GOODRICH CASTLE, HR9 6HY
Postcode: HR9 6HY
Lat/Long: 51.876657N 2.615789W
Notes: Located 3 miles south west of Ross-on-Wye, the castle is an English Heritiage ‘highlight’ property and major tourist attraction. It’s well sign-posted and served by a large, dedicated car park.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The extensive remains of a medieval castle set atop of a natural rock base. The top of the Keep can be accessed giving good views of the surrounding countryside. Of particular interest is the Barbican which is identical in size to that built but now vanished at the Tower of London. One of the siege mortars from 1646 is also on display.
1. The early thirteenth century owner of Goodrich Castle was William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. He also owned Chepstow and Usk Castles nearby.
2. Royal records show that workmen were assigned by Edward I to Goodrich to assist with building works at the castle. It is likely these men built the Barbican which is almost identical to the (now destroyed) equivalent that had been built at the Tower of London around the same time.
3. The design of Goodrich Castle's towers is similar to that seen at Chepstow and Caerphilly Castles.
4. The rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr lasted from 1400 to 1409 when it finally came to an end due to the vast resources of the English. Despite significant rewards offered for his capture, he evaded capture until his death circa-1415.
5. George Talbot, owner of Goodrich from 1560 to 1590, was responsible for the safe custody of Mary Queen of Scots between 1569 and 1584. During this period she was largely confined in or around Tutbury Castle.
Barbican. The large semi-circular Barbican is almost identical to the one built (but now gone) at the Tower of London. It is almost certain that it was constructed by the same teamwho were most probably loaned by Edward I to William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke to assist with the upgrading of his fortification at Goodrich.
Roaring Meg. The 1646 siege ended once Colonel John Birch brought heavy mortars to bombard Goodrich into surrender. One of them, Roaring Meg, is on display within the castle grounds.
Despite being situated in the Border March, Goodrich Castle had a relatively peaceful history until the Civil War. When that conflict erupted it acted as the Royalist base near Gloucestershire resulting in a siege and artillery bombardment that damaged it beyond repair.
HISTORY OF GOODRICH CASTLE
Situated near a crossing point over the River Wye, the site of Goodrich Castle may have been the location of an Iron Age Hillfort. However the first known fortification was referenced in 1101 as "Godric's Castle" named after the owner, Godric Mappeson - an Englishman who had managed to hold onto his possessions after the Norman Conquest. After Godric's death the estate passed into the hands of a Norman baron, William fitz Baderon.
During the Anarchy, the civil war between King Stephen and Queen Matilda, the castle was transferred to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke. His family supported King Stephen's claim to the throne and when Matilda's son ascended to the throne as Henry II found themselves out of favour. It was at this time - perhaps as part of a wider project to strengthen his entire estates - that either he or his son Robert built the stone Keep at Goodrich. Gilbert's son, Richard ('Strongbow'), would continue to have frosty relations with Henry II; in 1170 he defied Royal orders and invaded Ireland achieving significant military success including the capture of Dublin. When he died in 1176, Goodrich was taken into Royal ownership.
Richard's daughter, Isabella, married William Marshal (later Earl of Pembroke) and ultimately he was granted Goodrich Castle; probably partly in recompense for loss of his lands in Normandy which had been seized when the French annexed the province. He made numerous upgrades to the castle at this time and this proved timely as England slipped into a period of internal strife as King John's rebellious Barons invited Prince Louis of France to invade and take the Crown. William Marshall was an ardent loyalist who supported King John throughout and was ultimately chosen by him to be protector during the minority of his son, Henry III.
William's successor, Richard, was less loyal to the Royal family. He participated in the opposition to Henry III and made an alliance with the Welsh. This prompted the King to seize Goodrich Castle with Richard withdrew to Ireland. Restored to his successors, the castle came into the hands of William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke. Although he was frequently absent from the castle - he fought with Prince Edward (later King Edward I) on crusade and in the Welsh and French wars – at Goodrich he seems to have commissioned much of what can be seen today.
After William's death, the castle passed to Aymer de Valence whose extensive political involvement meant he was rarely there. Aymer negotiated the marriage between Edward II and Princess Isabella of France and was one of the magnates opposed to the rise of Piers Gaveston (albeit not his capture and execution at the hands of the Earls of Lancaster and Warwick). He was also present at the calamitous defeat of the English forces at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) where he helped Edward II flee the battlefield and escape captivity. Aymer himself though was financially ruined in 1317 when he was captured and ransomed by a French nobleman whilst on a diplomatic mission to the Pope.
Aymer died without male heir and the castle then passed to his niece, Elizabeth Comyn, who was a minor and thus Goodrich was taken into Crown control. Unfortunately this was a period when Edward II was dominated by the Despenser family; Hugh le Despenser the younger first pressurised, then kidnapped Elizabeth forcing her to cede Goodrich Castle. However in 1326 she married Lord Richard Talbot, an experienced soldier, who seized the castle from the Despensers. With the overthrow of Edward II and the Despensers in 1327, the castle remained with the Talbot line.
In 1402 the focus of Goodrich Castle shifted back to Wales. Owain Glyn Dŵr, a descendant of the former Princes of Powys, led a Welsh uprising against English rule in September 1400. Lord Gilbert Talbot, son of Richard and another experienced soldier, led a successful campaign to check Owain's incursion into Gloucestershire in March 1405. Gilbert later went on to serve with Henry V in Normandy and died in Rouen in 1418. Goodrich passed to his brother, John (later Earl of Shrewsbury), who was also engaged in fighting in France and died attempting to save Castillon from a French siege in 1453.
For much of the remaining period of the fifteenth and the entire sixteenth century, Goodrich Castle remained owned by the Earls of Shrewsbury who were largely absentee owners. The castle was taken into Crown ownership in 1619 as part of a debt settlement package and passed to the Earl of Kent but was managed by his agent, Richard Tyler. It was during his tenure that war came to Goodrich; the castle had experienced a relatively peaceful history upto this point but this all changed in 1643. The Civil War between King Charles and Parliament had been raging in England since 1642 with fortunes fluctuating between the two sides. The Royalists, who predominantly held the Midlands and South West, attempted but failed to take Gloucester in order to check a Parliamentary advance from the south; denied use of the town the Royalists established their base at Goodrich Castle instead. By 1644 a garrison had been installed there under Henry Lingen and, as Royalist fortunes waned in 1645, it became the centre of their operations in the area. With the decisive defeat at the Battle of Naseby (1645) the war was lost to the King but Goodrich held out with its garrison raiding the local area. In June 1646 Parliament had seen enough and sent Colonel John Birch to besiege the castle. Lingen refused to surrender and a two month siege only ended when Birch used explosive mortars to bring down the walls. The castle was ruined by this action and was never repaired.