Unveiling the Secrets of Goodrich Castle: A Journey into Medieval History

One of the goals within my overall long-term photography project is to visit as many castles as I possible can. So when I found myself on a pet sit in the Forest of Dean, I knew Goodrich Castle had to be visited during my stay there! And I am so glad that I did.

The castle is maintained by English Heritage. There is a carpark at the castle with space for several cars. There is also a tearoom at the entrance with outdoor seating, toilets and a small souvenir shop.

Once through the reception/entrance its a little walk along a dirt road before you get the castle, providing time to appreciate the stunning surroundings that the castle stands in.

As you near the castle its size becomes evident.

You enter via the Barbican through the Gatehouse and into the courtyard and you’re immediately transported to times gone by.

Much of the castle walls and rooms are in ruin however there is a lot of information provided by English Heritage on boards around the site including artists impressions of what the rooms would have looked like in their days. Many rooms do remain mostly intact though.

There are steps up to the towers and the keep from which I’m sure you would get an amazing view, sadly due to my vertigo these are always no go zones for me.

Goodrich Castle Key Facts

  • Named after Godric, an English landowner who established the first structure in the late 11th century. The renowned Norman keep was a subsequent addition, built a generation later.
  • In the late 13th century, French nobleman William de Valence revamped Goodrich Castle, transforming it into a cutting-edge fortress for its era. This renovation included advanced defences and sophisticated, complex residential structures.
  • Goodrich Castle suffered extensive damage due to mortar fire during the 1646 Parliamentarian siege in the Civil War. The prolonged two-month conflict led to the surrender of its Royalist garrison.
  • During the Civil War, Parliament employed a locally crafted cannon, Roaring Meg, to forcefully subdue the garrison at Goodrich Castle. This historic mortar, the sole survivor from the Civil War era, is currently exhibited in the courtyard of Goodrich Castle.
  • The overgrown ruins of Goodrich Castle emerged as a popular attraction in the 18th and 19th centuries, drawing visitors keen on exploring the historic monuments and wild landscapes of the Wye Valley.

Goodrich Castle stands majestically on a rocky spur above the River Wye, a silent but powerful witness to many pivotal events in English history. The castle’s imposing grey sandstone walls and medieval design provide an impressive welcome, displaying the might and majesty of a bygone era.

Explore the impressive keep, with its towering walls and breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Delve into the Great Hall’s grandeur, a testament to the high life of Medieval England. Wander the chapel and the buttery, steeping yourself in an era long past, where every stone whispers tales of intrigue and power. Visit the official Goodrich Castle Website for more information on architectural features and visiting times.

The Origins of Goodrich Castle: A Medieval Masterpiece

Its story begins in the 11th century, following the Norman invasion. Originally a wooden structure, it was the Normans who transformed it into a stone fortress, a testament to their architectural prowess and military strategy. This period saw Goodrich Castle evolving from a mere defensive structure to a symbol of Norman power in England. It was initially built by Godric of Mappestone after the Norman conquest, but it wasn’t until the late 12th century when the castle we know today began to take shape under William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Throughout the ages, Goodrich Castle has played host to nobles, witnessed sieges, and endured wars.

The 12th Century: A Time of Turmoil and Transformation

The 12th century was a tumultuous era for Goodrich Castle, marked by the Anarchy – a period of civil war and unrest. It was during this time that the castle underwent significant expansions. The keep, an imposing structure at the heart of the castle, was built, along with additional fortifications. These enhancements not only solidified its defensive capabilities but also turned it into a luxurious residence for its noble occupants.

The Siege of Goodrich Castle: A Pivotal Moment in History

Fast forward to the English Civil War in the 17th century – a pivotal moment for Goodrich Castle. The castle played a significant role in the conflict, changing hands between Royalists and Parliamentarians. The Siege of Goodrich Castle in 1646 was a crucial event, showcasing the castle’s strategic importance. The siege, led by Parliamentarian forces, resulted in substantial damage to the structure, marking the beginning of its decline.

Roaring Meg

The only surviving mortar from the Civil War

The Making of Roaring Meg: A Local Endeavour

Roaring Meg was cast in 1646 specifically for the siege of Goodrich Castle during the English Civil War. It was manufactured near Lydbrook at Howbrook furnace and forge. The owner of the forge, John Browne, is known to have supplied weapons to the Parliamentarians, suggesting a local production of this formidable weapon

Design and Specifications: A Glimpse into 17th Century Warfare

This mortar had a barrel diameter of 15.5 inches (390 mm) and fired a 2 long cwt (220 lb; 100 kg) hollow ball filled with gunpowder. With these specifications, Roaring Meg was the largest mortar used in the English Civil War, making it a significant piece of artillery for its time

Roaring Meg in Action: The Siege of Goodrich Castle

During the siege, Parliamentarians used Roaring Meg to bombard the Royalist garrison into submission, playing a crucial role in the castle’s capture. The siege of Goodrich Castle in 1646 was one of the most hard-fought of the conflict, and Roaring Meg’s firepower was instrumental in the Parliament’s victory. Colonel Birch, the Roundhead commander, was reportedly so excited by this new weapon that he personally fired the last 19 balls

Roaring Meg’s Legacy: A Symbol of Power and Resilience

After its success at Goodrich, Roaring Meg was also deployed at the bombardment of Raglan Castle. It remains the only surviving mortar from the Civil War and has been on display at Goodrich Castle since 2004, preserved by Herefordshire Council. Its presence at the castle today serves as a potent reminder of the tumultuous history of this site​.

Decline and Romantic Ruin: The 18th and 19th Centuries

In the centuries that followed, Goodrich Castle fell into disrepair, becoming the quintessential romantic ruin. It was during the 18th and 19th centuries that the castle captured the imagination of artists and poets, symbolising the sublime power of nature over man’s creations. This era brought a new kind of fame to Goodrich Castle, not as a fortress but as an inspiring ruin, a reminder of a bygone era.

Goodrich Castle in the Modern Day: A Tourist Attraction and Historical Landmark

Today, Goodrich Castle stands as a proud historical landmark, attracting thousands of visitors annually. Managed by English Heritage, it offers a glimpse into medieval life and architecture. Its well-preserved structures, including the chapel, the great hall, and the formidable keep, offer an immersive experience for history enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

Photographing Goodrich Castle: Tips for Capturing Its Medieval Charm

For photography enthusiasts like myself, Goodrich Castle presents endless opportunities. The play of light on its ancient stones, the contrast between the ruins and the lush countryside, and the imposing view of the keep are just a few aspects you can capture.

Points of interest

The Chapel

The eastward-facing tower of the gatehouse contains the chapel, an intriguing architectural choice driven by spatial constraints. This chapel houses a recently restored east window with 15th-century glass designed by Nicola Hopwood, brilliantly illuminating the priest’s seat, or sedile. The altar within is notably ancient, possibly predating the castle itself​

The Great Hall

A centrepiece of medieval social life, the great hall at Goodrich Castle, measuring 20 by 9 metres, was strategically positioned overlooking the River Wye. It featured multiple large windows and a massive fireplace. The design was skilfully integrated into the defensive structure of the bailey, ensuring both luxury and security.

The Solar

Adjacent to the great hall was the solar or great chamber, a private living space typically used by the lord of the castle and his family for relaxation and personal affairs​

The Stables

Located beyond the main bailey walls, the stable block, though now in ruins, still displays its cobble floor. Originally capable of holding around 60 horses, the stables were expanded in the 17th century to accommodate even more


If you have an interest in history then Goodrich Castle is absolutely worth visiting. The audio tour is really informative and really give you a feel of what it must have been like to live in this castle over the centuries.

English Heritage put on several family events through the summer so its a great day out with the kids also.

So if you find yourself in Herefordshire, be sure to add this one to your list of things to do!

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For more information about Goodrich Castle

Check out the English Heritage website for more information, site maps, opening times etc.

Check out a Virtual Tour on English Heritage website

Check out my other blog posts here

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