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ST BRIAVELS CASTLE

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St Briavels Castle is situated on the edge of a steep scarp above the River Wye and is believed to have been sited on this spot to control a nearby ford at Bigsweir. The castle is thought to have been built on the site of an earlier motte and bailey, which was constructed after William Fitz Baderon acquired the estate in 1086 AD. A square stone keep over 100 feet high was constructed on top of the motte in the 12th century. Between 1209 and 1211, there were extensive additions to the castle including a domestic range, providing 'royal apartments', and a twin towered gatehouse. The gatehouse was rebuilt by Edward I between 1292 and 1293, which is the main structure that can be seen today. In the 14th century a chapel was built in the castle ward. St Briavels Castle was the Crown's administration centre for the Forest of Dean and numerous royal visitors during it's history included King John, Henry II and Edward II. It was one of a sequence of castles along the border built as a defensive strategy against the Welsh. However it was also used as a seat of legal administration including the Hundred Court, the Court Baron of the manor and castle, the Court of Criminal jurisdiction and the Mine-Law Court as well as a prison. Furthermore the castle served as an arsenal for locally produced weaponry. Following the conquest of Wales in the late 15th century the importance of the castle declined. In 1680, several parts were demolished, in 1752 the keep collapsed and in 1777 the east tower collapsed. It was used as a prison until 1842 before restoration in the late 19th century and use as a youth hostel from 1952. The extant remains mainly date from the 13th century and include a dry moat, rubble curtain walls, parts of the square keep, the domestic range, the site of the hall, and the twin towered gatehouse with a defended passage.

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