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Internet – Archaeology Data Services [University of York]


Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250: Urishay Castle

Place name:

Michaelchurch Escley


1050 - 1250


This summary concerning Urishay Castle is an extract from a Doctoral thesis by Dr N Phillips, University of Sheffield (2005), entitled ‘Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng, AD 1050-1250’. This thesis is concerned with the earthwork and timber castles built in the southern March of Wales, addresses the presence of the castles and discusses their roles as weapons of conquest and structures of administrative control.


URISHAY - Grid: SO 32292 37568




The site of Urishay Castle is reached most easily from Peterchurch which lies on the B4348 Ewyas Harold to Dorstone road turning west from the centre of the village along a lane which goes straight past Urishay Castle.


The site is in the grounds of a farm and there is no admittance to the public. The photograph shows the only view accessible from the public highway (Vol. 2. plate 256). Data collected on this site consequently relies on others.

Again this study is able to call on the work done by Kay for an account of this little understood site. The sketch map produced shows the extent of the site as it was known to him (Vol. 2. figure 114). The photograph above shows the edge of the building that Kay has recorded on his map; the mound on which the building stands is also very much still in existence. A sketch of the building was included in Kay’s notes (Vol. 2. plate 257).

What is less well known is the ditch and bank extent that Kay recorded. A related question is whether there any outworks away from the vicinity of the mound. Shoesmith provided evidence for one set of outworks to the west in the plan from his book (Vol. 2. figure 115).

Topographic survey:

No survey was undertaken as permission to visit the site could not be obtained.

Strategic position:

Information on this site is quite limited as it was not possible to visit it therefore it is difficult to assess it with any degree of accuracy. However, there do not appear to be any natural defences at the site which would have induced the Normans to build an earthwork castle here. Apart from the nature of the agricultural potential, neither does there appear to be any advantage to the site.

Documentary evidence

Primary reference:

Alcamestune, ‘Leofled had held it and it was waste but at Domesday it was held by Hugh L’Anse’ (Thorn & Thorn 1983. 187b).

Antiquarian reference:

In Robinson’s opinion Urishay was not a castle but a defensible house along the lines of Treago discussed above, (1869. 130). His opinion was probably based on the first record of Urishay known to him which dated to the late 14th century. Marshall, however, identified Urishay with Alcamestune, (see above).

Modern reference: HWCM598

Additional references:

VCH 1908. 254-255.

RCHME 1932. 213-214.

King 1983. 287.

Interpretation: Possible motte/fortified-site (Late)

Interpretation of this site is based on documentary evidence which as can be seen is very limited. The site would appear to be a fortified site, however, having glimpsed the shape of the mound from a distance it is not possible to dismiss the idea that it may have been a motte.



The material is copyright by the author, and is reproduced here from the Archaeology Data Service website of the University of York for research purposes under their terms of use


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