CASTLE FROME CASTLE
Castle Frome Castle was raised in the late eleventh century by Walter de Lacy, a Norman Knight who served in the retinue of William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford. The family rebuilt the castle in stone during the thirteenth century but today only earthworks remain and these have been badly damaged by post-war forestry.
Castle Frome Castle was probably raised just after the Norman Conquest. Frome had been a Saxon manor prior to the Norman Conquest and, at the time of the invasion, had been owned by Brictmer who held it under Harold Godwinson (Harold II). Following his death at the Battle of Hastings (1066), it formed part of the package of lands granted to William FitzOsbern when he was created Earl of Hereford in 1067. He subsequently granted it to Walter de Lacy, a Norman Knight who was present in the Welsh Marches no later than 1069 and had served in the Earl's retinue. It was probably Walter who built the castle and held it as a tenant of FitzOsbern. However, in 1072 the Earl died and two years later his son, Roger of Breteuil, rebelled against the King. Along with Urse d’Abitot, Walter raised an army and defeated Roger and was rewarded by being made tenant-in-chief for his estates which he had formerly held under the Earl. Walter died in 1085 having become one of the most important tenants-in-chief in the Welsh March with holdings across Herefordshire and Shropshire. Castle Frome, along with his other estates, passed to his son, Roger de Lacy.
The castle was initially built as an earth and timber fortification and occupied Fromes Hill, which gave it a commanding position over the surrounding area. It consisted of a central mound which is believed to be a motte although a depression in its summit has led some authors to suggest it was actually a ringwork. There were baileys to the north and south. A deep ditch surrounded the site on the north, east and south sides but not on the west where the steep scarp down to the valley made it superfluous.
Like many magnates with territory in both Normandy and England, Roger de Lacy wanted a single ruler over both. In 1088 he supported a rebellion against William II planning to replace him with Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. The rebellion failed and Roger's position was compromised by participation in a further revolt in 1095. He fled into exile abroad and Castle Frome, along with de Lacy's other estates (the caput of which was at Ludlow Castle), were taken into Crown ownership. Roger's son, Gilbert de Lacy, lobbied for their return and eventually recovered Longtown and Ludlow. However, Castle Frome was not restored and this perhaps prompted his support for Matilda during the Anarchy, the civil war over the English succession. He was eventually rewarded by Matilda’s son, Henry II, who granted him the former Irish Kingdom of Meath. However, whilst these lands brought the de Lacy family power, it also led to turbulent relations with the English King and the de Lacy family spent periods out of favour under four successive Kings: Henry II (1186), Richard I (1194-98), King John (1210-14) and Henry III (1224). Throughout, Castle Frome - along with other de Lacy estates in the Welsh Marches - fluctuated in and out of Crown control.
Castle Frome Castle was rebuilt in stone during the first half of the thirteenth century. It seems likely this occurred in 1244 when its then owner, Gilbert de Lacy, acquired an enormous loan of £600 from a kinsman. The castle was subsequently attested to in records dated 1249, 1268, 1271 and 1291. Thereafter the historical record falls silent and at some point it clearly fell out of use. Today only earthworks (and traces of masonry) remain and the whole site is hidden from view by post-war forestry.
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HMSO (1932). An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Herefordshire, Volume 2, East. HMSO, London.
King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Kraus International Publications.
Pettifer, A (1995). English Castles, A guide by counties. Boydell Press, Woodbridge.
Salter, M (2000). Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Folly Publications, Malvern.
Shoesmith, R (2009). Castles and Moated Sites of Herefordshire. Logaston Press.
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Veach, C. Lordship in Four Realms: The Lacy Family 1166-1241. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Castle Frome Castle survives as a series of earthworks with some traces of masonry. The site is on private land and regrettably is entirely covered in dense forestry meaning only the outlying earthworks are visible along with traces of the associated medieval road that led down to the valley.
Castle Frome Castle Site. The earthworks of the castle can be found in the dense woodland that is found next to the entrance of Coppice House. The woodland itself is privately owned with no public entry.
View. The castle's position gave it commanding views over the surrounding area. All the trees are post-World War II.
Fromes Hill. The castle occupied the high ground above the church. Today the entire site is covered by dense woodland.
St Michael's Church. The church, in the valley below the castle, was built around 1125 by the de Lacy family. The nave roof was added during the fifteenth century.
Castle Frome can be found sandwiched between the B4214 and an unnamed road that connects to the A4103. St Michael's Church is sign-posted off the B4214 and has a small car park in the immediate vicinity. It is then a short but steep walk to the site of the castle following the line of the medieval road that once connected it to the church.
St Michael's Church / Car Park
Castle Frome Castle (No Access)