Goodrich Castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014904

Date first listed: 27-Oct-1919

Date of most recent amendment: 31-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Goodrich Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: County of Herefordshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Goodrich

National Grid Reference: SO 57713 19976


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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 public.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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 barbican. 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 castle. 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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27547

Legacy System: RSM


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)

End of official listing