Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle ruins are located in Skenfrith in Monmouthshire, Wales. The site is operated by CadW and is free and open to visit. It was one of the castles that made up the lordship of Three Castles along with Grosmont and White Castle. Founded by Norman Marcher lord, William Fitz Osbern, in the 12th century, the castle lay in ruins by the 1600s.

Visiting Skenfrith Castle

Parking

There is a small dedicated parking lot in front of the castle site, with no parking tariffs. The castle is about 100 yd (91.44 m) from the car park.

Price

Visitors may access the Skenfrith Castle site free of charge.

Opening

Open year-round; visit at any reasonable time during daylight hours.

Location & Access 

Skenfrith

Abergavenny

Monmouthshire

South Wales

NP7 8UH

Tel: 0300 025 6000

OS: SO 458 202

Skenfrith Castle stands 6 mi (9.66 km) northwest of Monmouth and 12 mi (19.31 km) to the northeast of Abergavenny. Take the A465 north from Abergavenny and go right onto the B4521 to Skenfrith. The castle is well signposted.

Know Before You Go

  • Visitors should wear appropriate footwear as the terrain is quite rugged and may become boggy in the winter months.
  • Dogs are welcome on a leash. 
  • Visitors may walk along the banks of the River Monnow.
  • Visitors may not access the upper walks on the castle walls.
  • Cadw prohibits climbing on the castle walls.
  • Disabled visitors will not be able to access the great hall or watergate, which only offer stair access.
  • Several information boards are on display regarding the castle's history.
  • There are no public toilets at the site.

History of Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle played a pivotal role in protecting the Norman strongholds from Welsh uprisings. Skenfrith worked in tandem with White Castle and Grosmont Castle - the Three Castles stronghold. Although often fortified, the castle was not the site of any decisive battles in its long history.

Time Line


-1066 (Timber and Earth Construction)

Shortly after the Norman invasion of England, William the Conqueror bestowed the Earldom of Hereford on William fitz Osbern, a trusted ally. William extended his control of the area by seizing the towns of Monmouth and Chepstow. Skenfrith Castle was part of the triangle of earth and timber fortifications built to entrench Norman control of the site and protect from Welsh uprisings. 

-1075

Williams's son, Roger de Breteuil, rebelled against the King and the estates in the region were slowly broken up due to his actions.

-1135

When the Wesh rebelled, the new King Stephen took back the lands containing Skenfrith, Grosmont, and White Castle. He created the lordship of Three Castles to protect the route from Wales to Hereford and consolidate the Crown's control of Wales. 

-1170s (Stone Build)

During the escalating Welsh conflict, the de Mortimer and de Braose families rose against their Welsh rivals. This attack led to a retaliatory attack on Abergavenny Castle nearby. Preparation for a similar attack on Skenfrith prompted the Crown to spend a considerable amount of money to improve the castle defences. Historians suggest that they built the stone keep and curtain wall in 1186. 

-1201

King John granted the Three Castles to his ally, Hubert de Burgh, the King's chamberlain, before becoming King. Caught up in the conflict in France, Hubert was imprisoned, and King John granted the castles to Hubert's rival, William de Braose.

-1207

After falling into disfavour with the fickle King John, the Crown dispossessed William of his estates. However, his son, also named William, took advantage of the unrest of the First Barons War and recaptured Skenfrith Castle.

-1219 (Rebuilt)

After his release, Hubert's fortunes changed, and he rose again to power under the favour of King Henry III. He almost entirely rebuilt Skenfrith Castle, levelled the older structures, and erected a circular stone keep and rectangular castle in its place. 

-1232

Hubert fell once more from royal graces, and the King yet again stripped him of his estates, including Skenfrith Castle. A royal servant named Walerund Teutonicus took control of the castle in the King's name. The castle returned briefly to Herbert's control in 1234 and returned to Teutonicus in 1239. 

-1244

Teutonicus commenced the building of a chapel and repaired the roof of the keep.

-1245

King Henry granted The Three Castles to his eldest son, Prince Edward, later known as Edward Longshanks or The Hammer of the Scots. 

-1262 (Garrisoned)

After the Welsh rebellion of Llywelyn ap Gruffud and the attack on Abergavenny Castle, Skenfrith Castle was heavily garrisoned and placed under the command of Gilbert Talbot. The threat, however, did not come to fruition. 

-1267

The Three Castles changed hands to Edmund, the Earl of Lancaster, and the castles remained in the earldom and duchy for centuries. During this period, the earls did little to repair or alter the castle, barring minor repairs on the tower and gates under Henry VI. 

-1282

King Edward's conquest of Wales diminished the use of Skenfrith Castle as a military stronghold, although it still performed as an administrative centre. 

-1538-1613 (Disrepair)

The castle had fallen into disrepair, and by 1613 historical records refer to it as being in a state of ruin. 

-1825

Henry Somerset, the Duke of Beaufort, purchased Skenfrith Castle, who later sold it to Harold Sands. After conducting minor repair work, Sands granted the castle to the National Trust.

-1936 - Today

The state conducted extensive repair work of the castle in 1936, and today, it is a scheduled monument and a Grade II listed building under the care of Cadw.

Skenfrith Castle Occupants

 

  • 1066: Willam fitz Osbern built the first timber and earth fortification.
  • 1075: Roger de Breteuil, William's son, occupies the castle site and is dispossessed by the Crown.
  • 1135: The Crown held the castle under the leadership of King Stephen.
  • 1201: Hubert de burgh occupied Skenfrith under allegiance to King John I, but then lost the estates to William de Broase.
  • 1207: William de Braose, son of William, recaptured and occupied Skenfirth.
  • 1219: Hubert de Burgh resumed ownership of Skenfrith.
  • 1232: Walerund Teutonicus occupied the castle under the Crown. 
  • 1244: Teutonicus again occupied the castle. 
  • 1245: Prince Edward assumed ownership of Skenfrith. 
  • 1262: Gilbert Talbot took command of Skenfrith and formed a garrison.
  • 1267: Edmund, the Earl of Lancaster, and his descendants took possession of the castle.

 Images of Skenfrith Castle

Skenfrith Castle
Skenfrith Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Skenfrith Castle Q&A

 

How Large Was Skenfrith Castle?

Hubert de Burgh flattened the earthworks of the former 11th-century Norman build, and spread them over the castle site up to 3.7 m (12.14 ft) and demolished the 12th-century buildings. 

Hubert constructed the castle in a polygon shape, with four walls approximately 80 m (262.47 ft), two walls at 60 m (196.85 ft) and the remaining wall at 40 m (131.23 ft). The red sandstone castle lay enclosed in a water-filled moat almost 7 m (22.97 ft) deep and 12 m (39.37 ft) wide.

What Was the Main Use of Skenfrith Castle?

Although low lying, Skenfrith made up for military disadvantages by its proximity to the River Monnow. Excavations in the 1950s proved that once the moat filled up with water around the castle and even revealed a substantial medieval wharf. This evidence showed that once the river had a considerable depth and offered access to the castle waterway allowing an easy route for supplies and visits. 

Was Skenfrith Castle the Scene of Any Battles?

Although the castle occupied a crucial area in the turbulent history of the Anglo-Welsh conflict, it was not the scene of any battle. Although fortified and ready for battle, the castle did not suffer any significant attack. After King Edward I's conquest of Wales between 1282-1283, the castle mainly served administrative functions in the area. 

What Remains of Skenfrith Castle Today?

Much of the present-day ruins are the work of Hubert de Burgh in the 13th century, and the circular raised keep was typical of the castle construction of the era. The ruins retain the circular keep, and much of the remaining curtain wall stands up to 5 m (16.40 ft). The medieval wharf remains are not entirely visible and remain buried for preservation purposes. 

Can You Visit Skenfrith Castle?

The castle is located in a picturesque setting close to the River Monnow. The grounds make for a lovely picnic area in summer, and one may swim in the river nearby. One may access the interiors with prominent information boards for the public. 

Additionally, the 12th-century St Bridget's Church is located just 100 yd (91.44 m) or so away from the castle and makes an excellent complement to the Skenfrith Castle visit. The church contains the chest tomb of John Morgan, the last governor of the Three Castles and Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Location of Skenfrith Castle

The Skenfrith Castle ruins stand on the southeast corner of Skenfrith Village in the Monnow River Valley, 100 m (328.08 ft) north of Skenfrith Bridge. The 13th-century stone ruins overlay an earlier timber and earthwork fort, which they flattened to make way for the stone castle built between 1219 and 1232.