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Longtown castle and town

A Scheduled Monument in Longtown, Herefordshire,

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Latitude: 51.9551 / 51°57'18"N

Longitude: -2.987 / 2°59'13"W

OS Eastings: 332271.709501

OS Northings: 228969.725326

OS Grid: SO322289

Mapcode National: GBR F6.LZPX

Mapcode Global: VH78N.54S2

Entry Name: Longtown castle and town

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1928

Last Amended: 22 June 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021347

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28886

County: Herefordshire,

Civil Parish: Longtown

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Herefordshire

Church of England Parish: Clodock and Longtown

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle with associated earthworks and
settlement remains lying at the confluence of the River Monnow and Olchon
Brook in South Herefordshire.

The castle and earthworks comprise a linear development running north
west-south east and lie in four separate areas of protection. At the north
west end is a keep, located in the north west corner of the inner bailey. The
inner bailey, in turn, lies in the north west corner of the outer bailey,
which is now bisected by the modern road. Some consider the eastern part of
the outer bailey to be a separate `Eastern Bailey'. To the north of the outer
bailey, on the east side of the modern road is a linear bank, which is
considered to be associated with the castle or with the associated borough. To
the south of the outer bailey is an enclosure with banks which was part of the
medieval borough. Beyond this to the south east are the earthworks of a ribbon
development of medieval occupation. Separate from this, and further to the
south east is a complex of irregular earthworks representing agricultural
enclosures and occupation areas.

Longtown Castle was built by Walter de Lacy, a lord of the Welsh Marches in
the late 12th century, to defend the English borderlands from Welsh raiders,
and to protect the adjoining colony town of Ewyas Lacy, later known as
Longtown. The town of Ewyas Lacy was established by Walter de Lacy at about
the same time as the castle. The settlement was one of several new towns in
the area, which were usually sited adjacent to a castle for defence. The
smallholdings, or burgage plots, to the south east of the castle, and fronting
onto the road were occupied by burgesses who paid an annual rent to Walter de
Lacy and his successors. Further income was derived by fees paid by stall
holders at a weekly market, and two annual fairs. The triangular market place
has been largely built over, and St Peter's Chapel, which lay in this area,
has become a house.

The castle and town passed from the de Lacy family in about 1230. The town
appears to have prospered for a time, and by 1310 the population is thought to
have been more than 500 people. Following the Black Death in the mid-14th
century, the town's population probably decreased. By 1540 the declining town
was known as Longa Villa in Ewias Lacy, no doubt because of its linear
settlement along the High Street, and from then on became known as Longtown.

The keep is a stone built circular tower, thought to have replaced an earlier
wooden one. It provided living accommodation in times of peace and a last line
of defence in times of war. Although ruinous it can be seen that it had two
storeys above a basement, and is constructed of shaley rubble with cut ashlar
stone around the door and windows. Inside the keep are the remains of a spiral
staircase near the entrance and a fireplace at first floor level. There is
also a well inside the keep and two projecting garderobes or lavatories.

The keep stands on a large earth mound, or motte, about 6m high, built for
defensive purposes and to raise the height of the keep so that it provided a
good lookout position.

The inner bailey measures about 20m by 40m with a bank 2m high and 8m wide.
There are remnants of some of its stone curtain walls intact. These wall
fragments stand to about 3m or 4m high, and would have replaced a wooden
palisade on top of the bank. The inner bailey contained accommodation for the
castle's owner, his servants, soldiers and livestock. Linking the inner and
outer bailey is a stone gateway with a bastion either side. The gateway has a
double arch and is about 1.8m wide. The ground level has risen over the
centuries to make the arch now seem very low, but originally a horse and rider
could have passed easily through it. Originally there would also have been a
portcullis to defend the gateway.

The outer bailey, measuring about 100 sq m, would, in medieval times have
contained several buildings mainly used for storage. Earthworks thought to be
the remains of such structures can be seen in the eastern part of the outer
bailey. The whole outer bailey is defended by a bank and ditch. The bank
stands to about 2m to 2.5m high internally and twice that height externally,
with the ditch about 6m wide. There is a modern entrance on the east side, but
the original entrance is thought to have been on the south side, where there
is a break in the defensive bank, and a high inturned bank. The entrance to
the outer bailey would also have had a gateway. To the north of the outer
bailey, on the eastern side of the road is a linear bank, on the same
alignment as the bailey bank and ditch, about 2m high and 8m wide.

To the south of the outer bailey is another large defensive enclosure, about
160m north-south by 140m east-west, bounded by a bank between 1m and 2m high
on its west and south sides, although the eastern bank can no longer be seen.
This area, part of the original medieval borough, has a lot of later building
development which has modified some of the archaeological remains, but there
are some areas of open space where archaeology will survive.

Adjoining the south east end of this enclosure are further earthworks, about
0.5m to 1m high, in the form of six terraces or platforms, each measuring
between 20m and 30m wide and about 60m long, fronting onto the modern road.
These are crofts and tofts, the remains of medieval house plots, fronting onto
the road, with their gardens behind. In the centre of this cluster is a later
rectangular earthwork, measuring about 38m by 18m.

To the south east of these, some 230m away, are more earthworks, about 1m high
consisting of agricultural enclosures and house platforms. Some suggestion of
a possible partial use of this land is indicated by the field name Pigeon
House Field. To the east the land drops about 4m to level out near the stream.
There have been a number of excavations and archaeological observations at the
castle. Excavations in the early 1960s took place within the castle bailey. An
excavation by Jarrett and Jones in 1966 suggested that there was no ditch
within 7m of the earthwork to the north east of the castle. Further
excavations took place within the inner bailey in 1972, and of the keep in
1978. A watching brief in 1995 found a stone structure built against the
outside of one of the castle walls, and at the same time part of the surface
of the motte was examined, but there was no evidence of a timber structure.
Evidence of the tower construction trench was noted in two places with ashlar
walls set on footings of pitched and vertically-set rubble. It is suggested
that the great tower had partially subsided into the motte. Since the 1980s
geophysical survey has been used to study several parts of the castle and
borough, but these have often been inconclusive.

All steps, fences, posts, rails and notice boards are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain
by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the
motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for
the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although
many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey castle at Longtown is a very good example of its type,
with both inner and outer bailey clearly visible. Indeed, the site is
particularly interesting having intact the original plan of its adjacent
medieval town in the form of earthworks showing the extent of the borough, and
the location of a number of the house plots and gardens. In addition the
castle and its associated earthworks will contain archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the castle and the landscape in which it
was constructed. It is evident from the imposition of stone walls on earthwork
defences that there is more than one phase of development. This multi-phase
aspect of the construction provides evidence for the development of this type
of castle in general, and for Longtown in particular, and gives information on
the defensive precautions taken against Welsh raiders.

The castle and town provide important information on the colonisation of this
part of the Welsh Marches in the 12th century. There is good documentary
evidence to show the history of the castle and its associated town. The fact
that the position of the weekly market is known, despite this area having been
partially built over, is of particular importance, this type of information
rarely survivng. The construction of the medieval castle and town obviously
had a marked effect on the later development of Longtown and the surrounding
villages. The monument thus provides an outstanding recreational and teaching

Source: Historic England


English Heritage, Longtown Herefordshire Survey Report Series AI/26/2003, (2003)
English Heritage, Lontown Herefordshire Survey Report Series AI/26/2003, (2003)
Herefordshire SMR No 1036,
Herefordshire SMR Record No. 1036,

Source: Historic England

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