LITTLE HEREFORD CASTLE
Little Hereford Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification built in the first half of the twelfth century. It was captured by King Stephen in 1139 who used the site for several months as a base of operations against Miles Gloucester who was besieging Hereford. The castle remained occupied into the thirteenth century.
Little Hereford Castle was built in the first half of the twelfth century probably by William de la Mara, a Norman Knight who had acquired the site from Miles Gloucester (who held the land under the Bishop of Hereford). William established the site as his caput as it overlooked both a pre-existing valuable settlement and also enabled him to secure control of the River Teme, a vital artery providing movement between Worcester and Ludlow.
The castle took the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The motte was built overlooking the northern banks of the river and would have been topped by a timber tower and/or palisade. The bailey extended to the east protected by the river on the south side and small tributary streams on the east and west sides (the latter separating the bailey from the motte).
The death of Henry I in 1135 led to a civil war, the Anarchy, between two rival claimants; Stephen of Blois and Matilda. Most magnates supported Stephen but the powerful Robert, Earl of Gloucester supported Matilda and his supporters followed suit. This included Miles Gloucester and his retainers, including William Mara, who launched an attack on Hereford Castle. Stephen advanced into Herefordshire to crush Miles and by December 1139 had captured Little Hereford Castle. He used it as a base of operations through to February 1140 when Hereford finally fell to Miles. Little Hereford Castle remained in use into the thirteenth century and in 1240s was recorded as being owned by Reginald Mara.
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Little Hereford Castle consists of the remains of a small motte along with other slight earthworks associated with either the bailey or defences raised by King Stephen in 1139.
Little Hereford Motte. The twelfth century motte is only a fraction of its original size.
Bailey. The bailey extended to the east and was protected by the river on the south side and small tributary streams on the east and west sides.
River Teme. Little Hereford was one of numerous fortifications along the River Teme, a major waterway connecting Worcester and Ludlow.
St Mary's Church. The church stands directly adjacent to the castle site. Although extensively rebuilt, the structure includes eleventh and twelfth century masonry.