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Caldicot Castle (unoccupied parts)

A Scheduled Monument in Caldicot, Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

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Latitude: 51.5932 / 51°35'35"N

Longitude: -2.7433 / 2°44'35"W

OS Eastings: 348607

OS Northings: 188521

OS Grid: ST486885

Mapcode National: GBR JJ.BW2Z

Mapcode Global: VH87Z.D7L0

Entry Name: Caldicot Castle (unoccupied parts)

Scheduled Date: 22 March 1950

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2353

Cadw Legacy ID: MM050

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

Community: Caldicot

Built-Up Area: Cil-y-coed

Traditional County: Monmouthshire


The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period that was restored to make a family home in the late 19th century. Caldicot Castle is a large motte and bailey castle that was founded in the 12th century by Milo Fitzwalter, Lord of Caldicot, Earl of Hereford and Constable of England. The original castle structures would have comprised earth and timber defences, some trace of which survives on the site today. In the early 13th century the Caldicot lands and titles passed through marriage to Humphrey de Bohun, who probably started the refortification of the castle in stone around 1221. The masonry keep is thought to have been the first stone structure built on the site. Located in the N corner of the castle, the keep sits within the earthen motte and is completely surrounded by a ditch. Interestingly, the stone keep is actually built into the motte, with two rooms constructed below the level of the motte summit. This suggests that the motte and the keep were contemporary, with the earthen motte built up around the stone keep as it was constructed. The keep is a massive structure, its 3m thick walls built from rubble, and faced with high quality local gritstone. The battered based of the keep is topped by a roll-moulded string course, above which the walls rise to the height of the crenelated parapet. There are cross arrow loops in the walls, and small windows in the upper levels – the larger windows are 19th century additions. At the top of the keep, the embrasures of the battlements were filled in during the medieval period to allow another floor to be added. During the 19th century restoration of the keep, some of these embrasures were reopened to reconstruct the crenelated battlements, while others remained blocked. Below the battlements holes in the masonry provide evidence for a wooden fighting platform, a hourd, that would have projected out from the wall of the keep. On the W side of the keep a D-shaped tower projects from the main structure. This is solid for most of its height, with only a small vaulted chamber built into the base, possibly a dungeon, and a chamber at the top. In the interior of the keep, the basement level is unlit and has no fireplace, which may indicate that it was used for storage rather than as a living space. There is access to a garderobe from this level. On the two floors above, the original living spaces have hooded fireplaces (reconstructed in the 19th century). On the first floor, at entry level to the keep, the room is lit by four arrow loops, one of which was entered through a square recess cut into the wall in which was a well. The floor above was accessed up a spiral staircase built into the thickness of the wall, which also provided access to the roof of the keep, and later the upper chamber.

In the mid-13th century, the stone-built curtain wall was constructed, enclosing a large area to the SE of the keep. This wall butts up against the walls of the keep, blocking one of the arrow loops, and has a wall walk along its full length. The gateway into the castle, the de Bohun Gate, was located midway along the W side of the curtain wall. It was located on the S side of a D-shaped tower and comprised a portcullis with a door behind, with murder holes in the roof between the two. On the outside of the tower, encircling the top, are holes for timbers that would have supported a timber hourd. In the SW corner of the castle are the remains of a two-storey circular tower, projecting from and contemporary with the curtain wall.

In the SE corner of the castle is a large D-shaped tower that would have provided grand and spacious accommodation. The tower may have been built in two phases, with the base constructed in a similar style to the de Bohun gate, with fine squared masonry, above which the walls are of a coarser rubble construction. The top of the tower has battlements and arrow loops, and there are holes for the timbers to support a wooden hourd. The ground floor room has no fireplace or windows and was probably used for storage. The first floor room is large, and contains a hooded fireplace and windows, and would have been connected to the adjacent hall range. The SE tower and the hall range date, architecturally, to the mid 14th century.

In the late 14th century the castle passed, by marriage, to Thomas of Woodstock, Edward III’s youngest son, who began a programme of building work at Caldicot. Between 1384 and 1389, he built the great gateway on the S side of the castle and the Woodstock tower on the N side. The gateway served as both a new entrance to the castle and as accommodation for the Lord and his family. The gateway was approached by a drawbridge and defended by two portcullises, two gates and three murder holes. The passageway between the two portcullises is ornate, with a vaulted roof springing from supports decorated with carved heads. Carved heads also adorn the machicolations on the W tower of the gatehouse. The gatehouse towers would have been defensive but their main function was as garderobe towers serving the lord’s apartments. The interior of the gatehouse was significantly altered during the 19th century conversion of the building into a family home, and consequently its medieval layout is difficult to discern.

The Woodstock tower, on the N side of the castle, was built between 1385 and 1387 by Thomas Woodstock. It was built to function as the postern gate for the castle and also to provide accommodation for members of the household. There are three storeys, each containing a single room with a fireplace, window and garderobe. The external face of the tower is angled with an arched entrance on one side of which is a carved quatrefoil panel with ‘Thomas’ engraved into it. A similar stone engraved with ‘Alianore’ (Thomas’ wife) was found during the 19th century excavation of a building close to the Woodstock tower. The tower is surmounted by a machicolated battled projecting from the top of the walls.

There is evidence for additional buildings, now lost, within the walls of the castle. This includes traces of fireplaces on the inside of the curtain wall, beam slots to support wooden structures, garderobe towers for a range of buildings on the E side of the castle, and the foundations of buried buildings that are visible as parch marks during dry summers.

All of the brickwork and the timber within the castle are the result of the restoration and conversion of the site into a family home by Joseph Cobb and his descendants between 1885 and 1963. The family converted the gatehouse into a comfortable home, and restored features such as floors and fireplaces within the keep and the other towers. They also created furnished apartments for tenants within three of the towers. The castle was sold by the Cobb family to Chepstow Rural Distric t Council in 1963.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive practices. The monument is well-preserved and an important relic of the medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of both structural evidence and intact associated deposits.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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