White Castle, along with Skenfrith and Grosmont, is one of three castles built to protect one of the main routes through the border region between England and South Wales. In the late 1130's King Stephen brought all three castles together under a single Lordship that controlled the 'Three Castles' as one defensive unit.
In the 1180's White Castle appears to have been the first of the Three Castles to be rebuilt in stone. White Castle was originally called Llantilio Castle, but gained its new name from the white plaster rendering that covered the walls. In the early 13th century Hubert de Burgh held the lordship of the Three Castles. He built modern stone castles at Grosmont and Skenfrith, but left the existing stone defences at White Castle. Unlike the other two castles White Castle appears to have been mainly a military outpost rather than a home for a noble family.
In the 1260's Llywelyn ap Gruffud led a Welsh rebellion, gaining control of land to within a few miles of the Three Castles. The original stone defences at White Castle, which had not been rebuilt by Hubert de Burgh, were now out of date. To counter the threat of attack by Llywelyn, the defences at White Castle were improved. A new twin towered gatehouse was built at the northern end of the ward and the original gate to the south was reduced for use as a postern. A square Norman keep was demolished and the stone used to build up the curtain wall at the south. To the north of the new gatehouse an earlier earthwork was enclosed within a stone curtain wall with circular towers and a gatehouse. The entire castle was surrounded by a deep water-filled moat.
The attack from Llywelyn never came, and following Edward I's conquest of Wales and the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in 1282, the military importance of the Three Castles was greatly reduced. By the 16th century all three castles had been abandoned and were falling into ruin.
- By minor roads from B4233 near Llantilio Crossenny
- White Castle, Llantilio Crossenny, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 8UD
- CADW. Open to the public. Admission fee
- For further information visit cadw.wales.gov.uk
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