This Anglo-Saxon motte and bailey is located on a smallholding in the village of Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire and has recently been put on the market. It is of considerable interest because it was one of only three sites constructed prior to the Norman conquest.
In all the smallholding compromises 21 acres with a five bedroom bungalow sited in a prominent position overseeing the Monnow Valley which the castle site was built to defend, with spectacular views towards Monmouth. Felled timber from the Motte site and twelve-year-old planted woodland provide sustainable heating backed up by hot water solar panels. With extensive gardens providing a ready supply of vegetables, a polytunnel and three barns this site offers self sustainability options for a new owner.
The first castle at Ewyas Harold was built some time in 1048–51 by Osbern Pentecost. It was dismantled in 1052 following conflict between the Norman nobles and Godwin, Earl of Essex, but refortified shortly after the conquest in 1066–1067 by William FitzOsbern. Fitz-Osbern was established as Earl of Hereford by William the Conquerer in 1067. The origin of the name Harold in the title is indicated by Leland c.1530 who names the place ‘Mapheralt’ being the Welsh equivalent of ‘son of Heralt’. The son of Harold was Robert, Lord of Ewyas in the 12th century. Robert inherited the Lordship of Ewyas, probably by 1135 and was responsible for the founding of the Cistercian Abbey at Dore in 1147. The castle fell out of use in the 15th century. The last military use of the castle was probably during the rising of Owain Glyndwr around 1403. Any remains of the castle at Ewyas had disappeared by the civil war in 1645.
In 2006 archaeologists made accurate plans of the earthworks and carried out surveys using remote sensing techniques including ground-penetrating radar. Archaeological studies associated with the castle and the broad areas have taken place in 2007, 2010 and 2011. Initially these focused on the castle itself, and comprised geophysical surveys of the motte and bailey. Subsequently attention moved to the medieval priory cell that was thought to possibly have been located within the castle itself. This later research has demonstrated that this was not the case. The inner bailey was divided from the outer by a defensive ditch and probably fortifications on its inner side. The line of this ditch later became a trackway or road known as King Street .
The site has been featured on Tony Robinson programme on King Harold in 2002 and on Dan Snow’s programmes on Norman Castle Walks in 2013.