Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chepstow Castle

I went to visit Chepstow Castle over Easter, it really is a gorgeous place. It is in South Wales, Monmouthshire, which is near to the English border. The castle has Norman origins, and it’s believed it was constructed not long after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The castle is mentioned in Domesday, which says it was built by William fitz Osbern. As Domesday was compiled in 1086, we know it was built some time between these dates. The Norman castle was much smaller than what remains today. Only the great tower survives from the castle’s Norman phase.

The outside of the great tower

The interior. Note the blend of architectural styles in here, this reflects the many different phases of the castle throughout its long history.

Chepstow Castle passed to the great medieval knight William Marshal (I’ll be doing a post about him soon!), through his marriage to Isabel of Clare in 1189. The pair of doors shown here (which were originally at the main gate) have recently been dated to the period of William Marshal. Through dendrochronology, it has been shown that these doors date form no later than the 1190s. This makes these beautiful and well crafted doors, possibly the oldest surviving castle doors in Europe.

William Marshal constructed a revolutionary new gatehouse, the lower and middle bailey defences, along with other fortifications. After he died in 1219 Chepstow Castle passed to each of his five sons. Over this time much more work was done on the castle. Such as the addition of the upper barbican, and the remodelling of the great tower into a gorgeous hall and chamber. The castle is situated on the top of a cliff which is next to the river Wye. The Marshal brothers also greatly added to and extended the defences of this western side, making excellent use of its natural defensive position.

Roger Bigod, the fifth earl of Norfolk, gained the castle in 1270. He added a number of accommodation rooms and chambers, extended the upper level of the great tower, and also built Marten’s Tower (shown here).

By this time the castle had been significantly transformed from its early Norman phase, and continued to be passed to different lords throughout the years. If anyone gets a chance to go, this castle is well worth a visit! Here are a few more pictures of the gorgeous Chepstow Castle - I took far too many to post them all! :D

The main entrance

The great tower

An arch in Roger Bigod's great hall

You can see the lower bailey through these arches

One of the towers added by William Marshal

Remains of the 11C wall painting inside the great tower

The gallery. A passage that runs alongside the great tower, connecting the upper and middle baileys (built late 13C)

View from the gallery

The upper bailey

South-west tower

Walkway which looks down on the upper barbican

View from the walkway


  1. Nice pics defo looks like it was worth the journey!

  2. Thanks, Becky - used to live upriver from Chepstow; fascinated by its history. Guillaume le Maréchal was an extraordinary character (expect you already know the Georges Duby & Robert Bartlett studies); look forward to reading more.
    There's a church built by Marshall over in Penallt, gorgeously romantic spot also worth a visit.

  3. Wow you're very lucky to have lived nearby, it's a lovely place. That's interesting about the church, I didn't know about that - thanks :-)
    I'm going to be doing an entry about William Marshal soon, as I really love his history (plus it's linked to my dissertation research). Have you read the book by David Crouch about him? It's really well written.

  4. It was a fab place to live. There used to be a breathtaking & fascinating son-et-lumière of the local history @ Tintern Abbey in ?July; might be worth checking if there still is if you plan to return.
    David Crouch a terrific historian of the period; but no, haven't read his book on WM - must look out for it. Look forward to your post. Bon courage for the dissertation research, Becky!

  5. Hello those really are some nice photo's. Quick question: been doing research for a story i'm trying to write and one of the more important characters is called Roger Bigod the 2nd Earl of Norfolk. I found that little bit about The 5th Earl rather interesting. I don't suppose you would be willing to answer some questions would you? If so well do you know anything about the mysterious castle from the 11th to late 12th century? Because I can not manage to find very much information about it. It is from Ipswich and it was a wooden castle. I'm not too sure if this is right but it say's Roger Bigod the 2nd Earl of Norfolk was a sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk and it was attacked by King Stephen in 1153 after he had been betrayed by Roger Bigod's son Hugh who had sided with Henry of Anjou(Later King Henry the 2nd) do you know anything about it? If so any info would be greatly appreciated and I would be glad to give you credit if the book goes anywhere. Thanks.

  6. Hello! Apologies for the late reply to this. I'm sorry but I won't be able to be much help to you I'm afraid. However, you could ask @Chadwickauthor on twitter. She is an excellent author of historical fiction, and frequently writes around this time period so she should be able to help with your questions :) Sorry I couldn't be more help!