Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Skenfrith Castle

I took the scenic route home, and stopped off to visit Skenfrith Castle on the way. I love castle-hunting and try and take the opportunity to visit new ones when I am away from home.

If you click on the photo, it will enlarge so that you can read the history.

Skenfrith is situated right on the English-Welsh border, 11 miles N-E of Abergavenny. It is one of three castles (Y Tair Tref) built originally by the Normans in the 11th century to guard this triangle of border land. The other two are Grosmont (which I didn't see this time) and White Castle, which I will write about later this week.

The curtain walls and corner towers are still well-preserves and built of the local "Old Red" sandstone. Originally the castle would have been defended by an outer moat, now filled in. Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, was strongly associated with these three castles in the 12th century, although his holding of them was strongly influenced by King John, who granted them to Hubert's Marcher rival, William de Braose of Abergavenny whilst Hubert was away in France, fighting for the King (he was unfortunate to be captured and held as a prisoner of war). He regained his castles and lands in 1219, and his experiences in France and of French castle building, led to him having the timber castles of Skenfrith and Grosmont in stone, in the new military style with curtain walls and semi-circular towers with arrow-slits.

Below is part of the earlier castle, which was devastated by flooding in the Monnow valley in the 13th century (about 1220), which led to the earlier stone-built castle being filled in with river gravel to raise the level and the magnificent round central keep was built above flood levels. This was not discovered until the 1950s excavations.

As you can see in the above illustration, the design of the tower originally had a fighting-platform style of roof which jutted out beyond the walls. It was also covered in a white render (as you may assume that White Castle also was.)

Its massive walls show the strength of the building and the sloping base of the tower are characteristic of South Welsh round keeps. The 2nd floor chamber had a large fireplace and was probably where Hubert de Burgh has his private apartment.

I noticed that two apple trees had grown inside the inner ward, one swathed in Mistletoe. Fruit from the 2nd was littering the grass and I now have a Skenfrith Apple which I am hoping I may persuade to grow offspring from seed - which we have done with another of our apple trees here, being quite true to its parent type.

Below you can see the remains of the earlier stone castle which were buried after the catastrophic flooding of 1220.

1 comment:

Mam said...

Beautiful photos, Jennie. I am sure I will get around to using some of your work in mine. I missed the "doorway" challenge I spoke to you about previously, but I see some here that are so enchanting! I'll credit you and let you know when I do it.
The food looks scrumptious. I've never had monkfis. He's an ugly fellow, isn't he. So is a halibut, but I love it.