Skenfrith Castle, Monmouthshire Wales

Skenfrith Castle is the only low-lying fortress of the three castles of Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle, now known as the castles of the Trilateral. Like the other two castles Skenfrith is remarkably well-preserved, standing mostly to wall walk height. Again we have no early reference as to the foundation of the fortress, though a castle certainly existed here by 1160 when it came into the king’s hands with Grosmont and White Castle. In 1187 the engineer Ralph Grosmont was instructed by King Henry II to rebuild the castle in stone. The eastern wall and possibly north-eastern tower of the castle, built in a totally different style to the rest of the fortress, was constructed by Ralph. However this work proved abortive and Henry II cancelled the building work in 1188 as unnecessary. In 1193, Sheriff William Braose pushed the unfinished castle into rapid service by placing a palisade around the other three sides of the ditch. A prison was later built within the stockade.

From this time on Skenfrith Castle has largely the same history as Grosmont castle. In 1219 Hubert Burgh began to build the other three sides of the unfinished castle enceinte in stone. His work is characterized by the fine and high batter on the north, south and west sides of the castle. However before a year was out this castle was devastated by heavy flooding in the Monnow valley. Hubert therefore filled the interior of the first castle with river gravel and built a new castle on top of the first one! The hall of this first castle still remains, having been buried in gravel from 1220 until the 1950's excavations. This hall is remarkably well-preserved with the jambs of doors and windows in as good a condition as when they were first cut nearly 800 years ago. Even the original iron door hinges (below left) and window bars (below right) have survived from this era.