Hello again time travelers!
After months and months of rain and cold weather in the lovely United Kingdom, the summer has officially started. Glastonbury Festival is ending and the Roskilde Festival is about to start so it means that July is here! We are opening the new month with returning to the past. Yes, you have guessed it correctly – this blog will be dedicated to another castle. Discovering the local history has become some kind of an obsession for Rita. Herefordshire has more than two dozens castles, keeps, mansions and other fortified buildings that are worth seeing. It is almost like collecting Pokemons – once you start visiting them, you cannot stop before you had seen them all.
After paying a visit to the Chilli Festival and Eastnor Castle in May, we decided to go a little bit further to one of the oldest and the best preserved castles built along the Welsh border.
If you’d like to read about the previous historical trips, please click on the links below:
Eastnor Castle trip: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/visit-to-eastnor-castle/
Chilli Festival Review: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/cinco-de-mayo-chilli-festival-in-eastnor-castle/
As we have already written, all castle-admiring journeys should start at Eastnor Castle near Ledbury. Eastnor is a prime example of fully operational and inhabited castle that allows visitors to see how the life looked like several centuries ago in a monstrous building of that sort. Visiting Goodrich should be another step on the castle tour for beginners. Godrich is much older and bigger than Eastnor, it is also deserted. However, it offers the tourists an unique perspective at castle’s life-circle. After seeing both buildings it is possible to imagine how such fortresses have been constructed, designed, furnished and finally, what happens to them once they became abandoned.
Nobody knows the exact date when the castle was built, but the Doomsday book mentions that Godric of Mappestone, an Anglo-Saxon thane and landowner became a permanent resident at Howel, modern day Goodrich village. Godric was a well trained warrior and strategist, probably a member of Saxon army protecting the Welsh border. According to the historians, he constructed a small fortified earth and timber castle on the highest hill on his property, close to the River Wye around 1080. The wooden building known then as ” Castellum Godrici” or “the castle of Godric” didn’t survive long, but the memory of it has been kept in local legends passed from generation to generation. The wooden castle became the mysterious “Godric’s Hollow” or “Godric’s Hill” and was said to be the most luxurious yet practical building of the day. Harry Potter fans will easily recognize the name as the birthplace of Harry and final hiding place of James and Lily Potter before their murder at the hands of Lord Voldemort. The legend of Godric’s castle was very well known to J K Rowling who spent many years living at the southern edge of the Forest of Dean in the village of Tutshill, some 15 miles away from Goodrich.
By the 12th century, the wooden castle was only a memory, but the hill where the original Godric’s castle once stood didn’t loose its strategic importance. The war between English and Welsh tribes was hardening at that time and the border needed to be protected by something more solid than a single fortified building. Between 1120 and 1176, a new stone keep has been raised by the family of William Fitz Baderon, Godric’s descendent and his sons. The keep is the oldest part of the castle and still remains in excellent condition. The castle has been extended further during the war between Empress Matilda and Stephen of England, with both sides gaining control of the Keep and adding taller walls and barricades to prevent the rival side from winning. In 1330’s, Robert Talbot, the next owner of the castle and his wife Elizabeth, built dungeon, large stables, prison and two galleries on East and North Ranges completing the inside of the castles. Four corner towers, large courtyard and Barbican have been added a century later, turning the single stone keep into the castle we can see today.
Robertrt Talbot and Elizabeth de Comyn are probably the most important owners the Goodrich castle ever had and it’s impossible to write about the fortress without mentioning more about them. Elizabeth was the the daughter of powerful Scottish nobleman John “Red” de Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Joan de Valence, daughter of French knight William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke. In 1324, she became one of the wealthiest women of her era by inheriting enormous lands ( including Goodrich Castle and the manor of Painswick) and large sums of money. The sudden fortune soon became a curse for the young heiress. Elizabeth’s wealth has attracted the attention of Marcher lords: Hugh le Despenser the older and his son Hugh Despenser the younger, the royal favourites of King Edward II. The Despensers were known for their ruthlessness, arrogance and greed and a single woman without family protection, was regarded an easy target. Elizabeth was kidnapped by Hugh the younger and brought to capitol where she was kept in the Tower of London and tortured. She was forced not only to give all inheritance away but also had to sign a debt notice of £10,000 that she was required to pay off for the rest of her life. Released without anything, Elizabeth was expected to either turn for help to her sister Joan or choose a life at the nunnery. Now, if you are looking for strong female characters from the past, kindly take notice. Elizabeth was not your typical damsel in distress but took the matters into her own hands. She used her parents’ connection to find a partner who would help her regain what has been stolen from her. She made a deal with English knight Richard Talbot, the 2nd Baron Talbot: she would marry him and share her wealth with him if he would lent her his armies and reclaim the castle for her. With a little unexpected help from Queen Isabella of France (who invaded England almost at the same time), Richard sized the Goodrich Castle from The Despensers and returned it to Elizabeth. The couple were soon married at Goodrich and the castle became their family house for the next 4 centuries. The Despensers were brutally executed (hanged, beheaded and drowned) and everybody else lived happily ever after. Hooray for a happy ending Game of Thrones style.
Goodrich Castle has been destroyed in 1646 during one of the longest and most desperate castle sieges of the English Civil War between the Parliament forces and the soldiers of King Charles I of England. The siege of the castle lasted nearly 8 months and the fortress have been attacked numerous times but survived every attempt. To finally break the Royalists hiding inside the castle, Colonel Birch built an enormous mortal called ” Roaring Meg”. The mortal was able to fire a gunpowder-filled shell 85–90 kilograms (190–200 lb) in weight. Roaring Meg melted thick walls, destroying one side of the castle and allowed the Parliament forces to enter inside. Having no other choice, The Royalists surrender and if you believe local legend, marched out of the garrison to the tune of “Sir Henry Lingen’s Fancy”.
The castle was in a poor state and the owner, Countess of Kent refused to rebuilt it. She was given 1000 pounds reward for destroying her property and moved to a newly constructed mansion. The castle has been left abandoned since then. By 19th century, the ruins were a popular tourist attractions, described by William Wordsworth as the “noblest ruin in Herefordshire”. Every year, thousands of people from around the word travel to Goodrich village to admire the castle and to learn about its history. The fortress is also an inspiration for painters, writers and other artists. We have found several examples of art showing the castle. Please take a look below:
We hope that you have enjoyed this short history essay about the Goodrich Castle. Please return here tomorrow, as we will show you our pictures taken during the trip. We have taken more than 200 shots but only the most superb ones will be featured in part two of our blog. Plus, we are going to give you even more information about each room – be prepared for the best virtual tour on the Internet!
Sounds like fun, so do not dare to miss it!
Goodnight for now,
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz