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Hereford City Library


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Rev. C. J. Robinson, A History of the Castles of Herefordshire [extract]

Place name:

Snodhill, Peterchurch




Transcription of the article on Snodhill Castle

 A drawing by Lady Frances Vernon Harcourt
(for annotations see below)


Upon the summit of a low but steep hill in the middle of the Golden Valley, and in close proximity to the site of Dorston Castle, may be seen the ruined tower of Snodhill,[1]   interesting alike from its picturesque form and from the associations which have attached themselves to it. For more than two centuries it was the abode of the Chandos family, and though the hero of Poictiers[2] cannot be claimed as a " worthy of Herefordshire" , yet it is something that the county formed the cradle of his race.


The possessor of Snodhill at the Domesday Survey was a follower of the Conqueror, one Hugh l’Asne, whose quaint surname (like that of Lupus, Earl of Chester) may perhaps have been derived from some personal characteristic—the ass, it must be remembered, had not then fallen into his present disrepute but was regarded as the symbol of patient zeal. Roger de Chandos brother (not son, as Dugdale makes him) of Richard, the founder of Goldcliff, seems to have been the first of that family who held the honour of Snodhill. He died in the reign of Henry I, and sixth in descent from him was Roger de Chandos (son of Robert who went with King John to Ireland in 1210) whose name occurs in 1221 as obtaining from Henry III license to hold a fair at Fownhope, within the honour of Snodhill (Close Rolls). He died about the year 1266 and was succeeded by his son Robert, who took part with King Edward I in his expedition into Wales. At his death, which happened in 1302, it was found that he held the manor of Snodhill by barony and the service of two knight's fees. His son and successor Roger de Chandos served in the Scottish wars in the time of Edward II, and received the honour of knighthood. In 1321 he was made sheriff of Herefordshire and in the first year of Edward III held that office and the governorship of Hereford Castle. To him succeeded Thomas de Chandos, whose heir was his brother Roger, the first of the family who was summoned to Parliament. He was cited as a Baron from 1337 to 1355 and had previously been made a Banneret by the king whom he attended in France. In Edward III he was constituted Governor of Hereford Castle, and previous to his death in 1355 granted the church of Wellington to Robert Foliot, the Bishop of Hereford. (Harl. M.S., 6868.) Neither his son Sir Thomas nor his grandson Sir John (who has been erroneously identified with his celebrated namesake the Knight of the Garter) had summons to Parliament, and the latter who held the Castle against Glendwr in 1403 dying without issue, 16 Dec. 1428, the estates in Herefordshire devolved to the surviving daughter of his sister Elizabeth (who had married Thomas Berkeley of Coberley, in Gloucestershire) viz. Margery, wife of Nicholas Mattesden, and to his great nephew, Giles Bruges, who, through failure of the other line, became the eventual heir.


Snodhill in the reign of Henry VI,[3] was the property of Richard Neville," the stout Earl of Warwick" in right of his wife Anne, the heiress of the Beauchamps, and she, after the death of her husband, (who was slain at the battle of Barnet) settled the Castle and manor of Fownhope (part of the Honour) upon Henry VII and the heirs of his body.(Blount's MS ) Queen Elizabeth granted it to Sir Robert Dudley, K.G., the infamous Earl of Leicester, as part of the possessions called " Warwick's and Spencer's lands," (Ibid.) and after passing through the hands of the Vaughans, it was purchased from them about the year 1665 by William Prosser of London, (Hill's MS.) whose initials (with the above date) are carved upon the front of Snodhill Court - an interesting building constructed in great part of materials drawn from the ancient Castle. The manor and site continue in the possession of the Prosser family, the representation of which is now vested in the wives of the Rev. Thomas Powell and the Rev. J. W. Sawyer.


There seems good reason to believe that the Castle was erected before the close of the twelfth century for the keep tower, to judge from the scanty remains, is of Norman or semi-Norman construction, octagonal in form with buttresses at the angles. One of the gateways is tolerably perfect, showing an Edwardian archway and a portcullis groove, and there are still some fragments of the walls of the outer bailey. Within the Castle was a free chapel, certain portions of the tithes of which in Snodhill, Fownhope, & c., were granted by Queen Elizabeth to Cecily Pickering and her heirs. There are no traces of this building at present extant: in fact, the Castle, which was a ruin in Leland's time, suffered so severely from a bombardment by the Presbyterian army in the next century that it is even surprising that so much of the structure has survived. Either the head-quarters of the troops or the battery from which the numerous cannon-balls found within the ruins were projected was at a place called Scotland, about two miles higher up the valley.


The Castle key is in the possession of the Rev. T. W. Webb of Hardwick, and the bell was removed some 50 years ago, at which date there was a good deal of ancient armour in the Court. There are still some curiously carved corbels and massive oak beams to be seen there, relics of the stately Castle which have escaped its general ruin.


[1] Mr. Flavell Edmunds in his Names of Places derives the name from Snod, a variation of the Anglo-Saxon snced, and signifying a' piece of land separated from a manor. Snodhill, though within the parish of Peterchurch, is a distinct manor, or rather an honour to which several Manors were dependent


[2] Sir John Chandos was a commander under Edward the Black Prince at the Battle of Poictiers in 1356. His bravery and tatics contributed to the defeat of King John of France by the smaller army of the English Prince. He was slain in the battle.


[3] Richard de la Mere, Sheriff of Herefordshire in 1421, is returned as holding a moiety of the Castle and manor of Snodhill as well as Dorstone 14 Hen. VI. He was probably a descendant of Peter de la Mere, the first speaker of the House of Commons, whose family name is perpetuated in Tedstone de la Mere



The annotations on this copy of the drawing are in the hand of George Marshall, clockwise from the left they read:

1.          Steeper bank than here shown – must have been approached by steps. On the other side of the keep the ground is very steep, perhaps 70 feet or more to the bottom.

2.          Rooms here

3.          Interior here walled up solid at later period than the building

4.          Flanking tower of the gateway

5.          Curtain wall of Bailey, joining the keep

6.          Peterchurch

7.          Part of Curtain wall of Bailey

8.          Bailey

9.          Round the Bailey several pieces of the wall remain


For details of the Manor of Snodhill click here

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