Chepstow Castle

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Chepstow Castle
Chepstow Castle, view from the bridge over the Wye

Chepstow Castle, view from the bridge over the Wye

Alternative name (s): Castell Cas-gwent
Creation time : 11th century
Conservation status: ruin
Geographical location 51 ° 38 '36.2 "  N , 2 ° 40' 28.2"  W Coordinates: 51 ° 38 '36.2 "  N , 2 ° 40' 28.2"  W.
Chepstow Castle (Wales)
Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle ( Welsh Castell Cas-gwent ) is a ruined castle in Monmouthshire , Wales . The castle is located in the town of Chepstow on a cliff above the River Wye , which forms the border between England and Wales. The ruin, classified as a Grade I cultural monument and protected as a Scheduled Monument , is considered the oldest stone castle in Great Britain and was expanded into the 17th century. In the Middle Ages it was the center of the Anglo-Norman rule of Striguil.


Established in the 11th century

A few months after the Battle of Hastings appointed William the Conqueror William FitzOsbern the Earl of Hereford and commissioned him to the Herefordshire to conquer neighboring South Wales border areas. Shortly after 1067, FitzOsbern began building the castle, which became the starting point for the further Norman conquest of Wales . The rectangular keep , which is still the core of the castle today, was probably completed before FitzOsbern's death in 1071. William's son Roger de Breteuil lost his lands after the unsuccessful uprising of the counts in 1075, which fell to the crown. In 1119 King Henry I awarded Chepstow to Walter de Clare , after which the castle remained in the possession of the Clare family . When he married Isabel de Clare , daughter and heiress of Richard Strongbow , the castle fell to William Marshal in 1189 .

Expansion under the marshals

Marshal had gained a wide range of experience in contemporary castle building in Palestine and in the service of King Henry II in France and also had Chepstow brought up to date with the military architecture of the time. Marshal's sons continued to expand the castle until 1245. After all of Marshal's sons died without a male heir, the castle fell to Roger Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk , son of Marshal's daughter Maud, in 1245 .

Further expansion until the Tudor period

His son Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk , had the castle expanded to its present size, making it one of the best fortified castles in Wales. After Bigod's death in 1306, the castle changed hands frequently in the 14th century and lost its importance. During the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in 1403 she was manned again, but again because of her strength she was not attacked by the rebels. After the Battle of Tewkesbury , Roger Vaughan of Tretower, a half-brother of Black William Herbert, was to arrest Jasper Tudor on the orders of Edward IV in May 1471 . However, Vaughan fell into the hands of Tudor, who had him executed in the castle. In 1508 Charles Somerset , later Earl of Worcester, bought the castle. Under him and his successors, the castle was expanded further in the 16th century.

From the 17th century until today

It was a royalist base during the Civil War and was captured by parliamentary troops in 1645. In 1648 the castle was again in the hands of the royalists and was again besieged by parliamentary troops. After artillery bombardment, it was captured on May 25, 1648, with the commander Nicholas Kemeys was killed. After the civil war, the castle served as the location of an artillery unit. During the civil war it was also used as a state prison, in which, among others, the royalist priest Jeremy Taylor and later Henry Marten, who had signed the death sentence against Charles I , were imprisoned. In 1685 the garrison was withdrawn and the castle fell into disrepair. From the end of the 18th century, the castle was a sight for visitors to the Wye Valley , the then owner, the Duke of Beaufort, had the castle partially restored in the 19th century. In 1953 the castle became state property ; today it is administered by Cadw and can be visited.

Floor plan of the castle, based on a plan from 1825


The castle lies on a long, narrow ridge on the north bank of the Wye. Towards the river, the terrain drops almost vertically in parts, to the south the ridge drops to a valley called Dell . As a section castle, the castle extends over almost 250 m in length.

Eastern bailey

The main entrance to the castle is at the eastern end of the complex. The castle gate, framed by two round towers, was built before 1245 and is considered the oldest gatehouse with round towers in Great Britain. Until 1962 it still contained its original wooden gate leaves from the 13th century, which have since been exhibited in the castle museum. The eastern wall was strengthened during the civil war in the 17th century and provided with loopholes for muskets. The four-story Marten's Tower is located at the southeast corner of the castle. The D-shaped tower was built between 1270 and 1300 under Roger Bigod. With thick masonry and cast holes it looks defensive from the outside, inside it contained splendidly furnished living rooms. On the top floor there was a private chapel with beautiful stone carvings. Later on, the tower received larger windows. It was named after the regicide Henry Marten, who lived in this tower in relatively comfortable prison until his death in 1680. On the north side of the lower bailey were the main living quarters of the castle, which were built by Bigod after 1270. This included a magnificent living hall over vaulted cellars that had their own access to the river so that supplies could be brought into the castle directly from ships. A three-storey wing with living spaces was connected to the kitchen and other utility rooms.

View from the east, left Marten's Tower , right the gatehouse

Middle courtyard

The outer bailey is separated from the adjoining middle courtyard by a mighty wall with two towers, which was rebuilt around 1200 by William Marshal. Access to the middle courtyard is through a very simple gate next to a three-story tower on a D-shaped floor plan, the other tower on the south side is round. The lateral loopholes on the ground floors of the towers are among the oldest loopholes in Great Britain that could be used to coat the base of the wall. In the 16th century, the towers were expanded to make them more homely, and further residential buildings were built along the wall, but almost nothing has survived. The courtyard has no wall on its north side, as the terrain here slopes steeply towards the river. The southern wall has a semicircular tower and was reinforced against artillery fire after the conquests during the civil war after 1648.


The elongated, rectangular keep rises at the narrowest and highest point of the ridge. The approximately 30 m long tower was built before 1071 based on models from Normandy, stones from the ancient Venta Silurum were also used as building material . The tower was originally two-story and had a splendid hall on the upper floor. On the safe side of the river there were small windows, one of which is a round arched window from the 11th century. The tower was expanded between 1219 and 1245 and received a gallery on the river side. Between 1292 and 1300 it was raised by one floor.

The castle from the south. Left the southwest tower, right the keep

Upper castle courtyard and western kennel

The upper castle courtyard extends behind the keep and has a rectangular tower at the southwest corner. The tower was once used as a residential area, but the upper floors were destroyed during the civil war to widen the access to the battlements. Behind the upper courtyard is the heavily fortified Zwinger, which was built before 1245 . The southwest corner of the castle was protected by a three-story round tower, the three-story gate tower was built towards the end of the 13th century. The kennel is surrounded by a ditch carved into the rock, over which a drawbridge once led to the gate tower.

Chepstow Castle in the movie

In 1913 Leedham Bantock shot one of the earliest film adaptations of the novel Ivanhoe here , and the castle was also the location for the film Jabberwocky and two episodes of the Robin Hood series .


  • Adrian Pettifer: Welsh Castles. A Guide by Counties . Boydell, Woodbridge 2000, ISBN 0-85115-778-5 , pp. 125-129.
  • Elisabeth Whittle: Glamorgan and Gwent. HMSO, London 1992, ISBN 0-11-701221-1 , pp. 101-104.

Web links

Commons : Chepstow Castle  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. British listed Buildings: Chepstow Castle, Chepstow. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  2. Ancient Monuments: Chepstow Castle. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  3. ^ Pettifer, Welsh Castles, p. 120.
  4. ^ Castles of Britain: Keeps. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  5. ^ Castles of Wales: The Age of the Castle. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  6. ^ JH Round, C. Warren Hollister: Clare, Walter de (d. 1137/8?). In: Henry Colin Gray Matthew, Brian Harrison (Eds.): Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , from the earliest times to the year 2000 (ODNB). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2004, ISBN 0-19-861411-X , ( license required ), as of 2004
  7. ^ Whittle, Glamorgan and Gwent, p. 104.
  8. ^ Welsh Biography Online: Kemeys and Kemeys-Ink Family. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  9. ^ Chepstow Castle: Information for Education Group Leaders. (PDF; 646.7 KB) Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  10. Cadw: Chepstow Castle. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .
  11. International Movie Database: Most Popular Titles With Location Matching "Chepstow Castle, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK. Retrieved December 15, 2013 .