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St Briavels Castle

St Briavels, Gloucestershire

Featured Location Guide

A moated Norman Castle with a twin-towered gatehouse is situated in the Forest of Dean in a village by the same name. It is believed to have originally been built sometime before 1128. It was seized by King Henry I and garrisoned for the crown. It was then given to Miles de Gloucester, the first Earl of Hereford until in 1155 when his son lost it to King Henry II. By 1209 King John had much of the internal buildings contructed and it had a moat, gatehouse, keep, kitchen, chapel and great hall. Further alterations were made in 1292-3 by Edward I when he built a new gatehouse with twin round towers. The chapel was rebuilt in the 14th century. The keep however was allowed to collapse in 1752. The hall was refronted in the 19th century. The building was made habitable in 1906.

During its history, and here it's not listed in any particular order, it has been:

  • A Royal Hunting Lodge for King John.

  • Headquarters to the Forest's Constable, who administered the Forest and acted as escheator and rent collector for the manors.

  • A court - St. Briavels hundred court was kept at the castle by the constable, usually acting through a deputy. It met every three weeks in theory but in the early 15th century the actual number of sessions each year was 13 or 14, and that was the usual number in the late 16th century,

  • A prison - originally for those indicted by the Forest courts, but later (17th century) used to confine undischarged debtors. A room in one of its gatehouse towers was used in the early 19th century, and rooms above were occupied by the gaoler and his family. He was also allowed to keep an alehouse. In the early 1830s the gaoler allowed the prisoners the run of the castle and sometimes trusted them to wander outside it. Until 1825 they were supported entirely by charity at this time the system changed and they were paid an allowance from the parish poor rates. In 1842 an Act of Parliament abolished the court of pleas and the prison and instead it became a court for recovering debts of up to 15, by 1847 this had also ended when the county court replaced the old system.

  • It also once defended a crossbow bolt factory which used local Forest of Dean iron and supplied arrow-heads to the Tower of London.

  • It has also been a school and a private house.

Today the building itself is a youth hostel,  as it has been since 1948 and therefore there is no access inside the buildings, although you can walk around the Bailey area inside the main gate when open. Access to the moat is available at all times. On our visit the Youth Hostel Manager was around and offered to show us a room inside one of the towers, now one of the Youth Hostel bedrooms, which had an unusual pit in it. It is thought that this pit was used to house those captured that they did not want to get away. It was very deep and the only access was via a trap door in this room. Today it did have a light in it, but in its day it would be have been dark and probably wet not a very hospitable place to be.

The moat no longer has water in it, and in 1961 was partly infilled to create a community garden for the villagers of St Briavels who maintain and look after it. Within the moat area, which you can access through a gate near the entry to the castle, there are some seats, some of which are carved into shapes, a small pond with flowers and water plants surrounding it, and from in here there are opportunities to get pictures from the outside.

Opposite the castle is the local Norman Church.

Be aware that the roads in St Briavels are very narrow, in some places only one car wide, so take care of walkers, children and other pedestrians and cyclists when driving through.

Further information Grid



St Briavels Castle, St Briavels, Gloucestershire

Ceremonial County: Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo:

Multimap Aerial Photo 

Google Aerial Photo 



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:

YHA            Wiki       Castle Info

Village Info and History

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages: Gloucestershire Attractions



Date Updated: 09/2008


Planning Grid


St Briavels Castle, St Briavels, Gloucestershire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

In St Briavels - 7 miles NE of Chepstow off B4228


Bailey - via the gate in the gatehouse. Moat - via a gate by the entrance of the gatehouse and further down the road.


There is a small car park next to it, which is marked for visitors to the Youth Hostel, but there is no parking restrictions on the roads in the village.



Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Gatehouse, bailey

What to take:


Nature highlights:



St Briavels




GL15 6RG



Opening times:

Exterior: Any reasonable time

Bailey: 21st Mar-30 Sept  1pm-4pm daily



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions: No access to inside of buildings.
Special Needs Access:  
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: None specific, but be aware that the dry moat which surrounds the castle is no a public garden for the villagers and there is a small pond in here, so take care if you have children.
Dogs Allowed: No

Page Ref:


Date Updated: 09/2008

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