Last Photographed: Saturday 12th June 2004
Grosmont Castle dates back to the 11th Century, when it began life as a Norman motte and bailey timber fortress founded by William Fitz Osborn. It's name is derived from the French 'gros mont', meaning 'big hill'.
In 1130, Grosmont Castle, Skenfrith Castle and White Castle were united by King Stephen under one lord, with the purposes of providing a cohesive defence for one of the main routes into Wales along the southern Marches border.
In the late 12th Century, these castles passed into the ownership of Hubert de Bugh. He carried out extensive improvements to all three fortifications. By the early 13th Century, he had rebuilt Gromsont as a stone castle, finally replacing the timber palisade with a high curtain wall in 1227.
The three castles passed to Edmund "Crouchback", Earl of Lancaster, in 1267. Of the three, he favoured Grosmont as his home, with White Castle and Skenfrith Castle being relegated to simple defensive outposts. The Lancaster's were responsible for the final building phase of the castle, remodelling the south west tower, and building accommodation blocks to replace the northern tower. The distinctive octagonal chimney which served them can still be seen today.
In 1404, Owain Glyndwr's forces were driven off after approaching within a few miles of Grosmont. In 1505 they returned, laying siege to the castle. Prince Henry rode out from Hereford with reinforcements, and Glyndwr was defeated at a cost of 1000 Welsh lives.
With the Welsh finally broken, the castles of the Marches were strategically defunct. By the 16th Century, Grosmont, Skenfrith and White Castle were all abandoned and falling into decay.
Today, Grosmont castle is a secretive little ruin, tucked away out of sight behind the cottages of the village, unvisited by all but the most determined tourist. You'd only know it was there if you were looking for it - or if you chanced upon one small sign that directs you from the road. After walking up a small pathway between some houses, the visitor emerges into a secret garden of unmanaged trees and greenery - a spectacular collective back garden for the village. At its centre, the castle sits on a hill, encircled by a deep but empty moat. It's easy to envy the locals, with Grosmont providing a playground for their children and serving as a venue for lazy summer picnics - a forgotten and secluded remnant of a turbulent history playing a more peaceful role in its latter years.