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Lyonshall Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Lenhaul; Linhales; Lenhauls; Lethinhales; Lennolx; Leonhauls; Castle of John of Evreux (d'Evreux)

In the civil parish of Lyonshall.
In the historic county of Herefordshire.
Modern Authority of Herefordshire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Herefordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO33155630
Latitude 52.20086° Longitude -2.98027°

Lyonshall Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


Lyonshall Castle, ruins and earthworks, immediately N.E. of the churchyard, consists of an inner and nearly circular enclosure comprising the keep and bailey, a rectangular outer enclosure comprising the inner enclosure and land to the N. and E. and a further small enclosure on the N. side. Though not actually mentioned in Domesday the castle was probably established not long after the Conquest. It appears to have belonged in succession to the families of Lacy, Devereux and Vere, and again to that of Devereux. In 1404 Walter, 5th Lord Fitzwalter, had orders to fortify it against the Welsh. The inner enclosure of about acre is surrounded by a wet moat and approached by a modern bridge on the S.E. which may represent the original entrance. The enclosure was further defended by a curtain wall which is carried in semi-polygonal form round the keep on the N. side. This portion is still standing in places to a height of 8 ft., and at its W. end are remains of a blocked doorway; two small projections towards the N.E. probably supported a projecting garde-robe. There are fragmentary remains of the curtain on the E. side of the enclosure rising in places to a height of 19 ft. On the W. side the curtain is represented only by interrupted mounds, and even these are absent on the S. side. The cylindrical Keep (37 ft. in external diameter) stands on a low platform with remains of a retaining wall on the S.W. The keep-walls stand only to a height of about 5 ft. and have a splayed string-course and a battered plinth; there are remains of three windows towards the N. and a broad gap towards the S., probably representing the entrance. There is little evidence to date the masonry of either the keep or curtain, but both probably belong to the 13th century. Traces of a building exist on the W. side of the enclosure, no doubt built against the curtain on that side. There is a well towards the E. side of the enclosure. The outer enclosure or bailey is protected by a moat and outer bank on the N.W. and N.E. sides and by a scarp only on the S.E. The N.W. moat is continued on the side of a second and smaller enclosure to the N.E., now occupied by farm buildings and having remains of a moat also on the S.E. The line of the enclosure on the N.E. has been obliterated. (RCHME 1934)

Lyonshall Castle. Ring-work and bailey, with further square bailey beyond to the NE. Remains of a round keep stand on a slight mound on the N side of the ring-work and there are fragmentary remains of the curtain wall. Probably one of the two castles of John of Eureaux named as Lenhaul in 1209. There is little evidence to date the masonry of either the keep or curtain, but both are probably 13th century. The outer bailey is protected by a moat and outer bank on the NW and NE sides and by a scarp only on the SE. The NW moat is continued on the side of a second and smaller enclosure to the NE now occupied by farm buildings and having remains of a moat also on the SE. The line of the enclosure on the NE has been obliterated (RCHME; Renn). The ring is 60.0m in diameter and approximately 1.0m above the outside ground level. The mound for the keep is 20.0m in diameter and 2.0m high. The enclosing moat is from 16.0m in width on the SE side to 26.0m on the NW, and from 1.0 to 3.0m in depth. The inner bailey, 50.0m by 30.0m in size, has an inner bank on the NW side, 10.0m in width, 1.0m in height which is carried around the N outer side of the ringwork moat. The outer bank on the NW side is 12.0m in width and 1.5m in height and extends the full length of the site. The waterfilled medial ditch is 6.0m wide and 1.0m deep. The scarp on the SE side is up to 4.0m in height. The outer bailey, at a lower level, is separated from the inner by a waterfilled ditch, 6.0m in width, 1.5m deep. This is continued at lower levels on the NW and SE sides and there are traces of a ditch on the NE side, the area now being occupied by a farm road and cottages. A slight inner bank on the SW and NW sides is 4.0m wide and 1.0m high. The original entrance to the inner bailey is through the NE side, to the E of the outer bailey. A modern footbridge across the moat giving access to a short causeway, opposite the keep, is probably on the site of the original entrance to the ringwork and castle. The fragments of curtain walling, 2.0m in thickness, rise to approx 6.0m in height, the walling of the keep is 3.0m thick, but nowhere stands more than 2.0m high. All walling is overgrown and decayed. (Field Investigators Comments F1 ASP 12-SEP-72). (PastScape)

Interpretation of site by W.R.Pye (Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section) suggest that a motte of 11th-12th century date, with a wet ditch and entrance on the S.E., was augmented during the 12th century with the construction of the curtain wall, keep and outer bailey. The moat was enlarged, and extended at a different level along the N.W. side of the outer bailey, the outer bank constructed and the S.E. defences strengthened in response to an order of 1403 to hold the castle against the Welsh {Glendower}. It was felt that the site could have been heavily subject to 18th/19th century landscaping; the keep, in particular, appearing as "an unconvincing piece of architecture of uncertain date" with anachronistic ground floor openings. (PastScape ref. Pye, 1971)

The form of Lyonshall castle earthworks is unique. It is a large rectangular enclosure (common in itself and not impossibly pre-Conquest in origin) containing within it a circular moat. This moat is sometimes called a ringwork but it has no inner bank (there are collapsed walls but definitely no bank). There is no motte of any form and clearly never has been, although before clearance the collapsed circular tower have have looked motte like.
The circular tower is probably C13. The curtain wall follows the edge of the moat except around the tower, where it follows a line around closely around the tower in a manner similar to Tretower Castle. Gatehouse suspects the moat is contemporary with this C13 masonry work. That is this is an early rectangular enclosure which had a small castle inserted into in the C13.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:34

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