At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) Pilleth was owned by Ralph Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore. It was probably he who built Castell Foel Allt to control the River Lugg. This important waterway provided access from Leominster and penetrated deep into central Wales facilitating Norman expansion into the Principality.
The castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification built upon a spur of high ground overlooking the River Lugg. The motte stood in the south-eastern corner of the castle site and seems to have hosted a stone tower. The motte was protected by a ditch and counterscarp bank. The layout of the baileys is less clear with the confusing earthworks probably representing several different phases of development as well later agricultural activity. However a small banked enclosure, presumably an Inner Bailey, can be clearly made out to the north-west of the motte whilst the earthworks beyond that probably represent the location of the Outer Bailey. The entire castle site was enclosed on three sides by water features. To the south a steep slope down to the River Lugg greatly augmented the castle's defences. To the north and east a stream flowed down from the high ground above the village to join the river providing a minor obstacle and presumably a water source for the castle. The village and church of Pilleth, which both developed as a result of the castle, were located several hundred metres to the north of the fortification. This was a fairly common arrangement - villages were often established on the periphery of castles to prevent the domestic structures compromising the defensive requirements by impingement upon the immediate hinterland.
Little is known about the history of the castle which would have been a site of only minor importance to the powerful Mortimer family. The castle and village seem to have been aligned ecclesiastically to Llanthony Abbey in the late twelfth century but thereafter historical records are silent until 1341 when it was recorded as being home to the dowager Lady of Wigmore. It is likely the castle went out of use soon after for it played no part in the Battle of Bryn Glas (1402) which saw an army under Edmund Mortimer defeated on the high ground above the castle site. Had Castell Foel Allt been a viable fortification at this point, it would surely have been used as a safe haven by the fleeing English troops but, as none of the contemporary chroniclers mention it, the assumption must be it was out of use by this time.
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Castell Foel Allt consists of the earthwork remains of a motte-and-bailey fortification. The mound itself still stands over 5 metres tall and a series of ditches and ramparts survive representing the baileys of the castle. A nearby right of way passes the castle site.
Castell Foel Allt. The site is still dominated by the impressive motte. The River Lugg, seen to the right, augmented the castle's southern defences.
Motte Ditch. The motte was surrounded by a ditch.
Castle Site. The castle comprises of a complex series of earthworks which probably represents a multi-phase development as well as later agricultural activity.
St Mary's Church. The church was probably contemporary with Castell Foel Allt. The earliest masonry visible today is the tower which dates from the thirteenth century. The Battle of Bryn Glas (1402) was fought around the church.
River Lugg. The castle overlooked the River Lugg. Waterways such as this were the main means of overland movement in the medieval period and the River Lugg provided access deep into Central Wales.
CASTELL FOEL ALLT
Castell Foel Allt was a motte-and-bailey castle built in the late eleventh century by the Mortimer family to control a key route into central Wales. Little is known about its history but it had probably gone out of use by the time the Battle of Bryn Glas (1402) was fought in the vicinity.
Castell Foell Allt is located in a field to the south of the B4356 just to the west of Pilleth. There is a lay-by nearby (details below) and a public right of way passes the castle's earthworks. St Mary's Church, the centre of the Battle of Bryn Glas (1402), is nearby and sign-posted from the main road. The church has a small car park directly adjacent.
Car Parking Option (Castle)
Castell Foel Allt
St Mary's Church / Car Park
B4356, LD7 1NR