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Richards Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Auretone; Averetone; Avretone; Overton; Ricardi

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SO48347026
Latitude 52.32799° Longitude -2.75945°

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

There are earthwork remains.

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


Richard's Castle, ruins and earthwork, immediately W. of the churchyard. There seems little doubt that it is the castle called Auretone in the Domesday Survey (1086), when it was held by Osbern Fitz Richard. It passed to the families of Mortimer, Talbot and Pope. The earthwork consists of a motte and bailey, both surrounded by a continuous ditch, with traces of an outer enclosure on the W. The motte occupies the W. side of the site and is 65 yards in diameter at the base, 7 yards at the top, and rises 60 ft. above the bottom of the ditch on the W side. There is no ditch between it and the bailey which lies on the E. side and is of the normal kidney-form. The bailey is protected by a rampart representing the former wall which survives in places. The area is divided by a scarp into two portions. The bailey was entered on the S.E. where the ditch is crossed by a causeway; the gate is represented by a fragment of masonry on the S. side. The surviving walling, on the N. side of the bailey, is about 50 ft. long and 18 ft. high. A further stretch of walling survives, climbing the N. slope of the motte; it stands some 12 ft. high, and near the foot of the slope are remains of a projection on the outward face of the wall. All these fragments are of rubble and retain no evidence of their date. Surrounding both motte and bailey is a ditch with a small outer bank. Running N.E. from the N.E. side of the outer bank is a second bank with a ditch towards the N.W. This bank extends for some 50 yards and indicates the former existence of an outer enclosure containing the church and perhaps the early village. (RCHME 1934)

Richard's Castle. Ruins and earthwork consisting of motte and bailey surounded by a continuous ditch, broken on the S.E. by a causeway representing the original entrance. There are traces of an outer enclosure on the W. The surviving walling is of rubble and retains no evidence of date. There seems little doubt that it is the castle called Auretone in the Domesday Survey 1086, held by Osbern fitz Richard. It passed to the families of Mortimer, Talbot and Pope. A bank and ditch extending some 50 yds N.E. from the N.E. side indicates the former existence of an outer enclosure containing the church and perhaps the early village (cf. Wigmore) (RCHME).
A large motte and bailey, situated in woodland upon the SW end of a spur. The motte has a diameter of 55.0 m and a height of 10.0 m. Upon the summit are the excavated foundations of an octagonal stone keep, 12.0 metres across, with a small fore-building on the NE side overlooking the bailey. The bailey, to the NE and SE of the motte is 85.0m in length, NE-SW, and 60.0m in width at its widest point, N of the motte. Fragments of curtain walling stand to heights of 6.0 m along the NW side of the bailey and up the NE slope of the motte. There are further excavated fragments of curtain wall and towers around the N and E sides of the bailey. Motte and bailey are encircled by a large dry ditch, in width from 17.0 m on the SW side to 24.0 m on the NE side, and in depth from 4.0 m to 5.0 m. Except on the S side, where there are steep natural slopes, there is an outer rampart, up to 10.0 m in width and 1.5 m to 2.5 m in height, above the outside ground level. A causewayed entrance crossed the ditch on the SE side and there are remains of the gatehouse, the SW side wall of which stands to about 4.5 m and of which the foundations of the NE wall have been exposed. To the N, an outwork, comprising a rampart, 14.0 m in width, 3.0 m in height, with a ditch on the NW side, 10.0 m in width, 1.5m deep, extends from the lip of the outer ditch in a NE direction for 50.0 m, but probably originally continued for a further 40.0 m to the head of a coombe running to the SE, and so sealing off from the ridge to the N, the plateau upon which the village stands. There is no evidence to show that this work enclosed the village. No remains now exist of the dovecote which, according to villagers, was cleared away after excavation. (Field Investigators Comments–F1 ASP 03-OCT-72)
It can possibly be identified with a castle noted in 1051-2 (ASC), although current opinion seems to favour Ewyas Harold. The castle was taken in 1264 (King, 1983).
An earthwork survey was carried out on the motte and bailey and the area of the failed borough in Jan 2000. The motte and bailey comprises a massive mound that is heavily scarred by excavation trenches, a small bailey to the east, and a ditch and counterscarp bank. Sections of the curtain wall on the northern side remain exposed; elsewhere there are small fragments of exposed walling, parts of which appear to have been excavated. Stonework tumble is also evident in the ditch in the north and west. Overall the mound is some 26.5m high on the west side with a base diameter of c 60m tapering to 8m at the top. A large amount of loose stonework and a linear excavation trench is evident on the eastern slope. Above this is an apsidal tower with parts of the walling exposed. Elsewhere around the upper part of the motte there are further exposed excavation trenches. A break in the slope at the base of these trenches probably marks the base of the keep. On the western side there are two sections of exposed bedrock. The bailey encloses an area of c 0.2ha and is surrounded on the north, east and south sides by an irregularly shaped rampart. An inner ditch, up to 10m wide and c 0.2m deep, is present at the base of the motte. Between the mound and the rampart is a linear scarp overlying the ditch. A building platform occupies the south-western side of the bailey; it is defined by a stone wall measuring 0.7m high and extends from the gatehouse in an L-shape and parallel to the rampart. The north-eastern part of the rampart measures 60m in length overall and extends from the top of the motte for 35m before dog-legging slightly for a further 25m. Throughout its course there are traces of stonework of the curtain wall and two sub-circular depressions that have been interpreted by the 1960s excavators as mural towers. The upper one, however, was later adapted as a dovecote in the 15th century. To the east of this tower is a length of surviving curtain wall measuring 17m long and 1m wide and c 3m high. Surrounding the motte and bailey is a ditch and counterscarp bank. Along the southern side the bottom of the ditch measures up to 10m below the bailey and 2.5m below the counterscarp bank. In the north it is up to 6.6m below the bailey ground level and 1.9m below the top of the counterscarp. Access to the bailey, through the stone gatehouse, was over a causeway, which measured 5m wide and 2.1m above the base of the ditch. To the south-west of the causeway, the external face of the ditch is vertical and appears to have been re-cut for c 7m, possibly to support a structure. (English Heritage Survey Report: Richard's Castle - Earthwork Survey 2000). (PastScape)

Richard's Castle motte and bailey castle survives well and is one of the finest examples of its class in the county. It is of particular importance for its likely early origin, in the period immediately before the Norman conquest. The massive motte and the bailey earthworks will contain important archaeological evidence concerning their method of construction together with evidence of occupation. The standing walling on the site, although in a ruinous state, will contain valuable information relating to early castle architecture. Environmental material relating to the landscape in which the monument was constructed will be preserved in the ditch fill and sealed on the old land surfaces beneath the motte and the ramparts. The outer bailey enclosing the original medieval village and borough survives with both its defences and its interior largely intact and contributes valuable information concerning the size, plan and defensive arrangements of the site. Considered as a group (the adjacent parish church, castle, and the current village, which conforms to the original medieval plan with little disturbance) the site as a whole is a valuable example of an early, planned, medieval settlement.
The monument includes Richard's Castle, a large motte and bailey castle situated in a prominent position on the south western tip of a roughly east to west orientated spur of high ground. The castle includes a substantial motte with a bailey on its east side and an outer enclosure around the settlement to the east of the castle. The castle is believed to have been founded about 1050 by Richard le Scrob and was the site referred to as Auretone in the Domesday Survey of 1086, when it was held by Osbern Fitz Richard. Subsequently the castle passed into the families of Mortimer, Talbot and Pope. The castle includes an extensive series of substantial earthworks with fragmentary sections of ruined walling. The motte has a diameter of 55m at base rising 10m to a flattened summit 7m in diameter. Upon the summit are the exposed foundations of an octagonal stone keep, 12m across, with a small building on its north east side overlooking the bailey. The bailey lies to the north east and south east of the motte and is separated from it by the remains of a ditch some 12m wide, now largely silted up. The bailey has dimensions of 85m north east to south west by 60m north west to south east. Fragments of stone curtain walling stand to a height of 6m along the north west side of the bailey, continuing up the north east slope of the motte. The tower closest to the motte was excavated in the 1960s and found to contain an inserted dovecote. There are further exposed fragments of curtain wall and towers around the north and east sides of the bailey. Both the motte and bailey are encircled by a massive dry ditch averaging 6m deep and varying in width between 17m on the south west side and 24m on the north east side. Around the south west side, where the ditch cuts north west to south east across the tip of the spur, it is partly rock-cut. Although there is no distinct outer rampart around this portion of the site, spoil from the ditch appears to have been thrown outwards forming a roughly linear mound above the precipitous natural slopes, which fall steeply here to the south and south west. However, around the remaining north, north west and west sides of the bailey there is a well defined outer rampart, up to 10m in width and standing between 1.5m and 2.5m above the natural ground level. There is an original causewayed entrance crossing the bailey ditch towards the south east corner of the enclosure. Fragmentary walling flanking the causeway represents the remains of a stone gatehouse. The south west side wall of the gatehouse remains standing to a height of 4.5m; the foundation courses of the north east wall, revealed by excavations in the 1960s, remain exposed. To the east of the bailey, joined onto its outer rampart, are the remains of an extensive outer enclosure designed to protect the church and a small settlement which became the medieval borough of Richard's Castle. The site has been carefully chosen for its natural defensive strength; the outer defences of the enclosure skillfully use the natural topography of the hilltop to maximum advantage. Although disrupted in places, the boundary of the enclosure can be traced throughout most of its circuit. From the north eastern corner of the castle bailey a substantial rampart 14m wide and 3m high, with a ditch 10m wide and 1.5m deep on its north west side, runs in a north easterly direction for 50m before fading out short of the outbuildings of Church House. The line of the defences can then be recognised to the north of Church House as a steep scarp slope. It falls from the top of the plateau 5m to the level of the farm lane which curves for approximately 120m around the northern edge of the site. This lane is believed to occupy the line of the original outer ditch of the enclosure. The antiquity of this alignment is evidenced by the position of the county boundary which here follows the outer edge of the lane. To the south of the junction between the farm lane and the public road, the perimeter of the enclosure follows the top edge of the plateau, above a steep-sided combe which lies to the north east. The southern scarp of the combe has been cut back 5m from the top to steepen the slope and create a berm 4m wide before falling a further 5m to the valley bottom. The berm, where it survives undisturbed, continues the alignment of the farm lane to the north west suggesting that it is an original defensive feature. However, later quarry activity has cut into the upper scarp of the slope towards the south creating vertical quarry faces and disrupting the level of the berm. After some 130m the upper scarp decreases in size to 2m high before curving southwards and ending. The berm also fades out and an outer scarp 1.6m high runs across the slope for 50m, overlapping with the inner scarp to form an original defended entrance to the enclosure at its easternmost point. A causewayed trackway climbs from the valley floor to the north west parallel to the outer rampart ending on the hillslope in the vicinity of the entrance. Around the southern side of the enclosure, south of the present road and south west of Green Farm, the perimeter defences are less clear but their alignment can be followed. Green Farm and its garden stand on top of the plateau some 2m above the farm buildings to the south and separated from them by a substantial modern stone wall revetment. Although the scarp has been cut back and the wall rebuilt, the alignment remains that of the original defensive circuit. The alignment continues to the west from the edge of the wall as a pronounced scarp 2.6m high running for a further 70m before curving outwards and ending on a causewayed trackway which climbs from the valley bottom to the south west. From this point on the edge of the enclosure is less well defined but appears to curve in towards the churchyard wall then turn west. The scarp forms the southern edge of the churchyard and is surmounted by the earlier portion of the churchyard wall for 30m. From the corner of the wall it continues as a pronounced scarp 1.6m high separating the earlier and later portions of the churchyard before joining with the outer rampart of the inner bailey at the north east corner of the bailey. In the north east part of the plateau, situated at approximately 30m, 45m and 60m south east from the roadway which cuts through the northern side of the enclosure, are three roughly semicircular mounds which project out from the plateau edge. The southern two of these features show evidence of coursed stone walling facing outwards towards the valley floor. The better preserved is the most southerly which has exposed walling standing up to 1m high on its north east side and can be traced around its remaining sides as a circular platform 5m in diameter and 0.3m high. This feature was partially excavated in the 1960s when it was described as having walling 4ft thick surviving three courses high and was interpreted as the remains of a dovecote. The existence of the second and possible third sub-circular masonry base to the north suggests the alternative interpretation that these features represent part of the defensive circuit of the outer enclosure, perhaps the remains of a curtain wall with stone towers which ran along the edge of the plateau. The parish church of St Bartholomew occupies an irregular platform at the western end of the enclosure, between the settlement and the castle. Its earliest visible fabric dates from the 11th or early 12th century, but it remains in use and neither the church nor the burial ground are included within the scheduling. Within the enclosure, where the land surface is undisturbed by later occupation, traces of the earlier medieval settlement can be recognised in the form of linear scarps and platforms. In the field to the east of Church House a series of low scarps 0.2m high lie parallel, orientated north east to south west; they are probably the boundaries of small medieval crofts. In the permanent pasture east of the roadway a series of four pronounced scarps with lesser intermediate scarps run parallel across the gentle upper slope of the plateau. These also lie orientated north east to south west and appear to represent the boundaries of small medieval plots. (Scheduling Report)

Removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2012.
The form of the castle appears to be originally a roughly square enclosure on a headland. A large motte seems to have been added at a later date on the west corner making the form seem more like a motte and crescent bailey. If so the original form of the castle would have been similar to a number of other Saxon period manorial sites, most notably Goltho.
The round tower at the base of the curtain wall and access point to motte contains a series of holes. This is suggested as a later inserted dovecote. There is nothing to actually suggest this is an insertion and Gatehouse considers it was built as a ground level dovecote in c. 1220 with residential chambers over it.
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:48

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