Notes: Car parking facilities in vicinity of castle. If approaching from the direction of Raglan Castle the route will utilise some very rural roads!
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of a stone medieval castle built by English overlords to control the Border Marches. The fine circular Keep is a highlight and the curtain walls remain standing to an impressive height. A medieval wharf has been discovered nearby but the remains have been buried for preservation purposes.
1. The Three Castles - Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle - were held by a single owner from 1138 until 1902 when they were sold off individually by the Beaufort estate. At present ownership is still split; White Castle and Grosmont are owned by the State whilst Skenfrith is owned by the National Trust.
2. One of the owners of Skenfrith Castle, Hubert de Burgh, had made his name from the successful defence of Dover Castle for King John against an invading French force. His remodelling of all of the Three Castles reflected the experiences from this and time spent abroad as a prisoner.
3. Unlike the other two fortifications that formed the 'Three Castles' lordship of the Border Marches, Skenfrith sports a concentric design with a central round keep (similar in style to that seen at Pembroke) and in the medieval era had a flooded moat.
Skenfrith Castle is the most easterly of the fortifications that controlled the Three Castles Lordship. In design and style it was a fore-runner to the great concentric castles built by Edward I in North Wales and sported a circular keep, flooded moat and wharf adjacent to the bailey for resupply.
HISTORY OF SKENFRITH CASTLE
As with Grosmont and White castles, the land on which Skenfrith stands was granted by William I (the Conqueror) to one of his principal supporters, William FitzOsbern Earl of Hereford, shortly after the Norman invasion. In 1075, following William’s death, his heir rebelled against the King and his lands were confiscated. The original builder of Skenfrith Castle is therefore uncertain - it was either William FitzOsbern or William I. Regardless the fortification would have been an earth and timber motte-and-bailey structure.
Having violently imposed themselves on the local Welsh populace in the place of the traditional Welsh princes, Skenfrith provided an anchor for continued Norman expansion into Wales. As subsequent Welsh rebellions occurred the castle was prepared for defence including being rebuilt in stone. Sizeable storage facilities were installed as a precaution against prolonged siege.
Following Edward I's invasions and conquest of Wales, the requirement for further upgrades at Skenfrith ceased and no further additions were made until 1405. This year saw another Welsh rebellion and Skenfrith was prepared for defence once again. The rebellion was defeated and by the sixteenth century the castle was in a ruinous condition.