Paul Martin Remfry

Paul Martin Remfry has been working on medieval history, genealogy and building analysis since 1981.  This has resulted in him publishing books and articles on the subject for more than thirty years.  He was a founding member of the Castle Studies Group in 1987 and is currently vice-chairman of the Mortimer History Society.  In 2010 he stood for Parliament in Cheshire. 

Having spent most of his life in Wales or the Welsh Marches, Remfry earned a master of philosophy degree by thesis in 1989 at Aberystwyth university.  He studied under Professors Rees Davies and J.Beverley Smith, both respected Welsh historians. In a preface to Remfry's book on Clifford Castle, Davies endorsed Remfry as a "meticulous" researcher, with a "passion" for telling the stories of castles and the people who lived in them. Remfry has worked as an independent researcher for more than thirty years, during which time he has published more than 20 books and 23 academic booklets on the medieval history and buildings of Britain and Normandy. In his work, he is known for his ability to locate and decipher source documents from the Middle Ages written in Medieval French and Latin, which lends an extra level of authority to his work.

Remfry's expertise on medieval castles, genealogy and history is shared with the public through several means. He leads tours of castles and ancient sites in and near Wales, maintains two web sites on medieval castles, has written numerous articles for academic journals such as British Archaeology, Archaeology in Wales, Shropshire Archaeology and History, Transactions of the Radnorshire Society, Castle Studies Group and Woolhope Archaeological Research Section, and he lectures throughout the United Kingdom.  His website is described as ‘An excellent resource' on Medieval English Genealogy.

Remfry has appeared as an historian and castle expert on:
Dan Snow's Norman Walks: Season 1, Episode 2 , Herefordshire and Monmouthshire: The March of Wales (11 Aug. 2010)  
‘Restoration, Wilton Castle', BBC2, 2008
‘The Masters - James St Georges' for Sky History by Circlevision, 2004 

He has given talks on castles and history for BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester and Radio Wyvern.
His talk on the Herefordshire Beacon can be found here.

Some of his published works include
A Political Chronology of Wales 1066 to 1282 (ISBN 1-899376-46-1).  This is an annual breakdown of events taken from original sources dealing with Wales and the English Marcher counties.
Annales Cambriae.  A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E.164/1 (ISBN 1-899376-81-X). 
This is the only full translation of the Annales into English.  The extensive introduction chronicles the creation of these unique annals and their effect upon British history. 
Berkhamsted Castle and the families of the Counts of Mortain, the Earls of Cornwall and the Crown (ISBN 9781899376483) 
Castell Bwlch y Dinas and the Families of Fitz Osbern, Neufmarché, Gloucester, Hereford, Braose, Fitz Herbert (ISBN 1-899376-79-8).  This book examines the early Norman penetrations of the Welsh Marches and the peculiar refortification of a hillfort.
Castell Carreg Cennen and the Families of Deheubarth, Giffard, Talbot and Lancaster(ISBN 1899376).  This book examines the evidence on how the castle was most likely built by the Welsh princes of Deheubarth, rather than an absentee landlord, who appears never to have visited the site.  This is contrary to what is often proclaimed in many current ‘histories without evidence'!
Grosmont Castle and the families of Fitz Osbern, Ballon, Fitz Count, Burgh, Braose and Plantagenet of Grosmont (ISBN 1-899376-56-9).  This examines an early lordship castle in the Welsh Marches that may have been built in stone from the first.
Medieval Battles, 1055 to 1295 (ISBN 9781899376).  A detailed account built up from original documents about how armies were formed and used.  Contains detailed discussions and illustrations of knights and their armour.

Montgomery Castle a royal Fortress of King Henry III (ISBN 1-899376-49-6) 
Moreton Corbet Castle and the Families of Verley, Toret and Corbet (ISBN 1899376615) 
Native Welsh Dynasties of Rhwng Gwy A Hafren, 1066 to 1282 (ISBN 1899376844).  This shows the creation and destruction of a kingdom in central Wales.  Welsh History Review, Vol. 18, nos. 1-4 1996-97, p.735-6, notes on this, "Remfry provides an important new consideration of the career of Cadwallon ap Madog, proclaiming his impressive power with implications for our view of the developments of pura Walia".
The Political History of Abbey Cwmhir, 1176 to 1282 and the Families of Elystan Glodrydd, Mortimer and the Princes of Gwynedd (ISBN 1-899376-47-X)  "This fine book is a very significant contribution not only to Welsh monastic history, but also to our understanding of the Middle March in those years.  It deserves to be widely read." David H. Williams, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A.
Skenfrith Castle, 1066 to 1449 and the families of Fitz Osbern, Ballon, Fitz Count, Burgh, Braose and Plantagenet of Grosmont (ISBN 1-899376-70-4) 
The Castles and History of Radnorshire  (ISBN 1-899376-82-8).  Following on from the Logaston book on the same subject, this revisits the project adding a plan of each castle as well as all the detailed history which has come to light over the ten interceding years.  The book is full of history and plans.
The Herefordshire Beacon and the Families of King Harold II and the Earls of Hereford and Worcester (ISBN 1-899376-73-9).  This book examines the history and archaeology of a major ‘hillfort' which the evidence suggests to be nothing of the sort!
White Castle and the families of Fitz Osbern, Ballon, Fitz Count, Burgh, Braose and Plantagenet of Grosmont (ISBN 1-899376-75-5).  The history of this site shows how the castle devolped from the earliest conquest to its major rebuilding by Earl Hubert Burgh and not the Lord Edward as has been repeatedly asserted without evidence.
Whittington Castle and the families of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, Peverel, Maminot, Powys and Fitz Warin (ISBN 1-899376-80-1).  This important work shows the disintegration of the Kingdom of Powys between 1100 and 1200 and examines the support given by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth to his relatives and in-laws of this district.  For the first time the reasons for Prince Llywelyn's attack on the district are explained – a subject that perplexed even the great J.E. Lloyd. 

The state of play in 1998

This site details some of the work that has been undertaken by Paul Martin Remfry on his continuing researches to uncover the history and archaeology of our many castles in the British Isles.

At the time of writing in 1998 Paul has just passed into his 37th year. This means that he has been visiting castles for the past third of a century! Since 1984 these visits have become more exacting and Paul has undertaken a systematic trawl of our national and international archive resources which has resulted in an augmentation of his great understanding of the lives of our Medieval forebears. In 1984 he received an Honours degree from the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and in 1989 surpassed this with a Master's degree by Thesis on The Princes of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, 1066 to 1282. This thesis, taken under the supervision of Professor R.R. Davies, was a defining point in Paul's career. This work was in many ways ground breaking, not least because it attempted to tie the architectural remains of castles into the history of the owning families. In the early days when Paul visited castles it struck him that the potted histories he received on site would as a rule contradict one another as to ownership and dates. It was at Aberystwyth that it was ground into Paul that any written history is valueless unless it is underpinned with the original historical fact that underlies any modern assertion. Generally much of what passes for our history of Medieval castles today is valueless. Worse indeed it is often misleading. Many times the guess of a good Medieval scholar has been transformed by later writers, with no good grasp of their subject, into fact. The original source of the historian is lost and his qualifying comments ignored. This helps explain why so much of our castle history is shrouded in darkness.

Listed in the book  index are the publications which Paul has already produced and also those sites on which he is currently undertaking research. There are in the United Kingdom and France many hundreds of castles the history of which is currently obscure. This research is intended to throw fresh light onto this subject. Furthermore it must be emphasised that this work is not done through idle speculation, but through an in-depth and time-consuming study of Medieval manuscripts which once belonged to the kings, clerics, lords or princes who once held the land on which these castles were built. From these sources combined with observation of the remains of the castles it is then possible to speculate, often with some degree of exactitude, as to who built these castles and why, as well as what became of them.

Banished are such works of poor scholarship which claim over and over again such phrases as 'this castle was built c.1200 as it is mentioned in a document of 1215'. In its place a detailed profile of the owning family is built up, often for hundreds of years before the castle concerned was even constructed. Only in this manner is it possible to look at a site and state 'the history of the owning family would suggest that this castle was not commenced before 1155 and that it was standing and fully defensible by 1186'. In this manner the oft repeated fallacy that Wilton Castle in Herefordshire was built 'in the reign of King Stephen, 1135-54' can be dismissed by a judicious use of historical evidence, even if the lady of the castle, protecting her rights in 1292, claimed that the barony of Wilton had existed at Wilton castle since the days of Edward the Confessor who died in 1066! In a similar manner the oft stated fallacy that a structure dates to c.1260 because there is a tower within the country which is also dated (by the same inaccurate means) to this date. The mere historical fact that this district of Wales had been overwhelmed by the Welsh princes in 1258 and held by them with the castle in ruins until 1277, should of course not violate this sacred cow of 'truth'!

Castle designs, like building designs today, were not uniform. Some styles were anachronistic and others were avant guard. The old belief that there was a castle building sequence that passed from square to octagonal to round towers does not hold true, though like all things there is an element of truth in it. Such 'truth', however, is not greater than historical research at a site which upsets 'traditional' dating. If you want to hear of what actually happened at a castle 'warts and all' then this is the site for you. Do you want to know which great castles are almost entirely fake? They were not just patched up in the Victorian era, but in one or two cases they were actually rebuilt from the foundations up. In one case the castle even seems to have been 'rebuilt' at an entirely different location! So if you want to find out about the history, standing remains and excavation reports on castles read on. Perhaps before you look at what is available you may care to read a few reviews?

Would you like to know more about the writings of Paul Martin Remfry or see some of his essays? Then take a look at some of his work already published on the Castle of Wales Web site by clicking on this link.

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