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Latitude: 51.6439 / 51°38'37"N
Longitude: -2.6758 / 2°40'33"W
OS Eastings: 353330
OS Northings: 194113
OS Grid: ST533941
Mapcode National: GBR JM.7MM0
Mapcode Global: VH87M.KYR5
Entry Name: Chepstow Castle
Location: In a commanding position on the W bank of the River Wye. Modern access from Bridge Street, at the base of the slope.
Traditional County: Monmouthshire
Listing Date: 12 June 1950
Last Amended: 12 November 2002
Building Class: Defence
Source ID: 2475
The Domesday Book (compiled 1086) records that a castle had been built by William fitz Osbern who died in 1071, and the Great Tower has traditionally been held to be part of that Castle. Yet it is perhaps more plausible that the Great Tower belongs to the period following the forfeit of the castle to the Crown after 1075. A major programme of building took place under William Marshal (between 1189 and 1219) who rebuilt the upper and middle bailey defences including a rectangular tower at the SW corner of the Castle, perhaps accommodation for William's wife. The D-shaped towers of the middle bailey are very early examples of their type. Recent dendrochronological analysis has dated the doors of the main gatehouse to no later than the 1190s indicating that William was also responsible for the lower bailey although this was subsequently rebuilt. William was succeeded by 5 consecutive sons. The upper barbican dates from this period, as does the remodelling of the Great Tower by addition of an extra storey at the W end. In the last quarter of the C13, Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk succeeded to the ownership of the Castle, and built the major suite of appartments in the lower bailey, as well as the massive SE tower (Martens Tower). The Great Tower's upper storey was extended, and the upper barbican tower built. In the C16 timber domestic ranges (lost) were added to both sides of the middle bailey curtain wall. During the C17 the Castle was refortified to resist artillery fire especially on the S.
Magnificent Medieval Castle in spectacular defensive situation on vertical cliffs above the River Wye, aligned predominantly E/W, over rising ground. Constructed of stone, rubble and dressed. Main entrance at E through the Outer Gatehouse comprising twin round towers with battered base, cruciform and plain arrow slits at 3 levels, later square-headed windows with mullions and trefoil-headed tracery; central double arched gateway with portcullis slots, remains of barbican, murder holes, metal-reinforced wooden double doors; high detached arch above. Adjacent to left (S) is a stretch of battered curtain wall standing almost to battlement level with arrow loops. This adjoins Marten's tower, D-shaped in plan with rectangular corner turrets, one with high E facing arched window, deep spur buttresses, deep arrow loops at 3 levels and trefoil-headed lancets, deep coped battlements with arrow slits, crowned by eroded stone figures (C14); also a later 2-light Tudor window. Curtain wall continues at a right angle, slightly curved and following the crest; signs in the masonry of alteration and rebuilding, including a blocked arch; two wide buttresses and range of rectangular cannon slots along the top; this forms the S wall of the lower bailey. At the junction between this and the S wall of the middle bailey is a round tower with battered base, 3 storeys, battlements, arrow slits. Further to W a second D-plan tower, with battered base, battlements, arrow slits. Curtain wall continues to adjoin the rectangular Great Tower; outer wall of 5 bays separated by pilasters of large square stone blocks; originally no windows, one C13 insertion. Curtain wall continues from upper end enclosing the upper bailey extending to the outer face of the Corner Tower with ashlar quoins standing to battlement height with cruciform arrow slits, 2 round-arched windows at wall-top level and blocked arch to plinth, low large blocked arrow loop; this is the top of the upper bailey. At the W end comes the Barbican complex, comprising a tall circular corner tower on a rocky outcrop, with cruciform arrow slits at 3 levels and all angles. The wall between tower and barbican is curved rising from bare rock, intact to battlements and incorporating arrow slits. The tall Barbican Tower itself, also rising from high bare rock, stands in front of the W gateway; sides of tower are battered for 3/4 of their height; three large arrow slits below a corbel table beneath the battlements; tall outer arch (remodelled C20); pointed inner arch with portcullis slots within the pointed tunnel vault; heavy double doors. The N side of the castle complex standing directly on the river cliffs can only be seen from a distance but follows the same sequence except at the E lower end where the outer wall of the great hall, kitchen and service block and chamber block adjoin the E side of the outer gatehouse.
Within the Castle Walls- Outer Bailey. Outer Gatehouse at E leads immediately on right to the hall range, comprising chamber block, kitchen and service rooms and great hall. Modern entrance and shop constructed under chamber block; upper rooms probably provided accommodation for Bigod's household officers and guests; from outside an asymmetrical range of windows, one with quatrefoil head. Kitchen is situated between chamber block and cross passage, a tall room probably formerly with central hearth; tall 2-light transomed window with quatrefoil head onto outer bailey; wall stands to battlement level with arrow slots. Service passage with wide pointed chamfered arch from bailey separates kitchen from hall range but because of rising ground unusually incorporates additional rooms: lower service rooms entered through steeply pointed arches from main passage which also leads to stairs to rib-vaulted cellar; buttery and pantry are adjacent to hall at intermediate level with large private chamber above - now a display area; renewed paired arched lights to bailey. Square embattled corner entrance tower with angle buttresses, renewed and glazed similar transomed window; paired arched lights under a double hood-mould above; pointed arched doorway in uphill face. This led externally to Great Hall which was also reached internally by stairs from the cross passage. Hall was open to roof and would have had dividing timber screen at service end and dais with high table at upper end, opposite the 3 pointed arched service doorways. Marten's tower at far side of lower bailey is entered through a pointed-arched doorway with studded wooden door of wide planks with heavy iron hinges, protected by a portcullis; flat rear face of D-shaped plan fronts bailey with projecting corner towers; stands to battlement level ( and was still inhabitable in early C19); small trefoil-headed lights at upper level; inserted inward-facing C16 transom and mullion windows with cusped heads to the lights under a square hoodmould. The now floorless interior has wide embrasures to openings on 3 levels, windowless basement; chamfered pointed-arched doorway to mural tower staircase; upper chapel window with floral ornament; intact battlements and access to wallwalk.
Middle Bailey. Entrance to the middle bailey is through what was originally an outer gateway to the earlier complex, a large projecting round tower to right with arrow slits, later Tudor insertion of doors and fireplaces, pointed-arched doorway of two orders with massive boarded studded wooden double gates with heavy hinges; remains of Tudor buildings against the adjoining wall; round corner tower to left incorporated into the curtain wall; inner side of wall also has later features. S curtain wall range, reinforced with buttresses, extending from round tower has wall-walk behind the C17 musket slots and access to the D-shaped wall-tower. At upper end is the earliest structure, the Great Tower or Hall Keep; steps up to entrance on 2-bay E side which is a square headed Norman doorway with chip-carved tympanum and two orders of round arches; N side is similar to S which is incorporated into the curtain wall, but with windows: originally hall was lit by the three small round-arched windows on this river side; the C13 modification included inserting heavily moulded pointed-arched first floor windows with quatrefoil tracery, mullions and transoms; internal Norman wall arcade with some surviving plaster and at upper gable end two round openings. Adjacent outside is the gallery, a passage through a double-arched doorway between the Keep and the riverside wall with stepped chamfered-arched openings.
Upper Bailey. Small and narrow and bounded at lower end by the end wall of the Keep and at the upper end by the Corner or South West Tower, built to provide domestic accommodation for persons of high status (including Countess Isabella de Clare, William Marshal's wife). Windows have wide embrasures edged with roll moulding, remains of painted plaster. Outer wall removed but that which remains stands to battlement level Adjacent is the high pointed-arched doorway, 2-orders on upper side, with wooden gate with studs and heavy hinges, leading to wooden bridge to barbican. Here the defensive walls are intact; two upper storeys to barbican tower/gatehouse, wall-walk on corbels with intact merlons, range of internal round-arched embrasures to the arrow slits; at SW the corner tower now open originally had a timber inner-facing wall. Postern gate at lower angle.
Graded I as a medieval building of national importance.
Chepstow Castle is Scheduled Ancient Monument 13/0703/MM003 (MON) R
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