Dolforwyn castle was soon captured by the English, and we wanted to see what changes might have been made by its new rulers. Dolforwyn needed to be placed within the contexts of Welsh and English aristocratic society; and we thought we might also learn something of the strength of the local economy and its reliance upon more distant sources of supply. The display of this castle would emphasise the contrast with the nearby English castle of Montgomery. Digging began in 1981 mainly with students from Leeds University, and was completed in 2000 with students from York University, former Leeds students, and local and overseas volunteers.
As the castle’s plan and architecture was uncovered from the mounds of collapsed masonry and undisturbed floors, it was possible to see the structure in its military and domestic context. In the Welsh phase the friable building material – the local grey-brown siltstone – was protected by an outer coat of white roughcast, with only sparing use of sandstone for door jambs and window heads. The plan consisted initially of a round tower 22ft. (6.7m) internal diameter at the east end, overlooking a deep ditch, and a rectangular tower, the keep, 48ft by 26ft (14.7m x 8m) near the west end, controlling the entrance and the west ditch. These two towers were linked by straight lengths of curtain walls, with a third tower on the north. This tower projected from the curtain wall in a Dshaped plan and still retained much of its original white roughcast coating on the outer face of both the tower and an adjoining latrine block. Unexpectedly there was an impressive doubledoored south gateway with a ramp cut into the rock leading from the gateway into the central courtyard. Forming the north range was a higher quality suite of rooms. In an area first used for a corn-drying kiln was built a two-storey range, with an upper-floor hall approached from a defended stair. This hall had a wooden floor but the hearth was supported on a circular stone pillar, like that at Castell-y-Bere near Dolgellau. The walls of the undercroft stood up to 10ft (3m) high with the openings for doorways and windows.
The castle design was firmly within the vocabulary of Welsh fortification with one significant difference. All the earlier castles took their plan from the hilltop on which they were situated, either a roughly circular summit or a long narrow ridge. Dolforwyn and its contemporary, Dinas Bran near Llangollen, were rectangular courtyards imposed on hilltops whose slopes were then made steeper by quarrying. Otherwise the elements of towers and gates were archaeologycurrent 230 197