The first, then timber castle in Grosmont was built in the second half of the 11th century by the Norman conqueror William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford. It was one of three (the others are Skenfrith and White Castle) built at that time in the Monnow Valley, to protect the route from Wales to Hereford. It was erected in the area whose population was entirely Welsh. Inevitably, rebellions and uprisings against the Norman superiors caused the stronghold to be quickly expanded.
William’s son, Roger de Breteuil, lost his castle because of his involvement in the rebellion against the Crown in 1075. At the beginning of the 12th century, Grosmont was owned by the Anglo-Norman nobleman Pain fitzJohn, but in 1135 there was a serious Welsh revolt, which made king Stefan reorganize the landholdings along this section of the Marches, transferring the Grosmont castle and the nearby Skenfrith and White Castle fortifications back under the control of the Crown, to create an authority known as “Three Castles”. The conflict with the Welshmen continued, and after a period of detente under the rule of Henry II in the 60s of the twelfth century, the de Braose and Mortimer families resumed their expansion in the 70s. In 1182, the Welsh attacked the nearby Abergavenny Castle, which forced the king to strengthen the castle under the supervision of royal official Ralph of Grosmont.
In 1201, king John granted “The Three Castles” to the growing in strength royal official, Hubert de Burgh. The new owner and then his son Hubert de Burgh II, until 1232, transformed the castle into a fortified stone building, also serving as a dwelling residence. In 1232, Hubert fell out of royal favors and was deprived of his possessions. The castle’s management was granted to king’s servant, Walerund Teutonicus. A year later, king Henry led the army to Wales against the rebellious Richard Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and his Welsh allies. He set up a camp at Grosmont, on which Richard carried out a night attack. He did not get the castle itself, but he forced the royal army to flee.
In 1234, Hubert reconciled with the king. The castles were returned to him, but in 1239 he again fell into conflict with Henry III. Grosmont was taken away from him and put under the command of Walerund. He did some of Hubert’s work, including the construction of a new chapel. In 1254 Grosmont and his sister strongholds were granted to the eldest son of king Henry, and later to king Edward. In 1262 the castle was prepared for a siege in response to the attack of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd on Abergavenny. Gilbert Talbot was ordered to be garrisoned “by every man, and at whatever cost”, but Grosmont missed the threat.
In 1267, Edmund, Earl of Lancaster and capitaneus of the royal forces in Wales received the Three Castles. The conquest of Wales by Edward I in 1282 caused the lowering of military importance of Grosmont, but in the first half of the fourteenth century, under the rule of Henry Lancaster or his son Henry of Grosmont, the interior of the castle has been modernized in high-quality apartments.
The last military episode in the history of the castle was Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt at the beginning of the 15th century. In 1404, a battle took place between the Welshmen and the victorious Richard Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, under the walls of the Grosmont, leading to an English victory. The following year, the castle was besieged by Owain’s son, Gruffudd, but it was relieved by the by prince Henry.
In 1538 the Grosmont castle ceased to be used, and then fell into ruin. In 1563 the bridge to the castle was already collapsed and although the external walls were intact, the interior was in a state of decay.
The first castle from the 11th century was built of earth and timber in the form of motte and bailey. It was a timber keep placed on an earth mound (motte), protected by a palisade and dry moat (ditch).
The stronghold in its final form consisted of an upper castle (inner ward) and now obscure outer bailey. The main element of the inner ward was the oldest, rectangular, residential range, from the beginning of the 13th century, measuring 29 by 9.8 meters, which was the eastern part of the castle. On its first floor in the northern part there was a private bedroom (solar), further to the south most of the floor was occupied by a great hall. The ground floor was home to pantries and a kitchen. One could enter the hall on the outside timber stairs, but the servants could also get to the first floor from a spiral staircase in the south-east corner. Both the hall and the private chamber had fireplaces, and both rooms were well-lit. In the great hall, meals were eaten, feasts were made and guests were welcome.
The southern entrance gate to the castle and the west, polygonal, bent defensive wall, reinforced with towers, were built in the 20s of the 13th century. The gate was originally placed in a tower with rounded corners. In the fourteenth century, it also received a foregate, protecting a timber drawbridge, thrown over a dry moat. Two towers on the west side and one on the north side had a horseshoe shape in plan and had basements. In the fourteenth century, the western towers were raised by an additional floor and topped with a battlements instead of earlier hoarding. Their upper floors were equipped with warmed chambers. The northern tower with the wicket gate next to it was then dismantled and in it place a northern range was erected with a characteristic octagonal, gothic chimney from the side of the inner ward. The building had three floors with comfortable chambers warmed by fireplaces. A new rectangular tower was erected next to it on the west side, erected in front of the face of the walls, probably to compensate the loss of the older horseshoe tower. The remaining buildings were timber, smaller, erected in the ward by the inner faces of the defensive walls. In the 14th century, some of them were dismantled and some were replaced with stone ones. There was a rectangular granary or stables on the outer bailey.
The castle has survived to modern times in the form of a ruin. Most of the defensive walls have survived, two western towers and the outer walls of the main building on the eastern side. In a much worse condition there is an entrance gatehouse and a four-sided tower, from the north range only a chimney and a part of the wall from the side of the inner ward remained. The moat around the castle is visible. The monument is under government protection and open to the public.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website wikipedia.org, Grosmont Castle.