Edward Hunt's Forest of Dean Miscellany

Fact, Fiction and Fantasy

St. Briavel's Castle

This piece is from volume IV of a series of books called "Antiquarian and Topographical Cabinet" published in 1806. It is an interesting contemporary description of St. Briavel's Castle.

It does, however, contain an error which occurs in all editions of the book that I have seen: In line two, Milo Fitz Walter is said to have founded St. Briavel's Castle in the reign of King Henry VI. Milo was, in fact, a contemporary of King Henry I, Empress Mathilda and King Stephen. At one point in his colourful career he was an active supporter of Empress Mathilda in her struggle with her cousin Stephen. His reward was a grant from her of St. Briavel's castle and the whole Forest of Dean.

The other curiosity is that the poem extract at the end of the piece is from "Leeds" by John Dyer and describes a completely different landscape.

Edward Hunt 2013



This Castle has for it founder Milo Fitz-Walter, earl of Hereford, who, in the reign of Henry VI. found it necessary to check the incursions of the Welsh, and to secure his ample possessions in this neighbourhood, by the erection of this fortress. In his family it continued about a century, when it reverted to the crown by forfeiture : its constables have, ever since that period, been appointed by the king, and hold their situations by royal pleasure.

The site of the Castle is surrounded by a moat, and comprehends an extent of nearly 500 yards. The north-west front, which is nearly all that escaped the ravages of time, consists of two circular towers, three stories high, separated by a gateway, having an elliptical arch ; there is a small bridge thrown across the moat, over which the Castle is entered. Within the above-mentioned towers are several hexagonal apartments, whose walls are eight feet thick ; one of these rooms is now used as a prison. In the interior of the Castle are two gateways, still nearly entire, of similar dimensions to that by which these ruins are entered. On the right of the entrance are the remnants of a large apartment, with painted windows ; and on the left, vestiges of a magnificent hall.

Near the centre of the site of this Castle is a low building, which serves as an anti chamber to the room in which the officers of the hundred, that St. Briavel's is situated in, assemble to hold their courts. This room appears from the date M D L X V I I on one of the beams, to have been fitted about that time. On the highest rampart once stood the keep, which consisted of a large square tower above 100 feet in height, flanked by two small towers, about half that height, with walls of great thickness. Of this portion of the Castle the greater part fell down in the year 1754, and the remainder twenty years afterwards : large masses of the ruins of the keep yet remain on the spot, adhering together by the strength of the cement. The eye of the traveller dwells with the sweetest complacency upon the beautiful and romantic scenery that surrounds these venerable ruins, the prospects from which are uncommonly extensive, and in the highest degree gratifying.

"— Wide around

Hillock and valley, farm and village, smile ;

And ruddy roofs and chimney tops appear

—up wafting to the clouds

The incense of thanksgiving."


Antiquarian and Topographical Cabinet,

Containing a Series of Elegant Views

of the Most Interesting Objects of Curiosity

in Great Britain

Accompanied with Letter-Press Descriptions.


James Storer & John Grieg


Published for the Proprietors by

W. Clarke, New Bond Street ;

J. Carpenter, Old Bond Street

Sherwood, Neely and Jones, Paternoster Row.


 For other articles featuring St. Briavels,
          click on one of the links below:

          Hundred of St. Briavels
          St. Briavels
          St. Briavels Castle

          St. Briavels: Celtic Iron Mines
          St. Briavels: Domesday Book
          St. Briavelstowe
          St. Briavel's Stowe: Christianity in the Forest

Edward Hunt