Video Archive: Longtown Castle
Video Archive clip by Graeme Field. The author’s description is as follows:
Longtown Castle was built in the 1180's by the Norman lord, Walter de Lacy, inside a rectangular earthen enclosure that may date to the Roman occupation of Britain. Fortified during the 12th century, the rectangular enclosure was bisected by another earthen wall, forming the two outer baileys of the castle which sat side-by-side to the south of the motte. In addition, a twin-towered gatehouse, protected with a portcullis, was added to the new outer curtain which enclosed the rectangular area. The gatehouse still exists, though extensively ruined.
The enormous earthen motte is an impressive structure, rising some 35 feet into the air. Originally crowned by a timber tower, the massive mound most likely received its splendid round keep in the 13th century, when another Walter de Lacy had possession of the castle. Although unusual for England, round keeps were relatively popular in Wales, so it is not too surprising to find one here along the borders, even though Longtown is considered an English castle.
In all, Longtown Castle was a simple but formidable structure. To the south of the fortress, a small town was started, but never reached its full potential. Vestiges of the medieval borough are visible in the surrounding fields, merely parallel earthworks scarring the landscape. The castle and its town were abandoned in the 14th century, but saw a brief resurgence in the early 1400's. Then, the castle was refortified in response to Owain Glyndwr's unsuccessful attempt to reclaim Wales for the Welsh.
Before its final demise, Longtown Castle passed through the hands of several owners. After the de Lacys, the castle became the property of John de Verdon, one of Edward I's crusaders. It passed then to his granddaughter's husband, Bartholomew de Burghersh, during the reign of Edward III. Their son, Thomas, fought for Richard II, and, after the king lost the throne, Thomas lost his estates and the castle at Longtown. The last owners were the prestigious Nevilles, who held the castle long after it fell into ruin.
East of the masonry castle is a rectangular enclosure which may well be the fortification made by Harold Godwinson in 1056. Harold went on to become King Harold II who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The keep was once the site of the gallows the last person to be hanged there was William Jones, who poisoned his wife, and was executed in 1790 at Hereford and his body brought back to Longtown to hang.
Now owned by English heritage, parking and admission to the site is free.