Parish History

The Castle

richards“Richard’s Castle standeth on the top of a very rocky hill, well wooded. The keep, the walls and the tower yet stand but are going to ruin.” (John Leland, Itinerary, c. 1538)

The castle can be found on top of a high hill to the north-east of the modern village of Richards Castle. It is situated next to the 12th century church of St. Bartholomew. From this height the castle had commanding views over the valley to the south.

Today the fortress is reduced mainly to its earthworks and foundations. A polygonal keep stood on the high motte or mound. This was reached possibly via a semi-circular barbican. The bailey wall still stands twenty feet high in places and there are remains of several towers and an early gatehouse around the perimeter.

Richard Fitz Scrob (or Fitz Scrope) was a Norman knight granted lands by the Saxon King Edward the Confessor before the Norman Conquest, in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire as recorded in the Domesday Book. He built Richard’s Castle before 1051. The castle was a motte-and-bailey style construction, one of only three or four castles of this type built before the Norman conquest. Most were built after the conquest. Richard was last mentioned in 1067. His castle passed to his son, Osbern Fitz Richard, who married Nesta, the daughter of King Gruffydd ap Llywelyn of Wales.

Osbern died around 1137 and was succeeded by his grandson, Osbern Fitz Hugh (married to a sister of Rosamond Clifford), who died in 1187. Richard’s Castle then passed to his marital brother-in-law, Hugh de Say, who died in 1190, leaving the barony to his son, another Hugh Say. Thus the castle passed out of the line of descent of Richard Fitz Scrob.

In 1196 this Hugh fought at the battle at New Radnor and was probably killed there, his castles eventually passing to Robert de Mortimer of Attleborough. In 1264 his son, Hugh Mortimer, was forced to surrender himself and Richard’s Castle to Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. His grandson, the last Hugh Mortimer of Richard’s Castle, was poisoned to death by his wife in 1304.

The castle then passed to the Talbots, through Richard Talbot’s marriage to Joan Mortimer. On 3 December 1329, Joan late the wife of Richard Thalebot, had noted in the Patent Rolls that she planned to leave Richard’s Castle to John de Wotton, chaplain, and William Balle of Underlith, in fee simple. The Talbots were still living there in the late 14th century. By the 16th century it was in ruins.