Summary Description and Reason for Designation
The following provides a general description of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period, and, with Grosmont (MM007) and Skenfrith (MM088), is one of the Three Castles. White Castle was probably originally of earth and timber construction,
built shortly after the Norman conquest by William Fitz Osbern to stamp his overlordship on the area. The great mound that the stone castle stands on, its deep surrounding moat and the crescent-shaped hornwork to the south may all have been part of this original castle.
The stone-built castle is the result of two distinct phases of building, about 100 yeards apart. At the south-eastern end of the inner ward are the immensely thick foundations of the earliest stone building of the castle, a small squarish keep dating from the first half of the 12th century. At this time the stone keep would have been surrounded by a timber curtain wall. The stone curtain wall was built in the 1180s; it had no towers and was faceted, and the entrance was located at the southern end, adjacent to the keep. The next great phase of building was undertaken by the crown in the mid-13th century when the castle was granted to Lord Edward (later Edward I). This was his first castle in Wales, the antecedent to all his magnificent castles in North Wales. Works undertaken by Edward involved demolishing the original keep and reorientating the whole castle so the that the entrance was at the north-western end. A strong gatehouse with two round towers, doors, a portcullis and drawbridge was added at the new northern entrance, and round towers were built onto the angles of the curtain wall. Lastly, the outer ward, which may already have existed in timber with a ditch around it, was walled in stone with towers at the angles and a small gatehouse on the south-east side.
All through its life the sole purpose of White Castle was military, and as a deterrent it suceeded admirably for it was never attacked. It is austere and functional; only arrowslits pierce the tower walls, and the moat is exceptionally deep and steep-sided. The only civilian concession was a chapel, whose chancel was on the second floor of the south-east tower and whose nave projected into the inner ward. Simple timber-framed buildings ranged along the interior of the east and west curtain walls within the inner ward: the kitchen with its circular oven on the west, the hall, buttery and pantry on the east and a well, private appartment and deep latrine pit to the south. Troops were probably garrisoned in the outer ward in timber buildings, with the troop commander probably lodging in the north-west tower.
After Edward I's pacification of Wales the castle remained in use as an administrative centre, but by the 16th century had fallen into ruin.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive practices. The monument is well-preserved and an important relic of the medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of both structural evidence and intact associated deposits.
The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.