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  • Knucklas, Powys.
  • Wales.
  • OSGB – SO 2493 7453.

Iron Age Hillfort. Medieval motte and bailey castle.

The site is situated at the junction of two valleys – The Teme and the Heyhop – and near the water courses of the River Teme, the Kings Brook and the Ffrwdwen Brook. The stone castle was aligned with the cardinal points of the compass with the entrance located to its west.

This was once a major Baronial and Royal castle – structural evidence of English might facing the Welsh lands. Knucklas Castle is located only 1mile from Offa’s Dyke, the ancient barrier between England and Wales, built by King Offa, and completed in 784.

There is a possible encircling double ditch, and on the western side this is particularly deep. The inner ward measures 23m by 40m and in its centre is a stone tower. The curtain wall measured 27.4m in length and incorporated four drum towers, each measuring 6m in diameter, but visually there is evidence of only three. On the northern side there is a large earthen bank and a small ‘horn work’ or tower, but this is believed to belong to a later date.

Knucklas Castle (Moat).
© Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the outer ward the buildings stood on a flat area of ground where there are the remains of a stone building measuring 18.2 m by 27.4 m, but this may belong to a date later than the Medieval castle.

Lead pipes fed water to the castle from the nearby water courses. An old fireplace from the castle now stands in a local farm and stone was robbed from the site for railway ballast and the construction of Knucklas Viaduct.

With its steep natural defences it is believed to have once been inhabited by members of the Silures Tribe as there is evidence that a fort may have been located on the site prior ot the construction of the castle.

Knucklas Castle (Moat).
© Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Silures were a tribe that occupied the south-eastern part of Wales during the iron Age. It is believed that they migrated from Spain,

“… the swarthy faces of the Silures, the curly quality, in general, of their hair, and the position of Spain opposite their shores, attest to the passage of Iberians in old days and the occupation by them of these districts;” (Woodman 2004).

The land of the Silures ranged from north of the Bristol Channel to the River Wye. The tribe constructed hillforts, and settlements in often defended lower land areas.

They traded with people in the Malvern area and also Droitwich, as evident in the archaeology uncovered at Lodge Hill Camp. This trading can be dated from around the 6th century BC to the time of the Roman occupation of their lands.

They appear to have formed a Tribal Confederation in south east Wales – to the north of them were the Ordovices, to the east lay the Dobunni and to the west were the Demetae.

The Silures fought the Roman invasion through battles and guerrilla warfare. Their advantage was knowing their land – hills, mountains, tracks and trails – and the Romans didn’t. The Silures were very successful in one encounter and won victory over a complete Legion. The fighting continued this way for three years. They refused to be subdued and it is recorded that,

‘They were turned neither by brutality nor by clemency from pursuing the war’ (Todd 2008).

The Roman general fighting them, Publius Ostorius Scapula, was growing impatient. Roman forts were built at Caerleon and Caerwent – major hillforts associated with the Silures. Scapula died not long after his encounters with them, and it is believed he fell sick and succumbed to his illness whilst in Wales.

Along with the possible Silurian occupation of the site come other legends – William of Worcester states it was founded by King Arthur; another legend tells us that Arthur and Gwenhwyfar were married at the castle; yet another that King Arthur cut the head off a giant and stepped on it to reach the castle site and once there he married Gwenhwyfar.

The following gives another legend,

“….contiguous to which is an ancient Silurian fortification, accompanied by considerable remains of buildings. Immemorial tradition ascribes remote antiquity to this dilapidated relic, and records it to have been the occasional residence of Uthyr Pendragon, the father of the renowned Prince Arthur. Traditionally reports contain come truth, mingled with much falsehood. There is, however, reason to believe that this place belonged, if not to the celebrated hero above named, who was a Silurian, yet to some noted chieftain of the district, of a more recent era….” (Williams, 1859).

All legends, myths and folklore have some truth within them, even if it is small. But where would we be without these tales and traditions?

During the Medieval period a castle was built on the site to protect the Welsh March by the very powerful Mortimer family. More about them at a later date!

Knucklas Castle (Motte)
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Battle of Bloody Field – Battle of Beguildy

A battle is believed to have taken place below the grounds of the castle at the aptly named Bloody Field. Some sources are not sure when this happened but one does state that it occurred between the Welsh and the new Lords of the March, the Mortimers, under English control in 1146.

“And then Maredudd ap Madog ab Idnerth was slain by Hugh de Mortimer.” (Williams, 1860).

Bloody Field, Knucklas

Previous to 1955, when the above was published, it was generally supposed that the battle may have preceded the Norman occupation of England,

“At the foot of this castle hill is a piece of pasture land, which, from time immemorial, has sustained the denomination of “bloody field,” or “meadow”. Hence it is conjectured that, on this piece of land, a severe battle had once been fought, but whether prior or posterior to the erection of the castle cannot be ascertained.” (Williams, 1859).

Further research into the ancient writings of Wales, I am sure, will give us a better picture of exactly what did happen. But until such time that I can burrow my way through them, the above will suffice!


Timeline for the site,

1146                 Battle of Beguildy between the Marcher Lords and the Welsh.

1181                 Site first mentioned.

1220-1225          During: believed to have been built by the powerful Mortimer family.

1246                 2nd October: Royal Order – The castle was to be surrendered to Richard de Dover, son of Ralph Mortimer, along with Wigmore and Cefnllys.

1248                 Mentioned.

1262                 20th December: Castle surrendered to Llewelyn ap Gruffydd who had used siege engines during his attack.

1282                 The site was garrisoned by Edward Mortimer against attacks from the Welsh. Dismantled.

1316                 Mentioned.

1341                 6th September: Granted to William Bohun.

1384                 Mill recorded on the Ffrwdwen Brook that belonged to the Lord of the Castle.

1402                 Attacked and slighted by Owain Glyndŵr.

1403                 In ruins.

1406                 The castle was burned and laid to waste the Welsh.

1422                 Until: Remained in the hands of the Mortimer family.

1425                 Recorded as being derelict.

1478                 Site associated with King Arthur.

1479                 William of Worcester associates King Arthur as building Knucklas Castle.

1485                 Philip Howel, Lord of Cnwclas, fought on the side of Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth.

15th C                Beginning: No longer habituated.

1596                 Folktale of site recorded by Siôn Dafydd Rhys regarding Arthur and Gwenhwyfar.

1824                 16th October: The site was sold to Samuel Webb.

c.1859               Leased to the Earl of Oxford.

19th C               Quarried for stone to build the Knucklas Viaduct.

1910                 Field Investigation.

1990                 Scheduled.

Towards Castle Hill, Knucklas.
By Towards Castle Hill, Knucklas by Jaggery, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Knucklas Castle sits proud on a hill overlooking two valleys and the landscapes beyond. The majesty of the place can be felt beneath your feet as you walk up, and stand at its highest point.

Here, I said: here where you stand,

And stop, and let everything go still,

Feeling your breath as you glance down,

Is the ground that is everywhere –


Nameless under our naming


As it ebbs to your feet like a sea

That your heart knows already, as it breathes,

Through the soles of your feet, with relief.

(Palmer & Palmer, 2000)


Further questions –

  • What were the original defences of the site – did they encircle it completely?
  • Are any other items from the castle, like the fireplace now in an old farmhouse, to be found in buildings around the area?
  • Is there any evidence of a previous hillfort on the site?
  • Is there evidence of possible Silurian occupation of the site prior to the Norman castle?
  • Are there further legends and myths relating to King Arthur and his family?
  • Has Bloody Field ever been archaeologically investigated for evidence of the battle, and can this provide dating evidence for the event?
Knucklas Castle Google Earth

References & Bibliography

Ashley. M. 2011. The Mammoth Book of King Arthur. Little Brown Book Company.

Baumgaertner. W. E. 2010. Squires, Knights, Barons, Kings: War and Politics in Fifteenth Century England. Trafford Publishing.

Bothwell. J. 2004. Edward III and the English Peerage: Royal Patronage, Social Mobility, and Political Control in Fourteenth-century England. Boydell Press.

Breverton. T. 2009. Owain Glyndwr: The Story of the Last Prince of Wales. Amberley Publishing.

CADW. 2023. Scheduled Monuments- Full Report. Cnwclas Castle. Available at https://cadwpublic-

Clark. G. T. 1882. The Castles of England and Wales at the Latter Part of the Twelfth Century. The Archaeological Journal. Volume 39. pp. 154-176.

Clark. G. T. 1884. Mediæval Military Architecture in England. Volume 1. Wyman & Sons.

COFLEIN. 2023. Knucklas Castle. Available at

Davies. Rev. J. 1888. Wigmore Castle and The Mortimers. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club. 1881-1882. pp.21-27.

Davies. R. R. 2000. The Age of Conquest: Wales, 1063-1415. Oxford University Press.

Douglas. J. P. 1877. A Run Through South Wales Via the London and North Western Railway. McCorquodale & Co.

Dugdale. T. 1830. England & Wales Delineated. Thomas Dugdale.

Emery. A. 1996. Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300-1500: Volume 2, East Anglia, Central England and Wales. Cambridge University Press.

Foster. I. L. L., & Daniel. G. (eds.). 2014. Prehistoric and Early Wales. Routledge.

Griffiths. R. A. 1991. King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Haslam. R. 1979. Powys. Yale University Press.

Henderson. B. 1903. The Roman Legions in Britain, A. D. 43-72. The English Historical Review, 18(69), 1-23. Retrieved September 30, 2020, from

Hibbert. C 2014. The Search for King Arthur. New World City.

House Of Commons Great Britain. 1826. Parliamentary Papers 1780-1849. Volume 14. HMSO.

Jobson. A. 2012. The First English Revolution: Simon de Montfort, Henry III and the Barons’ War. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Lamb. F. J. 2022. Your Ancestry. Green Cat Books.

Lloyd. S. 2017. The Arthurian Place Names of Wales. University of Wales Press.

Lloyd-Morgan. C., & Poppe. E. (Eds.). 2019. Arthur in the Celtic Languages

The Arthurian Legend in Celtic Literatures and Traditions. University of Wales Press.

Mortimer. I. 2004. The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, Ruler of England, 1327-1330. Pimlico.

Muirhead. F. 1926. Wales. Macmillan & Co.

No Author. 1886. Shropshire Notes and Queries: Volumes 1-2. J. Watton & Son.

Palmer. M., & Palmer. N. 2000. The Spiritual Traveler England, Scotland, Wales: the Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes in Britain. Hiddenspring.

Pettifer. A. 2000. Welsh Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.

Pilling. D. 2021. Edward I and Wales, 1254-1307. Pen & Sword.

Pryce. H. (Ed.). 2010. The Acts of Welsh Rulers 1120-1283. University of Wales Press.

Ratkai. S. 2017. Wigmore Castle, North Herefordshire: Excavations 1996 and 1998. Taylor & Francis.

Ray. K., & Bapty. I. 2014. Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth Century Britain. Windgather Press.

Readers Digest. 1979. Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Readers Digest.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. 1911. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire: III – County of Radnor. RCAHMW.

SimmsWilliams. P. 2011. Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. Oxford University Press.

Smith. J. B. 2014. Llywelyn Ap Gruffudd: Prince of Wales. University of Wales Press.

Stephenson. D. 2019. Medieval Wales C.1050-1332: Centuries of Ambiguity. University of Wales Press.

Suggett. R. 2005. Houses and History in the March of Wales: Radnorshire 1400-1800. RCAHMW.

The Dublin Gazette. From Saturday, September 9, to Tuesday September 12, 1786. (n.d.). [Documents].

Todd. M. 2008. A Companion to Roman Britain. John Wiley & Sons.

Tout. T. F. 1934. The Collected Papers of Thomas Frederick Tout: Volume 1. Manchester University Press.

Tout. T. F.  1907. Wales and The March During the Baron’s Wars. Historical Essays. Owens College, Manchester. pp. 76-136.

Webster. G. 2019. Rome Against Caratacus: The Roman Campaigns in Britain AD 48-58. Routledge.

Williams. J. 1859. The History of Radnorshire. R. Mason.

Williams. Rev. J. (ed.) 1860. Caradoc’s (of Llancarvan), Brut y tywysogion. Or. The Chronicles of the Princes. Longmans.

Williams. R. 1894. Early Documents Relating to Dolforwyn Castle, Newtown. The Montgomeryshire Collections. Volume 28. pp. 145-164.

Williams. T. W. 1832. Parliamentary Reform. A full and correct abstract of the Act, 2 Will. IV., Chap. 45., to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales. Passed 7th June, 1832. Jones and Company.

Woodman. A. J. 2004.  Tacitus. The Annals. Hackett Publishing Company.


Image References

Towards_Castle_Hill, Towards Castle Hill, Knucklas. By Towards Castle Hill, Knucklas by Jaggery, CC BY-SA 2.0,

7177346_10b134ad_1024x1024. Knucklas Castle.  © Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7177231_84bd8e16_1024x1024. Knucklas Castle (Motte). © Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7177242_5d3eb1bf_1024x1024. Knucklas Castle (Moat). © Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7177254_010f23fa_1024x1024. Knucklas Castle (Moat). © Copyright Fabian Musto Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)



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