Stowe 'Ringwork'

The site at Stowe some 1½ miles from St Briavels castle is most peculiar. It has the appearance of what is generally categorized as a ringwork castle, and indeed this is what it has often been classified as. Various reports describe it as the first castle of St Briavels, but this is not based on any historical or archaeological substance.

The current remains as recently planned by Richard Kay at first glance do show the recognised design of a ringwork castle with a slightly raised interior, even if the western portion does appear to have been destroyed by quarrying. However close inspection of the roughly 10-15 foot high rampart indicates that it is built of a mass of rubble. There is no trace of any laid masonry and no trace of mortar could be ascertained, although one piece of stone lying on the northern rampart did look as if it may have been cut ashlar. Entrance to the 'ring' was apparently gained from the east, although this looks as if it was possibly a late mutilation. The ditch in front of the rampart being obviously filled and raised here. This slight ditch can be made out around most of the site, and where the northern rampart has been cut by the later quarrying this incredibly weak rock-cut ditch can be seen in profile. However at the north-eastern end of this rampart a rock spur can be seen filling this ditch indicating that it was not finished at this point. This would suggest that either the site was never completed, or the slight ditch was just used for the rubble of the rampart. To the east of the 'ringwork' is what may be a platform (bailey?) in a wheat field.

It is possible that this site is another adulterine castle, however a more interesting and irregular possibility does offer itself. That is that this site is related to the monastic holding at the nearby Stowe Grange. Stowe was certainly granted to Parc-Grace-Dieu abbey by its founder, John Monmouth Senior (d.1228), probably in the early 1220's. If this structure is related to granges then it would be expected that similar 'ringworks' should exist at other nearby granges. Another such ‘ringwork’ appears to be at Waun Gunllwch (SO.059413) above Gwenddwr, held by the Cistercian monastery of Dore. This too is rated as a 3/4 or ½ ringwork. It would be interesting to see if other sites are to be found in the vicinity of granges. However only excavation is likely to tell if this site was military, religious or agricultural.

 


Copyright©1994-2004 Paul Martin Remfry


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