Surrender & Demolition
Jeff Thomas 1996
he Civil War was a mixed blessing for many of Britain's mighty castles. By the 1640s castles had become largely redundant due to advances in military equipment and tactics, and because the new Tudor nobility favored stately manor homes over castles for their principal residences. Many castles had been in an advanced state of decay for decades before the Civil War, but many found new life at the outbreak of hostilities in the 1640s. Undermanned castles in various sorry states of repair were quickly re-fortified and re-garrisoned by both sides of the conflict.
Unfortunately this last lease on life also spelled the final downfall for some of Britain's finest castles, as many were ordered destroyed or "slighted" after the war in order to render them useless as military strongholds. This was especially true in Wales, where sympathies rested generally with the doomed monarchy. Some castles like Raglan (shown above) were only partially demolished, while Montgomery Castle was almost completely destroyed by the Parliamentarian victors. It was a sad final chapter for some of Wales' finest castles.
The following extracts are from documents calendered in "Herbert Correspondence," published by the University of Wales Press, 1963. The entries throw some light on the destruction of Montgomery Castle at the end of the Civil War.
22 Dec 1646. Order of a Committee of Lords and Commons that are of the Committee of Both Kingdoms.
This it be reported to the Commons that it is the Opinion of this Committee that the outworks of earth of Montgomery Castle should be slighted; and that without further slighting the castle with all goods, ammunition, and arms belonging to Lord Herbert be delivered to him according to the capitulation.
27 April 1649. Richard, Lord Herbert to the Committee for Co., Montgomery...he readily consents that the castle be dismantled and made indefensible. Proposes that the outworks be totally slighted, the grafts before the new building filled up, and the drawbridge taken down; the graft between the new building and the old castle filled up, the drawbridge taken down, and the old castle demolished. They would be pleased to certify how weak the new building is, being after the modern fashion of brick, and not able (in that place) to resist the weather.
23 June 1649 (The Committee for Montgomeryshire) to Col. John Jones.In pursuance of his order of the 15th instant for demolishing Montgomery Castle (the actual resolution of the house of Commons was on 11 June), which came the 22nd, they met at Montgomery this day and after examination of the workmen and those that paid them in the late Lord of Churbury's time, find the new building comes to L4,731, and the old castle valued at L2,000 - but conceive it was not built at double that.
1649 (summer, no date) Order of the Committee (for Montgomeryshire)Ordered that Mr. Edward Allen and Mr. Richard Thompson (Thompson was the Town Clerk and Recorder; Allen was the Bailiff-elect) supervise the demolishing of Montgomery Castle; to be careful to preserve the materials, and give directions for the drawing of the old castle before demolishing the walls...Conceive it fitting Mr. Allen and Mr. Thompson be satisfied for their pains out of the moneys from the materials.
16th November 1649. Ed Allen and Richard Thompson to the Commissioners for Demolishing Montgomery CastleIn pursuance of their order as to the demolishing Montgomery Castle, they accordingly have seen the total demolishing thereof and kept account, by which it appears the materials amount to L500 and the disgarrisoning and demolishing to L503 3s.
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