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Hereford Public Library


Royal Commission on Historical Monuments: Herefordshire, Volume 1: H 936.244


Transcript of Original Publication


Longtown Castle: Earthworks, Fortifications and Architecture

Place name:



Up to 1700



(3) LONGTOWN CASTLE, mount and bailey, and outworks, stands on the S. end of a spur at the N. end of the village, commanding the valleys of the Monnow and one of its tributaries, which flowing past either side of the Castle meet about ¾ m. farther S. The fortifications consisted of a rectangular enclosure of about three acres with a motte at the N.W. angle on which stood a circular keep. The outworks lie to the N. of the enclosure. The ground slopes away on all sides except the N. where it rises slightly. The W. half of the enclosure is divided roughly into two parts of which the northern formed the inner bailey and the southern the outer bailey. The inner bailey was bounded by a curtain wall on the N.E., E., and S. sides with an entrance gateway in the S. wall. There appears to have been no wall along the W. side where possibly the steepness of the scarp made any formidable masonry unnecessary. The general fortifications appear to be of post-Conquest work, but very possibly placed on the site of, and incorporating, an earthwork of earlier date. It has been suggested that the site is that of a Roman camp, but apart from the general resemblance of the plan of the quadrangular enclosure to that of a Roman earthwork there is no evidence to support this theory. The Keep and the remains of the curtain-walls to the inner bailey, together with the remains of the southern gateway are all of late 12th or early 13th-century date.



The circular Keep is an interesting example of this somewhat unusual form of building and the unusual lay-out of the outer courts are noteworthy.

The Earthworks consist of a rectangular enclosure with rounded angles enclosed by a high rampart (Plate 2) and fosse, but the latter is now partially filled in on W.  and N. sides ;   on the W. side the rampart runs into the motte, which stands at the N.W. angle of the enclosure, while on the N. side there is a gap between the rampart and the motte.    Near the middle of the S. rampart is an inner fosse or sunk entrance running from it and at right angles to the outer fosse, and dividing the enclosure roughly into two halves. Only the southern part of this fosse remains, but it probably originally continued northwards across the enclosure and formed an outlet through the existing gap in the N. rampart by the E. side of the motte. The site of the possible N. end of this fosse is now level and forms part of the playground to the modern school buildings which have been erected here. Gaps in the N.  and S. ramparts   afford   passage  for  a road which runs right through the enclosure ;  on the W. side of the S. gap the bank contains remains of built masonry, on the natural rock, which may be part of a former gateway;   there is a small gap and path near the N.E. angle.    An entrance through the E. rampart near the S. end may be old.

The Outworks are situated in a field to the N. of the enclosure. They consist of a bank some 130 yards long running in a N. direction from the S.E. corner of the field and continuing in line with the E. rampart of the castle enclosure;   there are signs of a return of bank at its S. extremity extending towards the W. In the extreme N.W. corner of the field is a slight platform or terrace about 44 yards by 37 yards and immediately S. of this are some irregular slight mounds and hollows.

The Keep (Plate 177) is now a ruin; it was of two storeys; the walls are of shaly rubble with ashlar dressings. It is of late 12th or early 13th-century date, but the windows appear to have been altered at a later date, probably in the I4th century. It was circular on plan. Externally it had a plinth with a chamfered top and above the second floor the wall face is set back with a chamfered capping to the lower part. The outer circumference was divided approximately into three by nearly semi-circular projections; the easternmost of these projections was utilised as a chimney-flue and the most southerly one has a vise, of which the western part remains ; the rest of this projection is now destroyed with about eight feet of the walling at this point for the whole height of the tower. The upper part of the walling, from a few feet above the second-storey level, has all gone as has also a part of the walling below this level on the N.E. side, while the whole of the facing of the plinth has disappeared. The ground floor has, in each bay, the remains of a square-headed window with external and internal segmental relieving arches of ashlar, and internally splayed reveals with a square rectangular recess in one of the splays of each window ; all have been badly defaced; of the jambs of the westernmost window only one or two fragments remain ; of the northernmost window two of the jamb-stones and one in the head remain, while the external relieving-arch consists of late 12th-century dressed stones enriched with carved rosettes or roundels and the soffit of one of the voussoirs, which is exposed, is similarly carved. On the E. side of the gap where the walling has been destroyed is a small portion of a splayed reveal, probably of the entrance doorway. The ground floor had a timber ceiling supported on a main cross-beam with struts; the struts rested on stone corbels which still remain; there are set-backs at the floor-levels. On the first floor the W. bay has two and the N. bay one small window with chamfered jambs and square heads with segmental rear-arches, and the S.E. bay has the remains of one similar window. S. of and against the N.W. projection is the outlet from a garde-robe, corbelled out from the wall on two stepped corbels at the first-floor level; the front and side walls of the garde-robe are carried up for a few feet vertically and the projection is roofed with a stone lean-to roof. Cutting through the chamfered capping to the upper set back in the wall are seven small square openings, more or less regularly spaced. By the gap where the wall has gone some of the steps from the first to second floor and the curved inner face of the vise may be seen. Behind the E. projection on the ground floor, the gathering for the flue remains, although the actual fireplace recess is practically destroyed. On the first floor a passage in the wall leads to the remains of the garde-robe.

The Curtain Wall ran S.E. from immediately S. of the easternmost bastion of the keep for a distance of nearly 40 yards ; from here it ran S. for 30 yards and returned at right angles till it met the W. rampart, thus bounding the irregularly shaped inner bailey on three of its sides. On the N. and E. sides three portions of the wall approximately 6 ft. thick remain, the most westerly of which rises for some distance up the side of the motte and formerly joined up to the keep where a recess in the plinth indicates the junction. On the S. side the wall is continuous from the E. angle to about 10 yards from the W. rampart and stands to an average height of about 11ft., but the inner face of the wall for the whole length has been destroyed. At the E. end about five yards of the return wall remains. In the wall towards the E. end is the entrance; it consists of a semi-circular arched opening with grooves in the side for a portcullis; flanking the opening and projecting into the outer bailey are semi-circular bastions; the outer face of the westernmost bastion has been destroyed ; there is a modern pent-roof between the bastions and the archway. In the angle against the E. bastion is a modern stable.

In the Outer Bailey, immediately S.E. of the more easterly bastion of the gateway to the inner bailey, are some exposed foundations of a small building, the E. end of which is formed by part of a wall approximately 6 ft. high which also acts as a retaining wall to the outer bailey. These remains, with perhaps the exception of the retaining wall, appear to be of considerably later date than the other remains. There is a low modern retaining wall along the top of the scarp for the greater part of the S. and W. sides of the outer bailey.


Condition—Of earthworks, good; of Keep and walls, ruinous.


Plate 2

Plate 177




Description documented c 1930 by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments


Ordnance Survey Map Reference and Index of Parish Properties


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