This booklet on Clifford castle is the latest fruit of Paul's meticulous research of the documentary and building evidence bequeathed by these castles. Clifford was one of the earliest points of entry for the Anglo-Norman conquerors as they pushed from the relative security of England down the river valleys of Wales. It is amongst the earliest of the castles of the area and retained its military significance for over two centuries. Its story, and that of its lords (who early adopted the surname Clifford) is closely intertwined with the histories of England and Wales across these generations. It is also a story with its fair share of human interest - be it the Fair Rosamund whose looks captivated Henry II or the last buccaneering Clifford, Walter, who had the temerity to command a royal messenger to eat the royal seal for daring to serve a royal writ in his frontier zone.
Paul Remfry tells the story of this castle and its family in close detail. That is one of the prerogatives of the local historian. Unlike the general historian he can concentrate closely on his chosen topic or area and bring out the rich textures of its life in the past. But in so doing he also enriches general history, for the reverberations of the local story resonate through the histories of Wales and England in these years. Those who are interested in Clifford castle and the surrounding area are now fortunate that they have a detailed and closely-documented account to hand. The work of Paul Remfry and his like performs an invaluable service for historians, local and general. It is an honour and pleasure to recommend it.
Professor R.R. Davies, Aberystwyth, The University College of Wales
Review on Intute, Best of the Web
Anglo-Norman castles : Paul Martin Remfry
This is the informative and well-illustrated site of the historian, Paul Remfry (a contributing editor to the Castles of Wales website). He is the author of publications focussing on castles found along the Marches, (the borderland between England and Wales), and the conflicts that arose between Marcher Lords and native Welsh rulers. The author's writing is enthused with detail and asides that provide a real flavour of life in the castles of Wales and the borders of England in the medieval period. The style of writing is very like storytelling, (indeed there is a preview of a novel still in progress), and includes reference not only to major players (such as Henry III and Edward I and their lords, also Owain Glyndwr and the Llywelyns of Gwynedd) but to the constables of the castles, their families, and their men-at-arms.The site features up-to-date information about Remfry's published works, as well as planned works: bibliographical information; brief descriptions; reviews; photographs; and other illustrations. It is possible to purchase these publications direct. Books listed include "The Battles of Wales, 1055 to 1295". The battles are listed here, (location, year, date, also the magnitude ranging from skirmish to campaign), and there are hyperlinks to the relevant publications elsewhere on the site. These include booklets on the castles in: Wales - Glamorgan, Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys (including separate volumes for Breconshire, Montgomery, and Radnorshire); and England - Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire. Mr Remfry is a member of the Marches Guide Association, that offers tours, lectures, and trips to the castles located in the Marches, and details of these activities are included here. There are links to further castle resources on the Web, including a direct link to all of Remfry's contributions (the numerous essays and photographs) to the Castles of Wales website.Alun Edwards and Samantha Letters, 27 June 2007
Betty Parkinson has passed
on to me a recently published book or thesis on Clifford Castle
and has suggested I review it in the forthcoming Newsletter. This
will enable all Members to either order a copy direct from the
author/publisher, their nearest bookshop, or even the local library.
The thesis already has a Foreword by Professor R.R.Davies of the
University College of Wales, where Remfry took his degrees, and
I go along with all he writes in praise of the work and research
very obviously done in order to arrive at these most interesting
findings. Although the title is Clifford Castle what could be
written about the place without mentioning the Cliffords themselves?
So here we have a detailed history where both are interconnected.
The author has given very clear notes on the source material he has used and as there are some 230 such entries accompanying the text his study has certainly been in-depth. His accompanying maps and photographs of the remains of the castle are good and take the reader back in time. Those of us who have visited the castle will clearly recognise all the close-ups.
This monograph does not take the place of what appears in The House of Clifford by any means for that referred to the Cliffords alone . This gives a wider picture of the Lords of Clifford, their changing fortunes and the trials and tribulations of the Marchers up to 1299. The concessionary price to Association Members is £8.50 ... and is worth it.
R.N. Clifford, Founder of Clifford Association, Vol 34
"I found the depth of history regarding the Lords of Clun fascinating. And certainly not ignored is the Welsh involvement in such an important castle. Each page has full references as to where these histories are taken from. An excellent product."
"A very bold venture which deserves to succeed. Paul is to be congratulated on his zeal and industry. A must for the serious castle student and for anyone else with a desire for local history. The booklets are an attempt to record all that is known of the early history of the sites and their owners together with the latest interpretation of the castle remains complete with interpretative plans, maps and photographs. In A4 format, they are printed and bound by Paul to a high standard and are obtainable direct."
Herefordshire Archaeological News No 62
"These works contain facts derived from the original, mostly Latin sources, and are not compilations of the work of antiquarians of dubious authority. Consequently these booklets contain the evidence for the development of castles, not just in Herefordshire, but throughout the feudal world. As such they are a boon for both the professional archaeologist and historian as well as anyone simply interested in the history of what really occurred on their own door step!"
Herefordshire Archaeological News No 65
"For some there is only limited information available, but for others the author has discovered a surprising number of facts about the backgrounds and history of the castles. He weaves this information with his knowledge of the history of the period and examination of what lies on the ground, to create a picture of each castle, its owners, uses and eventual demise. To those interested in castles, it provides an invaluable guide. Indeed, to those wanting enjoyment tracking down obscure sites it can provide wonderful entertainment."
Heart of Wales Chronicle, Issue 39.
Paul Remfry is a historian with a passion for castles, their history, archaeology, and architecture. He is also a computer consultant. The result of this combination is a series of comb-bound booklets, some only covering one castle, others dealing with a cluster. So far most are about castles in Wales and the Marches, though others have crept in... They are not cheap, but they manage to be both detailed and lively, well-referenced and easily digested. A very acceptable popular version of Remfry's academic work.
Nina Crummy, Editor, RESCUE News, No.71
Paul Remfry has assembled the extensive documentary history of a castle owned by kings and queens, magnates, earls, and chancellors in turn. He describes the dramatic siege by Louis, dauphin of France, in 1216 and the building works both before and after the event. A full account is given of the surviving traces of the castle, with its own arguments for their dates and function.
Dr Derek Renn, Hertfordshire Countryside, March 1999
It is an ideal guide for those who want to brush up on local history or who want to enjoy tracking down obscure sites in the countryside.
The County Times & Express & Gazette, 18 October 1996
This is an excellent guidebook, enlivened by its historical summary, and a valuable pocket companion for the interested traveller.
Nina Crummy, Rescue News, No.70
Castles of Breconshire forms part of a series
(Monuments in the Landscape) to which the author has already contributed
The Castles of Radnorshire, The study of castles in a Welsh or
Marcher context will always provide a continuing fascination for
castellologists because of the role castles played in the ebb
and flow of Anglo-Norman and Celtic politics and settlement.
The book starts with a useful commentary on the main written sources for the subject, though this is by way of an explanatory note rather than specific citation of sources. Indeed, one of the challenges facing the author (as so often in this sort of study) is how best to explain the context for the many (some 30 out of 50) sites which have no documentation at all.
The first half of the book is a narrative of the long and troubled history of the lordships of Brecon and Builth in which the castles lay. The complexities of family history, of the relations of Welsh princes, Marcher lords and kings of England are well emphasised and the essay makes an interesting read as well as providing the background for the building, occupation and (occasional) demolition of the castles. Pitching such an essay at the right level, however, is no easy task and it might be argued that the author gives too much detail for the casual reader but not enough to satisfy the professional (who would also need to see specific citation of written sources). The second half of the book is a site-by-site gazetteer in which the remains of the castles are described and their historical context given (or suggested, where there is room for debate). The entries are illustrated with plans and photographs and for each the NGR and information on access (or lack of) is provided.
The gazetteer will be a useful "pocket guide" to anyone intent on a visiting itinerary. Although there are limits to what can be described in a book of modest size, one very clear message comes across: the variety of physical forms employed in a fairly restricted geographical area. Here we find ringworks, mottes (with/without baileys), earthworks with stonework, earthworks without (implying timber construction), towers rectangular, towers circular and strong gatehouses.
Despite having studied medieval castles for over thirty years, this reviewer continues to be struck by the diversity of form which characterised the castle-building centuries. In comparison with the more stereotyped fortifications of the Roman and modern eras, medieval castles revealed the particularity of their builders' wishes just as did medieval churches. Despite the recurrence of some elements of design, medieval castles were the product of societies in which individuality flourished. The 'individual' was not a product of the so-called Renaissance.
Dr R.A. Higham, Castle Studies Group Newsletter 13
Castles of Breconshire by Paul Remfry
Monuments in the Landscape 8
Paperback, 196pp, 50 photographs, maps and plans. £8.95
The castle's of Wales and the marches are
Paul Remfry's passion. His work on some has been self-published
(RN71), but others are under the Logaston Press imprint (RN70).
A historian specialising in medieval Wales, Remfry is notable
for getting his feet out from under his desk and tramping the
countryside to look at what remains of the castles built by the
men he studies. Often nothing remains of the structures but a
small motte, others are reasonably well preserved.
The first part of the book consists of the history of the Norman conquest of Breconshire, with all the intrigues and marital alliances mixed in with the building, occupation, destruction and rebuilding of Brecon castle and its surrounding companions, great and small. Most of Breconshire was only ever briefly again in Welsh hands, but it was still the scene of overspilling conflict and dispute between neighbour lords and with the English kings. Fascinating as the history is, the second part of the book may end up being more well-thumbed. The castles are presented in their historical groupings, such as lordship or cantref, with each entry prefaced by notes on state of preservation, location and access invaluable information for either a casual or pre-planned visit. Details of construction and occupation follow, together with a description of the visible remains. This whole series is an invaluable guide to both the traveller and the armchair reader. Period and place are evoked in the text and the illustrations, the books are clearly set out for rapid reference and fit comfortably in a pocket.
Nina Crummy, Rescue News 1999