The first castle in Montgomery was erected in the years 1071-1074 near the former Roman fort and controlled the same ferry across the Severn River, as its earlier Roman counterpart. It was built by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, a native of Montgomery in Normandy, whose name passed later to the later Welsh town and castle. The stronghold which Roger built, became known as Hen Domen and was a motte and bailey wood-and-earth structure, located slightly more north than the later castle. After the death of Roger in 1094, Hen Domen passed into the hands of his descendants, and then it became a royal property and was given to Baldwin de Boulers, whose heirs kept it until the 13th century. In 1214, it was captured by Welsh forces led by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, and then burnt. However, the timber stronghold was rebuilt and remained in use until about 1300.
The Montgomery stone castle began to be built in 1223 on the initiative of king Henry III of England. The architect of the new stronghold was Hubert de Burgh, who also supervised the construction of the castles at Skenfrith, Grosmont and Whitecastle. Work on the upper castle (inner ward) lasted until 1228 and only for a short time was interrupted in that year, by the unsuccessful attack of prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. In the next stage, middle and lower ward were added to the castle. The stronghold was again attacked in 1233, which caused damages to the Well Tower, which then had to be repaired and re-roofed.
In the middle of the thirteenth century, there was a conflict between England and the Welshmen led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Henry III met with the Welsh prince at Montgomery Castle in 1267 and officially recognized him as prince of Wales, but after Henry’s death, the relationship between Gruffudd and the new king of England, Edward I, deteriorated. The First War of Independence of Wales, which broke out in 1276, ended with defeating Gruffudd and English control over all of eastern Wales. In the following years, Edward I ordered the expansion of the castle, including the construction of a new great hall with auxiliary buildings and the renovation of the castle walls. In addition, in the years 1279-1280, he ordered the rebuilding of the town walls to stone one and strengthening their towers. After the outbreak of the Second War of Independence of Wales in 1282, Montgomery played a key role as a gathering point for one of the three English armies. After 1295 and the final defeat of Welsh, the castle lost its strategic importance and served more as a prison than stronghold.
In 1330 Roger Mortimer, Earl of March received the castle, but his fall in the same year, caused the return of the stronghold to the Crown. Montgomery remained in royal hands for the next twenty-nine years, but due to the stable situation in Wales, it was increasingly neglected. It returned to Mortimers in 1359 and was still strong enough to resist the Welsh attack of Owain Glyndŵr in 1402. Unlike the castle, the town was captured and plundered.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Montgomery Castle was in bad condition, but in 1534 Rowland Lee made it one of the key administrative centers and began modernizing internal buildings, and in the early seventeenth century, Sir Edward Herbert began building a timber manor in the area of outer ward. The location of the castle on the sidelines of the English Civil War, meant that it did not take part in the fighting during the first few years of the war. However, after the critical defeat of the royalists at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, parliamentary forces began their offensive at the Welsh border. The then owner, Lord Herbert, surrendered the castle to the news of the approach of the opponents. The loss of Montgomery limited the royalist movements in Central Wales, so their large army was gathered to take back the stronghold and the town. Likewise, Parliament did not want to lose an important point, and two armies met in the Battle of Montgomery on September 18, 1644. As a result, the royal forces were defeated. Sir Edward Herbert died in 1648, and as his heir was an active royalist, the castle was demolished by order of Parliament to prevent its future military use.
Montgomery Castle consisted of an upper ward and two outer wards, which can be considered as a middle and lower castle. The upper castle was built on a rocky promontory, protected from the north, east and west by steep slopes. The inner ward (upper castle) was surrounded by a defensive wall with a gatehouse from the south. It consisted of two powerful horseshoe-shaped towers flanking the passage between them. Each tower had a quadrilateral room in the ground floor, which was originally not accessible from the side of the passage, only later to the western room, which perhaps served as a prison, the door was pierced. In front of the gate there was a drawbridge over a dry moat (ditch) carved in the rock, and the gate itself was defended by a portcullis and two doors. From the side of the inner ward, the gate complex had a timber staircase leading to the upper floors and an extended chapel with timber or half-timber frame structure. The main element of the upper castle was the tower on the west side, erected on the plan of an elongated horseshoe. It contained a well and was completely rebuilt in the fourteenth century, due to structural faults. In addition, there was a kitchen building and a brewhouse in the inner ward.
In the mid-13th century, the middle ward was rebuilt into a stone one. It received a twin-tower gatehouse from the south, similar to the one from the upper castle, but slightly smaller. The middle ward from the eastern side was defended by a wall, equipped with a type of half towers with finials in the form of timber platforms, and from the south and west side it was protected by a defensive wall behind which the lower ward was located.
The castle has survived in the form of a poorly preserved ruin. There are mainly visible low fragments of the walls of the middle and upper ward, one of the walls of the gatehouse and fragments of the horseshoe tower of the upper ward. The monument is open to visitors for free, from April 1 to June 30, every day from 10:00 to 18:00 and from July 1 to September 15, every day from 10:00 to 21:00.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Montgomery castle.