Goodrich Castle

oodrich Castle is situated overlooking a crossing point on the river Wye a few miles south-west of Ross-on-Wye. First mentioned in connection with Godric Mappestone in 1101, an owner of land in the area, the castle probably consisted of a simple enclosure and watch tower. Henry II took possession of the castle and the keep may have been part of his limited improvements. During the war between Stephen and Matilda, the castle belonged to William Fitz Baderon, Lord of Monmouth (or the Clare family?).The castle returned to royal ownership in 1176. In 1204, Goodrich was given to William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke by King John , but in 1245 on the death of William's fourth son, childless, the castle passed into the hands of William de Valence (half brother of Henry III). William de Valence and his son Aymer did extensive rebuilding work around 1280 in a style more common with the Edwardian castles of Wales. The bases of the corner towers form spurs which are designed to prevent undermining, a technique for bringing the walls of the castle down. Aymer de Valance died in 1324 and the castle passed into the hands of the Talbot family who were to become the Shrewsbury earls.

Goodrich Castle Key Facts
CountyHerefordshire (7 castles)
DirectionsFive or six miles south of Ross-on-Wye off the A40. Well signposted.
CategoriesStone / Norman Square Keep
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating

An imaginative plan of the Goodrich Castle

Click for larger image

The castle is roughly rectangular in shape with towers at the four corners. Three of the towers are circular with a square base built into the rock. The gatehouse with chapel attached make up the fourth corner.

The oldest surviving part of the castle is the Norman square keep. Built in the middle of the twelfth century. The orginal entrance woould have been on the first floor rather than at ground level. What is now a window would have been that doorway.

The castle is built on a outcrop of rock which has been cut a way to create a wide ditch on the south and east sides. The entance to the castle is to the north east through the well defended barbican. Any attacker would have to fight his way through the barbican to reach the gatehouse. A drawbridge could be raised to cut off the gatehouse from the barbican. At least one portcullis defended the gatehouse passage into the inner bailey. The passage also has holes in the through which hot oil could be dropped onto the attackers from the rooms above.

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1204   Goodrich given to William Marshal
 King John gave Goodrich castle to William Marshal on his marriage to the heiress of the earldom of Pembroke.[1] 
Early Modern Period (1500-1800)
1616   Goodrich Castle
 At this time the castle was owned by the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, but his death with no male heir transferred the ownership of Goodrich to Henry Grey, the Earl of Kent. 
1646 Jul 31  Fall of Goodrich Castle
 After a long siege the castle was captured by Parliamentary forces led by Colonel Birch. The order was then passed to destroy the castle so that it could not be used again. The order was carried out early in the following year. 

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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