn, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.453 / 52°27'10"N

Longitude: -3.2266 / 3°13'35"W

OS Eastings: 316742.828908

OS Northings: 284603.486669

OS Grid: SO167846

Mapcode National: GBR 9X.LD9S

Mapcode Global: VH68K.1L2W

Entry Name: Castell Bryn Amlwyg: a ringwork and enclosure castle

Scheduled Date: 17 October 1930

Last Amended: 18 September 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020148

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33849

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Bettws-y-Crwyn

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Bettws-y-Crwyn

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a ringwork and an
enclosure castle. Traditionally known as Castell Bryn Amlwyg (castle on a
prominent hill), it is situated at the south western end, and on the highest
point, of a ridge overlooking the Nant Rhuddwr valley. It was strategically
placed at the western extremity of the Marcher lordship of Clun, established
in 1070. The castle lies just over 2km to the south of the Kerry Ridgeway, a
long-established routeway which linked the medieval castle towns of Bishop's
Castle and Clun, and which ran westwards into the heart of Wales.
The elevated ground on which the castle sits has been adapted in order to form
the ringwork, which is oval in plan with overall dimensions of 88m east to
west by 104m south west to north east. The oval-shaped internal mound, which
measures approximately 30m by 48m across the top, is bounded by a steep-sided
rock-cut ditch. The ditch is surrounded by a steep-sided rampart between 10m
and 15m wide, which has been partly formed by deliberately accentuating the
natural fall at the end of the ridge. To the north east, the rampart is set
further away from the mound thereby increasing the width of the ditch. This
part of the defensive circuit has been modified by stone quarrying in the 19th
and 20th centuries. A deep cut has been made through the bank, part of the
ditch has been cut away and quarry spoil has been dumped over the outer
defences to the north. Next to the outer side of the north eastern part of the
rampart there are additional quarry hollows and spoil heaps, which are not
included in the scheduling. To the north, corresponding with the gently rising
spine of the ridge, is a break through the rampart, about 3.5m wide, which
appears to mark the position of the original entrance passage to the interior
of the castle. The positions of structures within the interior are marked by
embanked wall footings, piles of collapsed masonry and level building
platforms. A mass of collapsed stonework also lies within the ditch,
particularly to the south and the north west.
In 1963 a small-scale archaeological excavation was conducted in order to
provide information about the structural history of the site. From this
investigation it would appear that originally the interior of the ringwork had
been defined by an inner rampart and that the contemporary structures were
built of wood. At a later date a stone round tower or keep was built at the
southern end of the interior of the ringwork. It measured about 6m in diameter
internally, with a wall roughly 2.5m thick. A stone curtain wall, about 2m
wide, was then constructed around the interior, abutting the tower and cutting
into the remains of the earlier inner rampart. A D-shaped stone tower was
added to eastern and western sides of the curtain wall, and a twin D-shaped
towered gateway, also of stone, was constructed at the northern end of the
interior. Following a major structural collapse, the gateway was rebuilt to
form an enlarged gatehouse, and the adjoining part of the curtain wall to the
west was also strengthened. A quantity of iron nails and animal bones,
together with an iron arrowhead, was found in a deposit predating the curtain
wall, and within the round tower large burnt timbers were discovered.
It is considered that the ringwork was built in the late 11th or the early
12th century and would have been vital in securing the lordship boundary. The
subsequent stone-built enclosure castle, comprising the round tower, curtain
wall, D-shaped side and gate towers, is believed to have been built in the
13th century, during which time it served as a border outpost for the
lordship. The rebuilding of the gateway and an adjoining portion of the
curtain wall, probably in the later 13th century, emphasises the castle's
continuing role as an important border fortification at this time.

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

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Where a keep was built within the enclosure it was not
usually significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the
Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th
century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to
their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century
although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Enclosure castles are
widely dispered throughout England with a strong concentration along the Welsh
border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. Despite some
damage from modern stone quarrying, Castell Bryn Amlwyg is a good example of a
ringwork, which has been subsequently used to form an enclosure castle. The
archaeological excavation here has demonstrated the nature and extent of the
structural remains and the associated buried deposits, and has provided
information about the sequence of construction of the enclosure castle. The
association of a ringwork with an enclosure castle provides important evidence
about the development of military architecture in the Welsh marches from the
late 11th century to the 13th century.
The structural remains existing here, together with the associated artefacts
and organic remains surviving in the interior and within the ditch, will
provide valuable evidence about the activities and lifestyles of those who
inhabited the site. In addition, organic remains preserved in the buried
ground surfaces beneath the inner and outer ramparts will provide information
about the local environment and the use of the land prior to the construction
of the ringwork. The monument remains a prominent feature within the landscape
and as such provides a tangible reminder of the military and strategic
importance of this area in the Middle Ages.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Alcock, L et al, 'The Montgomeryshire Collections. Journal of the Powysland Club' in Excavations at Castell Bryn Amlwg, , Vol. 60, (1968), 8-27

Source: Historic England

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