Chepstow Castle Facts: History And Significance Revealed For Kids | Kidadl


Chepstow Castle Facts: History And Significance Revealed For Kids

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Located above the cliffs of River Wye, the Chepstow Castle is the oldest living post-Roman stone fort in Britain.

Chepstow Castle is located at Chepstow, Monmouthshire in Wales. With the instruction of the Norman Lord William FitzOsbern, the construction of Chepstow castle began in 1067.

Chepstow Castle was actually known as Striguil and was the southernmost castle in a chain of castles built in the Welsh Marches. It was in the 14th century that the attached lordship took the name of the market town adjoining the castle and hence it was named Chepstow Castle. Chepstow Castle in the 12th century was used in the conquest of the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans, Gwent. William Marshal and Richard de Clare, two of the most powerful Anglo-Norman magnates from medieval England later held the castle. Then came the 16th century, and by that time, the military importance of the castle had reduced. Part of the castle was made into domestic ranges. It was later re-garrisoned during the English Civil War and even after it. This was in the 1700s and it was decaying by then. The castle site has now become a popular tourist attraction in the area. People from all over the world come to see these Welsh castles and are mesmerized by the history attached to them.

The castle is located at the border of England and Wales and positioned perfectly for tourists from both countries to enjoy the serene environment and revel in history. Being one of the earliest stone castles of Britain, the design of this castle was taken to make many other castles in the region in the following years. Being the administrative center of the Marcher lordship of Chepstow, this fort was one of the most important structures in the English-dominated territories near the Welsh border.

If you think of a castle, Chepstow Castle will first come to mind as this structure is the first stone fortress that has the looks of a castle. The castle is also considered the real castle in Wales as when you travel to South Wales, this is the first you see, located immediately inside the border and on the west bank of River Wye.

Learn more Chepstow Castle facts in the coming topics.

Chepstow Castle Location

Chepstow Castle is located at Chepstow, Monmouthshire, Wales, and is the oldest surviving stone fort in Britain.

Chepstow Castle is situated over the cliffs of the River Wye. It is located on a narrow ridge that is between a limestone cliff in the river and a valley on the landward side. This valley is locally known as the Dell. If you see the castle from the opposite bank of the Wye River, you will notice the true magnificence of the stone fortress. The castle is located near the southern Wales part. Walk through the Wye valley and revel in the beauty of one of the most beautiful medieval castles in this part of the world.

Let us learn about the history of the castle. There were many castles built in North Wales taking on defensive and architectural cues from Chepstow Castle.

History Of Chepstow Castle

William FitzOsbern erected the first castle at Chepstow in 1067. William was a Norman follower of William the Conquerer.

William FitzOsbern was known for fighting along with William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. For his help, FitzOsbern was awarded the earldom of Hereford and also lands in south Wales. He wanted a castle in that area so that he could control the river crossing over the valley. This would make him control the main entrance into Wales. For his castle, he chose a narrow promontory overlooking the Wye River. The place the castle was situated influenced the design for the next hundreds of years. The site was constricted and this meant the castle developed into a very long and narrow structure. Almost all Norman castles erected after the end of the conquest were just wooden structures that were used for defense and for residence. Chepstow was built with stones right from the beginning. The stones to build the castle were brought from Caerwent Roman town. The tower was created enclosed by wooden baileys. The Great Tower was seen great from the Middle Bailey. Wye River can be seen from the Upper Bailey.

Although FitzOsbern created this magnificent castle, he did not have much time to enjoy it. FitzOsbern died in 1071. Chepstow then became a royal estate as William, the son of FitzOsbern plotted against the crown. The year 1189 saw the castle passed on to William Marshal. William Marshal was one of the great knights known of the medieval period. He was also later the Earl of Pembroke. Marshall was the man that extended the Norman castle and also strengthened it. Much of what we see today in the castle is all because of William Marshall. He enclosed the castle within stone walls and towers. He made it with his knowledge of warfare in his earlier crusades. The present main gatehouse was built and round towers were made in the Middle Bailey. He might also have rebuilt the defenses in the Upper Bailey. Marshall added the Marshall's Tower. This tower had apartments for himself along with his wife Isabel de Clare. She was an heiress and most renovations were helped by her fortunes. Marshall had five sons and after his death, each son inherited the castle in turn. The magnificent Great Hall was also added during Marshall's ownership. William got many castles, among them were Chepstow Castle and Pembroke Castle.

After Marshall's family ran of heirs to the castle, Roger Bigod II, the Earl of Norfolk, got the castle. The Earl of Norfolk strengthened the defenses of the castle and built comfortable apartments on the site. A strong stone wall was added enclosing the town. Now only parts of the Town wall remain, which includes the gateway known as Town Gate. The town wall or the beautiful port was all courtesy of Roger Bigod. The Lower Bailey was transformed by him around the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Marten's Tower was also built. The Town Gate was the only landward access through the Port Wall to the castle. Bigod family made the castle their main residence.

Charles Somerset added more enhancements to the living quarters in the castle in the early Tudor period. Chepstow Castle was made a part of the English Civil War. The castle was held for the king in 1645 and then in 1648, but each of those times, the castle was captured by the parliament. The castle was later used as a military garrison and a prison after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

The castle was left to decay for the next 200 years making it a ruin. Only people who needed artistic inspiration visited the castle, like artists. It is now in the care of Welsh heritage and a popular tourist destination.

Chepstow Museum right beside the castle is a building made in the 18th century. There is also Chepstow Priory, a church that is a walk away.

Significance Of Chepstow Castle

The castle has a lot of significance during and after the civil war and even before all of these. We already know the history of the castle.

The main significance of the castle was in the 12th century when it was used in the conquest of Gwent. It was the first independent Welsh kingdom to be conquered by the Normans.

The strategic placement of the castle was also very important defensively.

There were two sieges during the civil war and on the second siege, the walls of the castle were breached by cannon fire. However, these were repaired and they garrisoned the castle until the last of the 17th century.

As the castle was extended by the two baileys in the early 13th century, the western end was strengthened at the end of the century. A gatehouse, a round tower, and a back entrance were added in the southeast corner of Chepstow castle.

The corner tower of the Great Gatehouse (located at the eastern end of Chepstow Castle) was used as a prison. There was another tower that functioned as the guard room.

The three entrances that led to the Marten's Tower were added with portcullises. This was done to be made into independent defensive work.

FitzOsbern's son Roger de Breteuil took part in a rebellion against William the Consquerer. This made the crown take possession of Chepstow Castle. Chepstow was given to a loyal follower of Henry I - Walter de Clare.

The dramatic cliff-side and the Great Hall at the castle are the two most interesting features. The rest of the castle looks like a classic Norman structure.

The dramatic cliff side and the Great Hall at the castle

Chepstow Castle Use In The Present

After the castle was ruined and decayed, the Welsh government took over and have converted the castle into a major tourist destination.

Since 1984, the castle is in the care of Cadw. Cadw is a government body of Wales that has the responsibility of protecting and conserving the ancient buildings in the country. Visitors can walk the grounds and along the battlements. They can visit Marten's Tower.

You can see the accommodations built by William Marshall for himself and his family in the Lower Bailey of the castle.

View the castle from the south, with the upper barbican on the left, the Great tower on the right, and Marshal Tower on the center.

Written By
Ritwik Bhuyan

<p>A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.</p>

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