The first castle in Caldicot was probably founded on the initiative of Walter Fitz Roger, the sheriff of Gloucester, around 1100, who built timber and earth motte and bailey fortifications. After the death of his son, Milo Fitz Walter and the childless life of his five sons, the castle passed into the hands of Humphrey II de Bohun, earl of Hereford, who married Margaret, the eldest daughter of Milo. It is most likely that their son, Humphrey III de Bohun, started the construction of a stone castle. The Bohun became a powerful family and had Caldicot for over two centuries. When Humphrey de Bohun died in 1373 without a male heir, his property passed into the hands of his daughters, Eleanor (Alianore) and Mary, and then by Mary’s marriage, under the rule of Thomas of Woodstock, the later duke of Gloucester. As he was the uncle of the English king Richard II and played an important role on the royal court, he rarely stayed at Caldicot Castle. It was only social riots and peasant revolts that encouraged Thomas to spend more time in his Welsh estates. In 1381 he ordered, among other things, the extension of the southern gate, which became the main residence in the castle, and the tower called Woodstock. As time passed, the relationship between the king and his uncle became tense. In 1397, Thomas was kidnapped and murdered, and his property was confiscated and eventually passed into the hands of the Crown.
In 1399, Henry Bolingbroke overthrew Richard‘s reign and took over the throne of England as Henry IV. From then on, Caldicot was incorporated into the extensive estate of the Lancasters. In the fifteenth century, the castle was owned by Henry Monmouth (later Henry V), and then widow of him, Catherine Valois. From then on, it was leased to various owners and became increasingly neglected. During the 17th century civil war, was occupied by a royalist garrison, which contributed to its partial demolition at the end of the 1640s by Parliament. Until the mid-nineteenth century, the picturesque ruins were occasionally used by the local village community. In 1885, the castle was sold to Joseph Richard Cobb, who began renovating it and transformed into a family home. It remained until 1963, when it was bought by a government institution.
The castle from the twelfth/thirteenth century was erected on a plan similar to the oval. It consisted of a defensive wall reinforced with a horseshoe south-east tower and a cylindrical south-western tower. The towers were topped with hoarding, as evidenced by the corbels sticking out to this day. On the north-western side there was a cylindrical keep on a small mound, surrounded by a dry moat (ditch), also from the side of the inner ward. It has a wall thickness of 2.7 meters, two main floors above the basement or prison and was equipped with a well. The main room was on the top floor; it was well lit, it had a fireplace, and the door led to a timber latrine. Up to now, there are visible stone supports and a door portal. The internal communication in the keep was made possible by a spiral staircase. The entrance gate to the castle was located in the western curtain, in the Bohun Tower with the shape of an elongated horseshoe. The economic outer bailey was located west of the castle.
In the first half of the 14th century, Humphrey de Bohun (1337-1361) erected the southern gate. It was rebuilt and enlarged in the second half of the 14th century, receiving, apart from defensive functions, also residential ones. It was equipped with a drawbridge, two portcullis, two doors and three murder holes for fire. On the upper floor there were living rooms, flanked by twin rectangular towers. In the 40s of the 14th century, a timber Great Hall building was erected at the southern curtain of the wall. In the second half of the 14th century, the north-east tower was also added, named after the founder of the Woodstock Tower. It has a shape on the plan of the horseshoe, gate portal and three floors equipped with chambers, each of which has a fireplace. Its defenses were raised by machicolation, placed only from the outside.
The castle survived to the present day in very good condition, mainly thanks to the reconstruction from the late nineteenth century. Fortunately, it did not interfere strongly with the medieval, historic substance, thanks to which the original character of the castle was preserved. Currently, you can see practically the entire perimeter of the castle walls, a cylindrical keep, three towers, a west gate with no surviving inner part and a south gate which has undergone the largest reconstruction. The castle together with a small museum is available for free for sightseeing, and there are often outdoor and occasional events.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlewales.com, Caldicot Castle.