Combe Castle

The motte at Combe has been recognised as a castle for nearly a century now, yet very little has been previously written about it. The castle consists of a low mound only some five feet high from the bottom of its much silted moat, It lies within Burford barony beside the Hindwell Brook just above its junction with the River Lugg. The mound is only a few feet above the brook flood plain and to the east lies what is still known as Combe Moor. Beyond this lies Byton castle. To the west lay Presteigne castle which was head of a later mesne lordship of which Combe appears to have been a member.

During the Anarchy Roger Port of Kington appears to have acquired Presteigne and with it Combe, while the descendants of Richard Fitz Scrope of Richards Castle and Burford barony built Stapleton castle as a new caput in the district. Meanwhile in 1230 Ralph Mortimer of Wigmore married the widowed Gladys Ddu, daughter of Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth of Gwynedd. The marriage proved a success and Gladys bore Ralph two sons, Roger and William, and brought her husband lands in Mid Wales, one of which appears to have been the barony of Presteigne. A series of charters were made recording the Mortimer acquisition of Presteigne and copies of these were made for the Black Book of Wigmore, the cartulary of the Mortimer family. The first charter, in a series of three concerning Presteigne, has Thomas Fraxino conferring the homage of William de la Rodd on Gladys Mortimer. One of the witnesses to this document is John Combe. Presumably he was lord of Combe. Although this is not a direct reference to a castle, the name, connected with the Fraxino family and Rodd, suggests a settlement at Combe and at this time it is more than likely that a castle existed there also. Unfortunately the charter is not dated, but as Ralph Mortimer died in August 1246 and Gladys died a widow at Windsor in 1251 it would seem that either the charter was made on her marriage in 1230 or after Ralph's death. If the charter is of 1246-51, then the earliest charter would be one where Thomas Fraxino pledged his son and heir Ralph to Ralph Mortimer (1226-46) in pledge for his faith and homage. This and a later charter were witnessed by John de la Combe, who is almost certainly the same man as the above. John witnessed two later Fraxino and Mortimer charters concerning Presteigne in April 1244 and on 2 February 1249. These seem to be the last documents which mention John, or any other Combe.

Presteigne castle was sacked by the Welsh at Christmas 1262 during the Cefnllys campaign and the castle was never rebuilt. It would seem likely that Combe met a similar fate although the vill was mentioned again in 1287 and 1291, but not in inquest post mortem of Edmund Mortimer in 1304. The evidence may therefore suggest that Combe castle was built during the disturbances of the Anarchy and was destroyed by the Welsh at Christmas 1262. Therefore we may well have a relatively late Norman castle built by a sub-tenant of the Fraxino lordship of Presteigne with a life-span of a little over a hundred years. Its excavation could well prove rewarding to archaeological research.

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Copyright©1994-2007 Paul Martin Remfry


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