and MONTGOMERY TOWN WALLS
Montgomery Castle was built in 1223 by Henry III to secure control of central Wales. Replacing an earlier fortification known as Hen Domen, the new castle was built on a hilltop location and overlooked a fortified town. Both were attacked on numerous occasions including an assault by Owain Glyndŵr in 1402. During the civil war, the Battle of Montgomery (1644) was fought nearby.
Montgomery is located overlooking the Severn valley and its confluence with the River Camlad, both of which were important means of movement through pre-industrial Wales. It also commands important overland routes connecting Shrewsbury, Chester and Hereford with western Wales. For all these reasons, the site has been fortified for thousands of years. The earliest fortification was Ffridd Faldwyn, an Iron Age hillfort associated with the Ordovices tribe. The Romans also noted the importance of the area and established Forden Gaer Fort (Levobrinta) in the first century AD. Unlike the hillfort, the Roman facility was established in direct proximity to the River Severn as the logistical benefits of that waterway outweighed defensive requirements. Later, between AD 757 and AD 796, Offa's Dyke was built on a north/south line through the area.
Hen Domen Castle
The first castle was raised at Montgomery between 1071 and 1074 near the site of the former Roman fort and controlled the same crossing over the River Severn. It was built by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury. He came from Montgomery in Normandy, hence his surname, and the Welsh town took its name from the magnate. However, the castle he built became known as Hen Domen and was an earth and timber motte and bailey structure. The motte was surrounded by a ditch and was topped with a timber tower. The bailey was protected by a wooden palisade complete with towers and fronted by a ditch and counter-scarp bank. A further ditch provided additional protection on the west side. Based on excavations in the late twentieth century, some of the buildings within the castle were grand structures including the Great Hall which was connected to the tower on the motte by a staircase. The bailey also hosted a chapel, granary and stables. A town was founded outside its walls in the late twelfth century.
Roger died in 1094 and the castle and Earldom passed to his children, first to Hugh de Montgomery and, in 1098, to Robert of Bellême. When he rebelled against Henry I in 1102, Hen Domen was taken into Crown control. It remained a Royal property until 1105 when Henry I granted it to Baldwin de Bollers who made it his caput. His descendants held it until the thirteenth century. In 1214 it was captured by Welsh forces under Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and subsequently burnt. However, the structure was rebuilt and remained in use until circa-1300, long after Montgomery Castle had been constructed.
Hen Doman Castle was the first Norman fortification in the region. The remains are heavily wooded and difficult to view.
The early thirteenth century saw the rise of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth as the dominant force in Wales. He exploited the turbulence of King John's reign to capture vast swathes of territory and these gains were confirmed by the Government of Henry III in 1220. However, several years later Iorwerth was in conflict with one of the most powerful Marcher Lords - William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. This in turn prompted a confrontation with Henry III who arrived in Montgomery in 1223 and began construction of the castle.
Montgomery Castle was built on a commanding hilltop position near the former hillfort. The Inner Ward was constructed upon a promontory protected on the north, east and west sides by cliffs. It was enclosed on all sides by a substantial stone built curtain wall with large D-shaped towers on the north and west sides. The southern side was protected by a double drum gatehouse and a deep, dry ditch hewed out of the rock. Extending from that was the Outer Ward which enclosed a broadly rectangular area and again was protected by a curtain wall augmented with towers and a gatehouse. A ditch provided protection on the south and west sides but the natural scarping to the east meant no protection was required there. A further outer enclosure, probably only used for livestock and with earth and timber defences, was located to the west.
Montgomery Castle consisted of two stone built Wards. The Inner Ward (foreground) was protected on three sides by cliffs.
Montgomery Town Walls
Montgomery town was established at the same time as the castle. Unsurprisingly few English settlers were keen to move into the new town given its exposed position and the recent successes of the Welsh. Nevertheless, Henry III offered settlers extensive rights and incentives prompting sufficient uptake of the offer. It is likely that some form of town wall - probably an earth and timber bank fronted by a ditch - was built at this time. These defences proved inadequate as the town was stormed by Welsh forces in 1231 and 1245 although in both instances the populace would have been able to take refuge in the castle which successfully resisted the attacks.
Welsh Wars of Independence
The mid-thirteenth century saw protracted conflict between the English and Welsh with the latter now led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Henry III met the Welsh Prince at Montgomery Castle in 1267 and formally recognised him as Prince of Wales. Just a few years later, Gruffudd built Dolforwyn Castle a mere six miles from Montgomery; a clear indication of the decline in English power across the area. However, after Henry’s death relations between the Gruffudd and the new English King, Edward I, deteriorated. The outbreak of the First War of Welsh Independence in 1276 saw Gruffudd defeated and the English secured effective control of all of eastern Wales. In the years that followed, Edward I ordered improvements to the castle including construction of a new Great Hall along with supporting ancillary buildings and repairs to the castle's walls. Furthermore, between 1279 and 1280, the King ordered the Town Walls to be rebuilt in stone and augmented them with a number of towers. Upon the outbreak of the Second War of Welsh Independence in 1282, Montgomery Castle played a key staging role when one of three English armies deployed from it to attack north-west Wales including the seizure of Castell y Bere.
The town walls were constructed in stone by Edward I but probably existed as earthworks since the foundation of the castle in 1223.
In 1330 the castle was granted to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March but his downfall later the same year saw it returned to the Crown. It remained in Royal ownership for the next twenty-nine years but, given the increasing stability across Wales, was neglected. It was returned to the Mortimers in 1359 and it was sufficiently well maintained to resist an attack by Owain Glyndŵr in 1402. On this occasion the town walls proved less effective as the settlement was sacked by the Welsh during this assault.
By the early sixteenth century Montgomery Castle was ruinous but in 1534 Rowland Lee was appointed as President of the Council of the Marches. He made Montgomery Castle one of his key administrative centres and accordingly embarked on a wholesale upgrade of the internal buildings. Nevertheless, it was abandoned again by the end of the century and was only reoccupied when Sir Edward Herbert commenced construction of a timber framed mansion house within the Outer Ward in 1622.
The Civil War
Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Montgomery Castle was owned by Lord Herbert of Chirbury. Although nominally a Royalist, he was 61 years old and in ill-health with little interest in the ongoing warfare. The castle's location, far from the Parliamentary heartlands in south and east England, meant it saw no action for the first few years of the war. However, following the decisive Royalist defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor (1644), Parliamentary forces went on the offensive in the Welsh March. They captured Oswestry and then made a move on Montgomery hoping to secure the castle and thus dominate Central Wales. A force of 800 men was dispatched under Sir Thomas Myddelton and Colonel Thomas Mytton. As they approached Lord Herbert, who was more interested in securing his library, surrendered the castle.
The loss of Montgomery was an intolerable situation for the Royalists as it significantly fettered their movements throughout central Wales and accordingly a large army was mustered to dislodge the Parliamentarians. Equally Parliament was not keen to lose its new prize and they too mustered an army. The two forces met at the Battle of Montgomery, fought on 18 September 1644, where the Royalists were soundly defeated. Montgomery Castle remained in Parliamentary hands for the rest of the war. Sir Edward Herbert died in 1648 and, as his heir was an active Royalist, Montgomery Castle was slighted and the mansion house was demolished. In the subsequent decades both the castle and town walls were plundered for their stone.
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Montgomery Castle dates from the thirteenth century and is in the care of CADW. Ffridd Faldwyn hillfort is nearby.
Montgomery Castle Layout. The castle was started in 1223 and consisted of two main enclosures – the Inner and Outer Wards – both of which were protected by a substantial stone walls. An outer enclosure, extending to the west, provided additional space for livestock.
Dominant Position. Montgomery Castle occupies a hill overlooking the town. Nevertheless the site was overlooked by Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort, seen to the right of the castle in this picture.
Cliffs. The Inner Ward of the castle occupies a promontory of land protected on the north, east and west sides by cliffs.
Montgomery Castle. The castle as viewed from outside the Outer Ward.
Outer Ward Curtain Wall.
Outer Ward. Looking across the Outer Ward towards the Inner Ward.
Inner Ward. The Inner Ward was accessed via a double drum gatehouse.
Town Walls. The town wall, probably constructed concurrently with castle, enclosed a large area and was penetrated by four gates. The town walls originally consisted of an earth and timber rampart fronted by a ditch. They were rebuilt in stone by Edward I between 1279 and 1280.
Montgomery Fortifications. Due to its proximity to the rivers Severn and Camlad plus its commanding position over important overland routes, Montgomery has been fortified for thousands of years. The earliest site was Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort (top right).The Romans built Forden Gaer Fort in the first century AD but positioned it in direct proximity to the River Severn for logistical reasons. Offa’s Dyke was constructed through the site in the mid eighth century. The Normans established Hen Domen circa-1071 (bottom right) and then Montgomery Castle in 1223.
Montgomery Castle is found on an unnamed road accessed off Arthur Street. There is a dedicated car park. Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort is accessed from a public right of way further west along the same road.
Montgomery Town Walls (Stone)
Arthur's Gate, SY15 6QT
Montgomery Town Walls (Earthworks)