Admired by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth as the noblest ruin in Herefordshire, Goodrich Castle crowns a craggy outcrop above the Rive Wye, just southwest of Ross-on-Wye. Guarding the river crossing between England and Wales, the heavily fortified complex of military buildings boldly demonstrated the power of the Norman Marcher lords in the borderlands. With its tremendous towers and an intimidating ditch formed from a natural chasm in the bedrock, the quadrangular stronghold retains an air of invincibility. Rising directly from its sandstone base, the well-preserved walls are perhaps only slightly less capable of withstanding a siege, as they did during the English Civil War.Probably named for the Anglo-Saxon thane (a low-ranking noble), Godric de Mappestone, who held neighboring Hulle in 1086, an earth-and-timber fortress first dominated the site.
Almost a century later, Henry II fortified Godric's castle against the Welsh, replacing the primitive stronghold with an ungainly gray keep, which is the site's oldest surviving structure.Conveyed in 1247 by right of marriage from the Marshal Earls of Pembroke to William de Valence, Henry III's half-brother, Goodrich Castle became the focus of a monumental building program. Adopting the pretentious building style used by Edward I in North Wales, de Valence bolstered the castle with three mammoth drum towers, a round-fronted gatehouse and thick curtain walls. He also added a walled courtyard next to the keep and built several ancillary structures, including a chapel.After William de Valence's death, his widow continued his work at the castle, until her son Aymer inherited the castle in 1307. Aymer's greatest contribution was the helmet-like barbican, which protected the main access point.
Built to confuse and confine an enemy, the D-shaped outwork forced attackers to turn twice before they could cross the ditch and clamber up the steep ramp to assault the gatehouse.During the English Civil War, mighty Goodrich Castle stood its ground. Although garrisoned with 100 parliamentary troops in 1643, control of the castle passed to Sir Henry Lingen, a staunch supporter of Charles I, in 1645. Early the following year, Colonel John Birch and his parliamentary forces made a sudden assault on the castle. Bolstered by the power of Roaring Meg, a specially cast bombard (cannon) that was capable of hurling a shot of over 200lbs, the besiegers pummelled the walls relentlessly. Sappers undermined the north-west tower.
Royalist guards died and the castle's stables burned. Having only four barrels of gunpowder and aware the parliamentarians itched to finish off the defenses, Lingen's men finally waved the white flag and surrendered. Tradition has it that they strode out of Goodrich Castle to a tune, long since lost, called "Sir Henry Lingen's Fancy". Birch accepted their dignified surrender and allowed the royalists to keep their lives.
Goodrich Castle was abandoned in 1647 and fell into ruin. The Countess of Kent who now owned the castle, received a thousand pounds against the damages, but chose not to rebuild.Besides having outstanding defenses, the castle functioned as a fine residence. It supported a chapel tower, the great hall and kitchen range on the west and south sides and private apartments immediately to the north.
Today, the blocky ruins belie the buildings' medieval splendour.English Heritage maintains Goodrich Castle, which is open daily throughout the year for an entrance fee. Springing suddenly into view, the hulking red ruins still startle the senses as they did when Wordsworth explored the site in the late 18th century.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Tourism.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.
By: Michael Russell