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Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle is the only low-lying fortress of the of her sister castles Grosmont and White Castles, built to protect one of the main routes through the border region between England and South Wales. In the late 1130's King Stephen brought all three castles together under a single Lordship that controlled the 'Three Castles' as one defensive unit.

History of Skenfrith Castle

1067 - Following William the Conqueror's successful invasion of England, he makes one of his principle supporters, William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford. Fitz Osbern builds his new castles at Chepstow and Monmouth.

1071 - Fitz Osbern dies in the Battle of Flanders.

1075 - Fitz Osbern's son rebels against King William and his lands are forfeit to the Crown. To avoid a single powerful magnet taking single control of such a strategically important area again as the Fitz Osbern's had done, the Crown grants away their lands and castles piecemeal fashion. (more in the History section)

The castle is built on level ground by the banks of the Monnow. The curtain walls form a large, irregular quadrangle with round towers at each corner. There were a range of domestic buildings including a hall on the western side, and in the middle of the courtyard is a circular keep. The keep has a sloping battered base and a semi-circular projection from the wall that contained a spiral stair that led to two storeys above a basement. Earth was piled around the tower after it was completed giving the false impression that it is built on a mound.

Although dry now, the curtain walls would have been surrounded by a moat 9 feet deep and 46 feet across, beside which the River Monnow would often flood. Built upon an artificial platform of gravel up to 12 feet thick in places, from the earlier timber castle which was destroyed to make way, Roman pottery has also been found.

Text by Fred Vincent