The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 00513g Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Caldicot Unitary authority : Monmouthshire NGR : ST4867988516 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Castle Status : Scheduled Monument , listed building I
Summary : The main surviving part of Caldicot Castle is the inner bailey, The earliest surviving part consists of an early 13th century keep associated with an earthen mound which was probably thrown up around its base, and roughly contempory with it tower/gateway, two other towers and substantial sections of the curtain wall. The main gatehouse was added in the first half of the 14th century, followed by a residential range against the inside of the eastern curtain, now largely destroyed. A postern tower was added to the north wall in the later 14th century and parts of the norther curtain rebuilt; the short western curtain is no later than the late 14th century. The castle was substantially restored and partly rebuilt in the 19th century. There are limited earthwork remains of the outer bailey.
Description : Caldicot Castle stands within a bend of the River Nedern, on a slight rise in the ground above the valley bottom. The remains were restored in the late 19th century by the antiquary Joseph Cobb, who turned it into a home for his family. He restored the main gatehouse, keep and two towers for the use of his family. He also consolidated the remains of another tower and a smaller, earlier gatehouse along with the defences of the inner bailey. The buildings constructed against the inside of the curtain wall are now represented only by the features that were built into its inner face. The wall-walk is reached by steps against the north side of the bailey. The outer bailey is represented by an enclosure defined by the remains of a ditch and rampart to the west.
The first certain reference to Caldicot Castle is in 1216. Traditionally, it has been considered that the earthen mound on which the present keep stands is the original motte, which would have been crowned by a wooden keep. However, a case has been made by Phillips (2002) that this mound was created to protect the base of the present stone keep when it was constructed in the early 13th century. Because the tower basement extends a long way down into the mound, any pre-existing motte would have had to be hollowed out to a great depth to allow it to be constructed. If the mound is no earlier than the is earliest stone buildings, there is then no evidence that the site was occupied by a castle beforehand. The first stone buildings were probably constructed by Henry de Bohun (d 1220) and/or his son Humphrey (d 1275). They consist of the keep, the gate tower known as the Bohun Gateway, the southwest and southeast towers, and the curtain wall on the west and north sides of the inner bailey together with the section on the south side between the southwest tower and main gateway. Both the circular keep (in the northwest corner of the castle) and the de Bohun gateway (in the middle of the west wall) appear to take their inspiration from William Marshall's work at Pembroke Castle and/or Chepstow Castle. The arrow slits also resemble those at Chepstow.
The castle is built mainly from Sudbrook sandstone, a good-quality freestone quarried a few miles to the east. Consequently, the builders were able to build significant amounts of the structure in fine ashlar. The keep was the first element to be constructed on the west side, and is assumed to be the earliest building to survive. However, it seems to have been heightened shortly after it was constructed. The basement has a doorway, a window and a guarderobe, and is therefore probably to be seen as a conventional lodging although tradition claims it was a prison. The opening in the basement floor has been described variously as a well and as a trapdoor to a lower basement. There are two floors above the surface level of the motte, each also consisting of a single chamber with windows. The uppermost one was provide with a fireplace and there was also a projecting guard-robe in timber, now lost. Access between the floors is via a spiral staircase in the thickness of the east wall. The circular stair turret on the west side of the tower now leads out onto the roof, but traces still survive of an additional room at this level.
The curtain wall on the west side of the bailey meets the keep in a butt-joint. A change in the elevation of the wall and a very slight change of direction near the keep seem to represent a break in construction, but the rest of this stretch of wall is of one build with the de Bohun gateway, which may or may not have been the original main gate. The plan of this gateway is unusual in that it consists of a single D-shaped tower, the length of whose inner wall gives it a rather wedge-shaped plan. The external entrance is in the southern wall, immediately adjacent to the curtain, exposing any attackers to missiles dropped from the curtain wall. The outer entrance had inner and outer gates with a portcullis and murder holes between; its threshold is at the top of the batter, indicating that it was originally reached by a bridge across the ditch at a sharp angle. Below it is another entrance, possibly a postern. The original access arrangements from the bailey are not clear. Although the curtain wall to the south of this gateway is of one build with it, the small cylindrical southwest tower has a butt-joint and might possibly predate everything on this side except the keep. The masonry of the southwest tower and that of the lower part the southeast tower is all similar to that of the keep. The southeast tower is D-shaped, and provides over twice the internal area of the keep. By the latter part of 13th century when this tower was remodelled it was a residential area, as shown by the three windows that have window seats. Dating for these modifications is provided by the details of the fireplace and the tracery of the east window. Traces of wall plaster decorated with painting imitating ashlar survive inside.
The upper part of the eastern side of the south curtain wall has extensive traces of a residential range on its inner face, and the architectural detail indicates that it was built in the first half of the 14th century. The main gatehouse, in the centre of the south wall, is the part of the castle that was most extensively modified by Cobb. However, enough is extant of the original architecture to indicate that it was built in the middle of the 14th century, post-dating the curtain wall to its east. The form of the surviving windows indicate that defence was now a secondary consideration. The upper stories were residential. The entrance passage has a gate at either end, with a portcullis slot and murder holes between. There are seats in the passage, and a lodge at either side.
Geophysical survey in 2002 (E004865) identified evidence of a number of buildings in the areas of the north and west curtain wall (Hamilton, Daintith, Smith and Bennett 2002)
The rectangular postern tower in the middle of the north side is attributed to Thomas Woodstock, son of Edward III, who married the de Bohun heiress Alianora; the name Thomas is inscribed on the jamb of the postern gate (a stone carved with the letter A, usually assumed to refer to Alianora, was found loose in the castle and does not necessarily come from here). This tower, now known as the Woodstock Tower, is presumably the one described as new in the accounts for 1385. Given its position on the north side facing a section of the River Nedern, it may well have been a water gate. The three floors over the level of the gate were occupied by residential apartments, with fireplaces and guarderobes. Their present windows on the south (bailey) side, however, are plainer than would be expected for lodgings in this period and may be Cobb's work. Thomas Woodstock seems to have reconstructed part of the north curtain wall as well. On the east curtain wall three slim turrets are also no earlier than the late 14th century.
Geophysical survey in 2002 (E004865) identified a rectangular feature 22+m x 7m south of the Woodstock Tower. The feature was well defined and on the same orientation as the pond. It was suspected that Cobb constructed the pond and that the feature was modern possibly an abandoned garden feature. However Cobb (Cobb 1895) claimed to have found a large medieval building at this location. The pond could deliberately mirror this medieval feature or may be a reused earier structure (Hamilton, Daintith, Smith and Bennett 2002).
Geophysical survey in 2002 (E004865) identified 15+ distinct sections of walls on the eastern side of the bailey, one a clearly defined corner of a building or room. The site of the great hall has not been located with certainty but is believed to be in this area (Hamilton, Daintith, Smith and Bennett 2002).
Cobb claimed that his restoration on the castle was all based on original structural evidence, but his work overwrites the medieval fabric to such an extent that it is often not possible to evaluate that claim. However the section of the east curtain wall that he rebuilt adjacent to the southeast tower is clearly not on the medieval line. Cobb also constructed a penthouse structure over the back of the gate, and a new block linked to it on its east side against the back of the curtain wall. These parts of his work are clearly distinguishable as they are of half-timbered construction with brick nogging, and are covered with pantile roofs.
Castle stands on a bank & is encircled by a moat cut in part through the bank. By the use of a sluice the surrounding meadow could be flooded. Survey 1972:
Phillips notes that the mound upon which the large masonry ruin of Caldicot Castle stands does not represent a motte following investigation; with levels of cellar beneath the entrance hall, the base of the tower is close to the level of the bailey which counteracts the towers circular form (introduced in the 12th century to avoid undermining the corner point of a keep). He also notes that the castle was once interpreted by antiquarians as an early construction, suggesting a connection with Harold Godwinson (Phillips 2004).
Geophysical survey in 2002 (E004865) has suggested an internal wall dividing the bailey possibly at some time dividing off the southern section of the interior (Hamilton, Daintith, Smith and Bennett 2002).