Ancient Monuments

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Skenfrith Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Llangattock-Vibon-Avel (Llangatwg Feibion Afel), Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

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Latitude: 51.8787 / 51°52'43"N

Longitude: -2.7905 / 2°47'25"W

OS Eastings: 345679

OS Northings: 220309

OS Grid: SO456203

Mapcode National: GBR FH.RSHR

Mapcode Global: VH794.L14M

Entry Name: Skenfrith Castle

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 586

Cadw Legacy ID: MM088

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Monmouthshire (Sir Fynwy)

Community: Llangattock-Vibon-Avel (Llangatwg Feibion Afel)

Traditional County: Monmouthshire


The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period located on level ground immediately alongside the River Monnow, which provided it with wet defences and a means of transport. Skenfrith is one of the Three Castles (with White Castle (MM006) and Grosmont Castle (MM007), administering a single lowland Marcher lordship. A castle may have originally been established here as early as 1070 by William Fitz Osbern although its form is unknown. Evidence for the early castle was found through excavation in the form of Romanesque architectural fragments, pottery and associated deposits. The present castle was built by Hubert de Burgh between 1219 and 1232 and comprises a substantial raised, roughhly rectangular earthwork platform enclosed by high curtain walls with boldly projecting round corner towers, a central round keep and timber framed domestic ranges against the curtain walls. The whole was set within a broad, stone lined wet moat, now mostly back-filled and fed by the river, which still periodically washes the east curtain wall. Excavation has demonstrated that a very large outer enclosure alongside the Monnow to the north incorporated a substantial masonry wharf. This enclosure may have extended to the west to include the 12th century and later parish church and early village core.

The main entrance has largely been destroyed but the limited architectural remains and early engravings indicate that it was a simple archway set high above the base of the curtain wall. A smaller postern or water gate in the east curtain led directly onto the river bank. As at White Castle and Grosmont de Burgh's curtain walls were windowless but retain most of their wall-walks and joist holes for timber hourding at this level and steps up to the rear of the towers. There is limited joist hole evidence for the timber ranges that backed onto them, sections of their foundations having been revealed by excavation; the exposed remains of an oven can be seen in the north-eastern area of the courtyard. The corner towers had flared bases and were entered at first floor level with rooms lit by plain arrow loops over featureless basements that were probably accessed by ladders and used for storage. Most of the outer section of the north-west tower has been destroyed. The central keep stands on a low mound shown by excavation to have been formed over its base rather than the remnant of an earlier motte. It was of two stories above a battered plinth and projecting string course and was entered at first floor level with a projecting circular turret containing a newel stair to the upper rooms and ladder access through the floor to an unlit basement. Both upper rooms contain fireplaces with projecting hoods, the first floor probably forming a reception room or private hall and the upper a well-appointed chamber with a latrine and corbelled-out oriel window facing east. A series of rectangular holes at the wall head have been interpreted as evidence of a timber gallery or defensive hourd. The north-western range was rebuilt in stone in the late 13th or early fourteenth century; only its excavated basement, dug into the earthwork platform survives with the stub of a fine chamfered and pyramidal stopped doorway into the lost room above. The basement retains similar architectural details including simple rectangular windows, one with surviving iron bars and shutter hinges. At the same time a solid semi-circular tower was added mid-way along the western curtain wall.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive and domestic architecture. It shares group value with the other castles of the Trilateral, White and Grosmont, the three collectively forming key sites in the development of the medieval castle in the first half of the thirteenth century as the innovative works of a leading magnate that were little-altered in the later medieval period. The round keep is one of a discrete concentration of broadly contemporary towers across the southern Welsh Marches, sharing a series of distinctive architectural features with others including its first-floor entrance, high battered plinth, string course (Tretower, Bronllys) and projecting turret (Longtown, Caldicot). Skenfrith is a good example of a valley bottom site, utilising the Monnow to provide extensive wet defensive and to provide riverine transport both directly into the castle and on a larger scale via the wharf in the outer enclosure.The monument is well-preserved and an important relic of the medieval landscape, forming a distinctive manorial group with the fine parish church and present village, which formerly held borough status. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of both structural evidence and intact associated deposits from multiple phases of construction. The low-lying site is likely to favour the preservation of waterlogged deposits, artefacts and environmental evidence.

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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