Notes: Castle is accessed from a minor road off the A483 near Abermule. A small car park provides enough space for a few cars whilst a farm track doubles as the footpath to the castle.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The ruins of a castle built by the last native born Prince of Wales. The masonry no longer exists to any great height by the layout of the fortification, including the base of the rectangular Keep, can be appreciated.
1. The thirteenth century Montgomery Castle was designed and built by Hubert de Burgh who was also responsible for the Three Castles in the Lordship of the same name; Skenfrith, Grosmont and White. As the primary Norman-English outpost in the area, it was a source of tension with the native Welsh and explains the construction of Dolforwyn Castle.
Designed to counter the threat from nearby Montgomery and mark the eastern extremity of his dominion, Dolforwyn Castle was built by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Before it was completed it came under siege from the forces of Edward I during the first War of Welsh Independence after which it was occupied by the English for around one hundred years.
HISTORY OF DOLFORWYN CASTLE
Dolforwyn Castle was built by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last) in 1273 and was intended to counter nearby Montgomery Castle which had been a site of tension with the native Welsh since its establishment in the 1070s. Gruffudd had been formally recognised as Prince of Wales by Henry III at the Treaty of Montgomery (1267) and it likely he hoped by constructing Dolforwyn, he could secure his gains against future English aggression. Paired with an adjacent fortified town, the castle was built along the summit of a natural ridge overlooking the River Severn. It consisted of a walled rectangular enclosure augmented by deep dry moat cut out of the rock. A rectangular Keep guarded the entrance to the castle.
Henry III died in 1272 and whilst his successor, Edward I, was initially content to sustain the status-quo relations between the two factions quickly deteriorated. The result was the first War of Welsh Independence which started in 1276. Dolforwyn Castle was probably not complete at this time but, when besieged by English forces in late March 1277, it still withstood an extensive siege led by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. During this assault the English made use of siege engines, presumably trebuchet throwing machines, as during twentieth century excavations over 50 stone balls were found. The focus of the attack seems to have been the Eastern curtain wall but, despite this onslaught, it was ultimately the lack of an internal water supply that saw the castle surrender on 8 April 1277.
Now in England hands, Dolforwyn Castle was granted to Mortimer and he made a number of modifications to the site including addition of a well. The original Welsh town, protected by walls immediately adjacent to the castle, was relocated to Newtown. However, with the complete conquest of Wales following the second War of Welsh Independence, Dolforwyn became strategically redundant. A garrison was sustained until the late fourteenth century but by 1398 the castle was described as ruinous. Abandoned around this time, the castle was left to nature until a major excavation of the site was conducted by York University between 1981-2001.