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Begun c.1067 as one of the very first stone castles in Britain, Chepstow's building periods cover several centuries. Standing on a natural limestone ridge whose north face falls in a steep vertical cliff into the River Wye, it was started by William FitzOsbern, whom the Conqueror had recently made Earl of Hertford, and his first work became the first stone great tower in Britain. It was a substantial quadrilateral two-storey building, about 30.5 x 12.2 metres (100 x 40 ft), standing on a splayed plinth, with the ground scarped away from its south side. In the mid-thirteenth century, the upper story had an extra story added at the west end which, towards the end of that century, was extended for the rest of the tower's length, to give a three-storied great tower, with a cellar of unequal dimensions. Interestingly, different types of stone were used in the construction of the . tower, notably old red sandstone, yellow sandstone and great oolite rock.
The next stage was a thick curtain wall on the east side of the ridge, with cylindrical towers and a gate. This work was carried out by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, c.1190-1220. It divided the central bailey from the lower bailey. Almost immediately after that, c.1225-50, the great tower was heightened, the upper (western) bailey was constructed, and next to it the interesting barbican with cylindrical tower at the south; the central bailey southern wall was raised, and also the lower (eastern) bailey received its easterly curtain and a twin-cylindrical- great gatehouse, three stories high; this had a prison in the northern tower, which contained only an airshaft. From c.1270-c.1300, the western gatehouse was built at the extreme west end of the barbican and various domestic buildings were erected in the lower bailey. At the south-east comer of the lower bailey, a huge D-end tower was built (later called Martens Tower after Henry Marten, the regicide, imprisoned there after
Dave B'ham, 43, from Europe, wrote:
Towering over the river Wye, protecting fair England from the wild Welsh, is Chepstow castle. Its big, and claims to be the earliest stone castle in the UK. As an experienced castle viewer, its hairy chested mans castle without the frippery of the Castle/palaces on sometimes see. I'd go a lot with Susan Sweeney on taking the road to Tintern Abbey. Well worth the trip.
Susan Sweeney, 35, from Texas USA, wrote:
If you get the opportunity to visit Chepstow Castle, do take the time to examine the displays and dioramas that have been put on exhibit in the areas of the castle closest to the admissions gate. The display and recording in Welsh of kitchen life was particularly creative and interesting. However, the video display regarding the experimentation that had been done at the castle concerning the capacities and construction of various instruments of siege stands as one of the most education displays I have seen at castles in Europe. A lot of effort has been put into this castle by the local government and their interest shows through in the quality of the presentation. Beyond that, the castle itself is a lovely example of its kind with a keen view of the Wyre River below. Approaching it from the car park is a bit deceptive. The structure is much larger than it appears from that angle, but is not prohibitive for a casual visit. Well worth the stop if you find yourself in the southern part of Wales. Do make the short trip to Tintern Abbey while you are in the neighborhood.