Notes: Castle is a major NT property and well sign-posted with dedicated car park. Hillfort is accessed via ‘blue’ walking route from castle; around 1 mile of quite muddy terrain.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Croft Castle has been transformed into a stately home with little remaining of the medieval original (excluding corner turrets). Hillfort offers earth ramparts and good views of surrounding countryside. As with many NT properties, Croft offers something for all the family.
1. During his tour of Great Britain during the eighteenth century, Daniel Defoe recorded that the populace around Croft believed they were orignally part of the Silures tribe. In actual fact the Silures probably did not extend to the east of Offa's Dyke.
2. Croft Ambrey Hillfort overlooks Wigmore Castle which was owned by the Mortimer family.
The location of a major hillfort of the Dobunni tribe and later a medieval fortification, Croft Castle witnessed events linked with the Owain Glyn Dwr rebellion, the decisive Yorkist victory at nearby Mortimer’s Cross during the Wars of the Roses and was attacked during the Civil War.
HISTORY OF CROFT CASTLE
The hillfort near Croft Castle (known as Croft Ambrey) was probably built by the Dobunni tribe in the mid-Iron Age. Built with two principal entrances it enclosed an area of approximately 32 acres. Some evidence exists of continued use in Roman times and it is likely there was a structure built there during this period; perhaps a Romano-Celtic temple as seen at Maiden Castle. The site would keep its importance upto and including the medieval period where its commanding position overlooked the lands of the Mortimers; accordingly that family ensured that the fort was encompassed within their own territorial boundaries.
The Mortimer occupation of the Croft Ambrey site led to the positioning of Croft Castle in its current location - approximately 1 mile to the south of the hillfort. The original castle was an earth and timber ringwork fort and was built no later than the thirteenth century as records survive that its owner, Sir Roger de Croft, entertained Prince Edward (later Edward I) there. During the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr and his defeat of Mortimer in 1402, either the castle itself or the Croft Ambrey hillfort were occupied by Welsh forces. It may have been this attack which prompted the rebuilding of Croft in stone as this occurred in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century when it was rebuilt in a quadrangular layout with round turrets at each of the four corners.
The Battle of Mortimers Cross (1461) was fought in close vicinity to Croft and it is entirely possible that the hillfort hosted a military presence during the battle due to its superb vantage point over the scene. The castle certainly played a part; Sir Richard Croft deployed from here to fight for the Yorkists at the battle. It was the same Sir Richard Croft who captured Prince Edward ten years later at the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471).
During the Civil War the owner of Croft Castle, Sir William Croft, supported Parliament and this led to the castle being attacked in 1644 and partially dismantled. Thereafter it was converted into a lavish country mansion which is what remains visible today.