History

 

Newport Castle was originally established as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle during the late eleventh century. It was possibly constructed on the orders of William II (Rufus), who led a punitive campaign against the Welsh at this time, or alternatively it could have been established by Robert Fitzhamon, Baron of Gloucester during his conquest of central southern Wales. This original castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification established on Stow Hill - a short distance from the later stone structure - and augmented another castle further upriver at Caerleon. Newport was attacked in 1172 by Iorwerth ab Owain Gwynedd, father of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (the Great), but was clearly rebuilt because Crown records 1185 noted expenditure on the castle.

 

Robert Fitzhamon had no male heir so Newport Castle passed to his eldest daughter, Mabel Fitzhamon. Around 1107 she married Robert de Caen who was an (illegitimate) son of King Henry I and was later given the title Earl of Gloucester. By 1199 it was in the possession of Prince John (later King John) through his marriage to Isabella FitzRobert, Countess of Gloucester.

 

In 1217 Newport Castle passed into the hands of the powerful Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester who held it until 1314 apart from brief periods in 1265, during the Second Barons' War (1264-67), and 1296 following an attack by Morgan ap Maredudd ap Llywelyn. Gilbert was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and thereafter it passed into Royal ownership with Edward II granting the property to his unpopular favourite - Hugh Despenser the Elder, Earl of Winchester. This prompted an attack by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March in which the timber castle on Stow Hill was completely destroyed and never rebuilt.

 

The downfall of the Despenser family led to the reallocation of their extensive lands. Newport passed to Hugh de Audley (later Earl of Gloucester) in 1326 and then to his son-in-law Ralph de Stafford, Earl of Stafford. One of these individuals built the stone castle seen today sometime before 1380. Positioned on the banks of the River Usk, it controlled the trade and access along that important artery. The castle's frontage along the waterfront was designed to impress with three large towers dominating the water. The central tower doubled as a Watergate with small boats being able to access the interior at high tide. Behind the impressive waterside frontage was a moat and curtain wall which enclosed a broadly rectangular courtyard.

 

In September 1400 a new Welsh rebellion erupted in North Wales when Owain Glyndŵr proclaimed himself Prince of Wales. Finding popular support, including from former supporters of the recently deposed Richard II, many of the great northern fortresses built by Edward I fell to the rebels. The uprising spread and saw Owain's forces triumph at the Battle of Bryn Glas in June 1402. Thereafter Welsh forces under Rhys Gethin entered South Wales seizing Newport Castle along with those fortifications in nearby Caerleon and Usk.

 

Newport Castle was back in Royal hands by 1405 when major repairs were conducted on behalf of Henry IV and with the restoration of English control in South Wales it resumed its role as an administrative centre. Further upgrades were made in 1435 and it was briefly used as a residence by Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII, following the overthrow of the York dynasty after the Battle of Bosworth (1485).

 

The castle was taken into Crown ownership in 1521 but was neglected and fell into ruin. Nevertheless a Royalist garrison was installed in 1648 during the Second English Civil War. Forces under Oliver Cromwell stormed and captured the facility. Thereafter it was abandoned and fell into ruin. Today only the eastern curtain wall and riverside towers survive with the rest of the structure having been obliterated by modern developments.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Armitage, E.S (1904). Early Norman Castles of the British Isles. English Historical Review Vol 14 (Reprinted by Amazon).

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Falkus, M and Gillingham, J (1981). Historical Atlas of Great Britain. Grisewood and Dempsey, London.

Kenyon, J (2010). The Medieval Castles of Wales. CPI Rowe, Chippenham.

Pettifer, A (2000). Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.

Randall, H.J (1961). The Vale of Glamorgan, Studies in Landscape and History. R.H Johns, Newport.

Reid, A (1998). Castles of Wales. John Jones Publishing.

Renn, D.F (1973). Norman Castles of Britain. John Baker Publishing, London.

Salter, M (1991). The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower. Malvern.

Whittle, E (1992). A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales, Glamorgan and Gwent. CADW, London.

What's There?

Visit Official Website

Newport Castle is in a structurally unsound state and is currently sealed off with no public access although the remains can be seen from the adjacent bridge. Only the towers that fronted the River Usk have survived as the rest of the castle has been destroyed by later developments.

Newport Castle Layout. Most of the castle has been obliterated by modern developments but its finest features, the waterfront towers, remain intact albeit unstable.

Watergate. At high tide small boats could originally enter the castle through the Watergate.

Norman Penetrations Into Wales c1150. There was no centralised Norman advance into South Wales during the eleventh century. Instead Norman Barons were encouraged to seize land and so the conquest was a piecemeal affair characterised by periods of expansion (1067-1094 and 1100-1135) and contraction (1094-1100 and 1135-1154) as they vied for control with native Welsh. The Vale of Glamorgan was conquered by Robert Fitzhamon late in the eleventh century.

NEWPORT CASTLE

Looking for a different Newport Castle? Try Newport Castle (Pembrokeshire)

Originally an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification, Newport Castle was rebuilt early in the fourteenth century to dominate the River Usk and control the valuable trade inshore. It was captured during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr but was restored and later used as a residence by Henry VII’s uncle, Jasper Tudor.

Getting There

Newport Castle is located in central Newport and is sandwiched between the B4596 and the railway line to the central station. There is no dedicated car park but there are ample other options nearby.

Car Parking Option

Rodney Road, NP19 0AD

51.590372N 2.992370W

Newport Castle

NP20 1DA

51.590791N 2.995040W