Motte and bailey castle and alien priory immediately south of Castle Lands
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1020363
Date first listed: 26-Nov-1928
Date of most recent amendment: 18-Jul-2000
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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: Ewyas Harold
National Grid Reference: SO 38536 28704
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
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were superseded by other types of castle.
Ewyas Harold Castle survives well with little evidence of recent disturbance. Documentry evidence suggests that the castle was constructed under Norman influence in the late Saxon period, and as such will provide information on the earliest phases of castle building in England. The later remodelling and extension of the castle to include a shell keep and two baileys with extensive water features will demonstrate the technological advancement of military and construction techniques and the raised expectations for living accommodation. Due to its location the castle was the scene for sporadic combat for a longer period than is often the case. This will illustrate something of the social and political history of the volatile marches area over a considerable period of time, up to and including the Glyndwr rising. The foundation, by a first generation Norman lord, of a small priory within the outer bailey of the castle illustrates the aspirations of the incoming overlords and their intentions for their new domains. The priory appears to have remained small and to have acted almost as a personal foundation servicing the castle and family. Its early dissolution suggests that the house was never wealthy or extensive, and many of its functions in relation to the founding family may have been superseded by their much more successful and ostentatious foundation at nearby Abbey Dore. The buried remains of the priory, will not be expected to conform to a fully developed monastic plan and will illuminate the standards of living, spatial organisation and relative wealth of such early Norman foundations, many of which were established but few of which survived, or can be securely located today. Any surviving environmental deposits preserved in the low lying and waterlogged areas to the south of the outer bailey will provide insights into both the agricultural regime in the area during its occupation, and the daily activities, living standards and diets of the inhabitants of the monument.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the Ewyas Harold
Castle, a motte and bailey castle, and the alien Priory of St James and
St Bartholomew, located on a natural eminence above the valley of the Dulas
Brook. The castle is one of a number of medieval defensive sites located in
strategic positions along the Golden Valley and adjacent Marches valleys,
indicative of the prolonged border status of the area which remained
disturbed by disputes throughout the medieval period.
The castle is believed to have been constructed prior to the Norman Conquest
when the lands appear to have been held in succession by both Harold
Godwinson and Ralph of the Vexin. It may have been built in 1048 and has
been identified as Osbern Pentecost's castle of 1052. The Domesday survey
records that William Fitz Osbern remodelled the castle and granted it to
Alfred de Marlborough, by which time there was also a flourishing borough at
Ewyas. The lands later reverted to Harold the son of Ralph. In 1100 Harold,
whose name was added to that of the settlement at Ewyas, founded a priory
located within the outer bailey of the castle. Robert, son of Harold,
inherited the castle and in 1147 founded Dore Abbey. He had a reputation as a
castle builder and is believed to have extended Ewyas Harold. The castle was
still in active frontier use in the 1190s for Robert, grandson of Harold, who
was killed nearby during a skirmish in 1198.
The foundation charter of the priory refers to a chapel dedicated to St
Nicholas located within the castle and served by the monks. The priory was
dedicated to St James and St Bartholomew and was linked to the abbey at
Gloucester. It was located in an area of the bailey which had formerly been a
garden enclosed by a moat which also acted as a fishery. The permanent
buildings of the priory were not completed until 1195, and the monks made
temporary use of the parish church of St Michael until that date. Documentary
references during the period 1190 to 1300 suggest that the settlement at Ewyas
flourished, and the priory remained in use. After 1300 the castle saw only
infrequent use, and the priory was suppressed in 1358. During the 14th century
the castle fell into decay, although it was re-garrisoned during the Glyndwr
rising of 1402. In 1530 the antiquarian John Leland reported that a great part
of the castle, including the chapel of St Nicholas, was still standing. By
1645 however Richard Symmonds of the Royalist army reported that the castle
was ruined and gone.
The castle includes a motte measuring approximately 10m to 15m high and 75m in
diameter around the base. The motte is separated from the bailey by a ditch
at its base which measures 12m wide and up to 4m deep. The kidney-shaped inner
bailey measures 120m by 100m and is located to the south east of the motte.
It is defined by a steeply sloping bank up to 8m high, surrounded by a ditch
measuring 6m to 8m wide and 1m to 3m deep, with traces of a counterscarp
bank. Traces of a further outer rampart measuring up to 140m long, 10m wide
and up to 2m high survive to the south east, defining the course of an outer
bailey which measured up to 80m by 160m. This outer bailey is believed to be
the early site of the priory founded in 1100. Antiquarian sources record the
existence of a shell keep on top of the motte and further foundations within
the inner and outer baileys. These remains are no longer visible above ground
although they will survive as buried archaeological features. To the south
west of the motte are the remains of a water management complex, with a large
hollow way leading towards the brook. The remnants of a low lying shallow
depression, which was formerly extended across the southern edge of the outer
bailey, are believed to have been a fishpond complex. Both the eastern and
western edges of the pond survive, although part of the central section of the
complex has been removed by modern buildings, and is not included in the
The modern post and wire fencing and the outbuildings to the south west of the
motte are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 30079
Legacy System: RSM
various unpublished noted in SMR, various SMR & CAO officers, Ewyas Hsrold Castle,
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing