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Kilpeck Castle and Church

Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England

Map link for Kilpeck Castle & Church

Text copyright by D.F. Renn, the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, and as noted, with all rights reserved.
Black & white photos copyright © by the RCHM.
Other photographs are copyright © by John Cotton and Laurie Oliver.

Special thanks to John Cotton for providing the Castles of Wales web site with the information below

The parish church of St. Mary and St.David stands east of the Castle. The walls are of rubble with ashlar dressings all of local sandstone; the roofs are covered with stone slates. The northeast angle of the Nave is of late pre-Conquest date, but the rest of the church, consisting of apse, chancel and nave, was rebuilt about the third quarter of the 12th century. The building was restored in 1864 when the apse was refaced, the bell-cote rebuilt, and a former south porch removed; the roofs were repaired or recovered in 1898.




The church is a particularly rich example of late Romanesque work; the figures on the chancel-arch and the south doorway are very remarkable, and these, together with the unusual and somewhat Scandinavian character of the rest of the ornament render the building one of the most interesting in the country. The pre-Conquest fragment at the northeast angle of the nave is one of the few surviving fragments of that period in the county. Among the fittings the font, the 12th-century stoup and the 17th century gallery are noteworthy.

Kilpeck Castle, immediately W. of the church, consists of a motte and bailey and various outworks. The motte is roughly circular with a diameter of 54 yards at the base and a maximum height of 27 ft. above the bottom of the ditch. It is surmounted by the remains of a polygonal shell-keep of masonry of which two large fragments remain towards the N. and the S.W. The keep is probably of the 12th century and was polygonal both within and without; the external faces appear to have averaged about 14 ft. and the external diameter of the building was about 100 ft. In the N. fragment of walling is a fireplace-recess with a segmental back of ashlar and a round flue; to the E. are remains of a cross-wall, and there are two round drain-holes piercing the outer wall. The S.W. fragment has remains of an ashlar-faced oven with the springing of an arch across the front; this oven was in the angle of a cross-wall and farther N. is a third drain-hole. The motte is surrounded by a ditch which separates it from the kidney-shaped inner bailey on the E. and from an outer bank on the W. The bailey has an outer ditch and remains of a rampart at the N. and S. ends; there are slight traces of a causeway leading to the motte. The bailey was entered from the S.W., where a gap in the rampart is flanked on one side by a small mound, perhaps covering the remains of part of a gatehouse. There are three outer enclosures on the N.W. and S. of the main earthwork, which are of irregular form and enclosed by ditches or scarps. The stream, to the W. of the site was dammed at a point level with the N. side of the W. enclosure. To the N.E. of the main earthwork is a roughly rectangular village-enclosure, about 300 yards by 200 yards; within it stand the church and other buildings, and there are scarps on the three outer sides and remains of a rampart on the N.W. and S.E. sides in addition. Within the enclosure are traces of foundations at right angles to the sides. Condition of earthworks, fairly good.




The Priory, house, barn and earthworks, 370 yards S.E. of the church, occupies the site of a small cell of the Benedictine Abbey of Gloucester, founded in the 12th century. The house is of two storeys originally timber-framed but mostly refaced with rubble; the roofs are covered with stone slates. It was built early in the 17th century on an L-shaped plan, with the wings extending towards the E. and S. The timber-framing is exposed on the N. side. Inside the building are some original moulded and chamfered ceiling-beams. The barn W. of the house is timber-framed and of five bays. It was built in the 17th century. The earthworks, probably marking the site of the medieval priory, lie about 70 yards S.S.W. of the house and consist of a slight platform with one or two small banks to the E. of it. Condition of house, good.

Kilpeck (BE2) Herefordshire. 444305.

Motte and bailey with strong counterscarp banks above combe to south, and flanking baileys to north-west and south-east and rectangular village enclosure (around Romanesque church to the east) of bank and ditch. Parts of a polygonal rubble shell-wall remain on the motte, with a round-headed fireplace and circular flue to the north, two drains to the east and an interior cross-wall. The shell may have been circular internally, it has a sloping external plinth. The chapel within the castle was given to Gloucester Abbey in 1134 (Chron.St.Petri Glouces.I,pp.16): the castle is mentioned in 1189 (Pipe Polls).

The motte is nearly 54 yards in diameter at its base and rises to about 27' above the bottom of the ditch. The two fragments of masonry are probably of 12th century and the village enclosure is about 200 yards by 300 yards.

P.T. Jones says 'William I granted the manor to his friend William fitzNorman, whose son Hugh built a stone castle to west of the church; of the castle only earthworks and two fragments of a polygonal keep remain'.

The castle was built by William Fitz Norman who had been given the manor of Kilpeck by William the Conqueror.


These towns or lands underwritten are situated on the border of Archenfield. William Fitz Norman holds Chipecce. Cadcand held it in the time of King Edward. In the demesne are three ploughlands and two bonds-men and four ploughmen and fifty-seven men with nineteen ploughlands and they pay fifteen quails of honey and ten shillings. They do not give other tribute nor do service, except in the army value four pounds.

Henry, grandson of William, assumed the name Henry de Kilpeck. His grandson Hugh de Kilpeck is mentioned in the reign of Henry III in 1248 as 'keeping the lay of Hereford'. In the reign of Edward II Alan de Plokenet then held the castle of Kilpeck and obtained a charter for a market 'every week on the Friday' at his manor of Kilpeck and also for a 'fair yearly on the eve and day of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary'. In the 18th century the Duke of Chandos, who then owned the estates, sold them to John Symonds Esq.

It belonged to William de Valeran and later to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke,who was executed after the battle of Edgecote in 1469. Also to the Fitz Hamons.

Hereford and Tintern (edited by Gordon Home) MCMXXV

In the easternmost bay of the Lady Chapel in Hereford cathedral is the beautiful sepulchre of Joan de Bohun, Countess of Hereford, who died in 1327. She was born Joan Plonknett, of Kilpeck and was a great benefactor of the Cathedral, especially the lady Chapel.

Above: Kilpeck Church - 12th century detail.

Below: Additional photos of Kilpeck Castle by Laurie Oliver
Remains of the castle's fragmented walls and view of the castle's defensive ditch


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