Longtown and District Historical Society started the Longtown Castles Project in 2015, with the support of a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant. It’s aim is to investigate the origins of the two castles, Ponthendre Motte and Longtown Castle. Both are situated one kilometre apart in the Parish of Clodock and Longtown, south-west Herefordshire.
Why the two castle sites exist in such close proximity has never been properly explained. The motte and bailey at Ponthendre is assumed to be older, as no stone structures are now in evidence. Longtown Castle, on the other hand, still has a stone keep and the remains of stone curtain walls dating from the 13th century. However, it may have had a timber predecessor and is also superimposed on a massive earthwork enclosure, which may be of Iron Age, Roman or Saxon origin.
To explore the origins of both castles, the project has taken a two-pronged approach :
- by examining contemporary documents of the periods involved. Are there new documents to be discovered? Are there new ways of interpreting already-known sources?
- by archaeological survey and excavation. Grateful thanks are due to Historic England for permission to excavate at both sites during 2016 and 2017.
As a community project, it is important to involve as many local volunteers as possible. During 2016, over 40 volunteers took part in the excavations and 24 in historical research. 150 local schoolchildren visited the dig sites and 120 local people attended an exhibition of the season’s results. 6 local artists also produced drawings of the archaeologists at work!
In 2017, 58 volunteers took part in the digs followed by a medieval fun-day attended by over 300 local people. Currently we are preparing education packs for local schools together with booklets on the castles, including one showing a historical trail through Longtown and Clodock.