8 miles from Abergavenny
White Castle © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
The first recorded mention of White Castle was in the thirteenth century; the name allegedly derived its whitewashed walls, though it is worth noting that the painting of castle walls in this way was a common feature at the time. White Castle can be found near Llantilio Crossenny in Monmouthshire, which explains it being originally recorded as Llantilio Castle in the pipe rolls in 1186. The castle is associated with the medieval manor that existed at that time.
Of interest is the fact that White Castle, along with Skenfrith Castle and Grosmont Castle became known as the ‘Three Castles’, all of which are located in the Monnow Valley area, which was an important route between Hereford and South Wales in medieval times. Historians note that these three castles are usually grouped together because for almost their entire history they were part of a block of territory under the control of a single lord.
The White Castle, similar to Skenfrith and Grosmont, are built upon earlier Norman earthworks in the classic motte-and-bailey style. These endeavors are accredited to one William fitz Osbern, who was made Earl of Hereford by William the Conqueror just a few months after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
Fitz Osbern died in 1071 and due to his son (Roger de Breteuil) being involved in a rebellion against King William in 1075, the Crown seized the lands associated with the Three Castles. The King divided up the ownership of the three castles until they were reunited by King Stephen in July 1137 and would remain a single lordship until the nineteenth century.
The Three Castles were virtually rebuilt by Hubert de Burgh, who was granted their lordship in 1201 by King John. Hubert was well studied in military architecture and rebuilt Skenfrith between 1219 and 1222 and Grosmont between 1224 and 1226. Domestic apartments were added to both castles, so that they could be used as lordly residences. Hubert also added four round towers to the inner ward of White Castle around 1230, one pair of which became the main gatehouse. Hubert built the masonry outer ward and was probably responsible for demolishing the original square Norman tower keep.
Lordship of the Three Castles passed to Edward I and then to his younger brother Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. The late thirteenth century saw the rise of the threat of the Welsh prince Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, who annexed the lordship of Brecon, and attacked nearby Abergavenny. This resulted in the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267 that acknowledged the conquests of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd who remained a considerable threat.
The Three Castles briefly saw action in 1404-05 during the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr but thereafter never played a further role in military affairs. By 1538 the castles were in ruins. It was in 1825 that the Duchy of Lancaster sold the castles to the duke of Beaufort, and they were sold off separately to local landowners in 1902. White Castle was given to the State in 1922, followed by Grosmont in 1923. Skenfrith passed through several hands before being given to the National Trust. All three castles are now conserved and maintained by Cadw, and are open to the public.
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