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Published 31st March 2017 by

Goodrich Castle is a Norman medieval castle which now lies in ruins. It is situated to the north of the village of Goodrich in Herefordshire, England, and controlled a key location between Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. Goodrich Castle is one of the best preserved English medieval castles.

Goodrich Castle is a beautiful, ruined Medieval castle that's well worth an afternoon's visit.

Goodrich Castle thought to have been built by Godric of Mappestone, not long after the Norman invasion of England in the 11th century. The castle is situated in The Marches (the green Welsh-border counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire and so forth). These areas were always a site of fierce border-dispute between the English and the Welsh in the early Medieval times. Despite its location in the Marches, Goodrich Castle was seldom troubled by marauding Welshmen. Instead, the castle was an elaborate home for noble families, including the De Valances, who rebuilt and modernised the castle in the 13th century.

The first structure of the castle was the mighty square Keep, which was completed in the mid 12th century. You can see part of that early Keep in the photo below. The Keep is made of a green-grey stone, while the rest of the castle which is built in red sandstone.

In the 13th century, William de Valance, a noble, undertook a huge reconstruction of Goodrich castle and was responsible for building many of the buildings that you can see today. William de Valance was the uncle of King Edward I, and half brother of King Henry III. He wasn't greatly respected by other nobles - he was considered quite an upstart, but he was well connected. He lived in the castle with Countess Joan. The family are likely to have built the chapel, extended the Great Hall, made use of a buttery, and enjoyed their elaborate kitchen with two bread ovens.

Until the 1640s, Goodrich Castle was well cared for and remained an exceptional example of Medieval castle construction. Unfortunately, the castle was brought to ruin during the English Civil war during the 17th century. At this time in 1646, the Goodrich Castle was occupied by the Royalists. The Parlementation forces, under Colonel Birch, found that the castle was too well fortified to attack directly, so they bought in artillery to siege the castle. During this siege, mortars destroyed the pipe carrying water into the castle, and the storage tanks in the courtyard. This left the defending garrison depending on the older castle well.

At the height of the siege, the Parliamentarian forces used a massive mortar cannon named "Roaring Meg" to destroy the North-West tower. Roaring Meg was able to fire gunpowder filled shells weighing 85-90 kilograms.

With limited supplies and the castle becoming more and more damaged, the Royalists finally surrendered. The castle was subsequently intentionally damaged by the Parliamentarian forces so that it could not be made defensible or habitable again. The castle was returned to its owner before the occupation, however, the damage was too extensive to repair so it was left to ruin.

View more photos in my Goodrich Castle gallery.

Macbeth Tower

The Great Keep at Goodrich Castle is also known as Macbeth Tower, after stories of an Irish chieftain imprisoned in the dungeons. The dungeons were housed in The Great Keep. Legend has it he died attempting to escape and his ghost has been said to haunt the tower. According to local folklore, a ghostly haze can sometimes be seen in the dungeons, for which there is no explanation.

Forbidden Love

Local folklore also tells a story from the siege during the English Civil War. It is said that Colonel Birch's niece, Alice Birch, fell in love with a handsome Royalist, Charles Clifford. According to these stories, the two attempted to escape before the final assault, however, they both died in a flash flood while trying to cross the River Wye. They now live on as ghosts on the site.

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