Stapleton castle was most likely built by either Hugh Fitz Osbern or his son, Osbern Fitz Hugh during the anarchy of King Stephen's reign. In 1143 Roger Port of Kington castle acquired the fortress of Presteigne which pertained the barony of Burford or Richards Castle as it was otherwise known. In reply either Hugh or Osbern built Stapleton castle which was in effect the siege castle of nearby Presteigne. However the lords of Richards Castle failed to retake Presteigne and the Stapleton castle became the caput of their barony in the west.
In 1223 Osbern Fitz Hugh's successor, Margaret Say, received the right to hold a market at the fledgling village which clustered beneath the castle's protective walls. Margaret's third and final husband was Robert Mortimer of Essex who founded the line of Mortimer of Richards Castle. Their grandson, another Robert Mortimer, was present with the fighting men of Stapleton in December 1282 when Prince Llywelyn was killed and his army routed at Llanganten. Robert's son, Hugh Mortimer, fought against the Scots at Caerlaverock in 1300 before being murdered by his wife Matilda in 1304. Unfortunately Matilda also killed most of the barons of Richards Castle and Stapleton as well and this led to the remaining lords of the district pursuing her through the courts for her poisoning activities. Matilda, being a relation of the queen, always received royal protection and so escaped her pursuers until the old king died in 1307. Matilda failed to see the beginning of the new reign, undoubtedly being killed by the vengeful Marchers in the lawless interregnum between the death of King Edward I and the succession of his son, King Edward II.
Stapleton castle then passed through Hugh and Matilda's daughter Margaret to the Cornwalls, illegitimate descendants of Earl Richard Plantagenet of Cornwall (d.1272), the second son of King John. In 1415 their descendant John Cornwall fought with distinction at Agincourt and for many years afterwards the walls of the fortress were festooned with the armour Sir John looted from the fallen French. In 1643 Sir Michael Woodhouse found Stapleton castle was not strong enough to be properly defending and fearing that the nearby Parliamentarians at Hopton and Brampton Bryan castles might put a garrison in the place had it 'defaced'. So ended the life of another ancient castle.
Today the ruins show that the castle was once rectangular with a powerful gateway to the west which is still largely standing on one side. The castle was later much rebuilt into an elegant house. The photograph shows the Elizabethan house standing over the remains of the twelfth century masonry castle which can still be made out under the tree. Much of the rectangular tower to the left of the photograph collapsed in 1999.
The castle is private property and potential visitors should contact the owner, Trevor Griffiths at Stapleton Castle Court, Stapleton, Presteigne, Powys, LD8 2LS.
The Nine Castles of Burford Barony, 1048 to 1308 (ISBN 1-899376-39-9)  continues the history of Richards Castle from 1219 to 1308 and then looks at the other castles appurtenant to the barony, viz, Byton motte and bailey, Combe ringwork and bailey, the pathetic Discoed 'motte', Homme motte, Presteigne motte and bailey, Rochford motte, Stanage motte and bailey, Stapleton castle and Burford/Tenbury Wells motte and bailey. The history of these sites and their owning families are examined as well as the castle remains.
Available for £9.95 through the PayPal basket below.
Paul Martin Remfry