The castle played no recorded part in Glyndwr’s rebellion (1400-1410), and it seems that by then the Mortimer family had abandoned it. There were no finds of 15th century material. For the next six centuries the castle was eroded by autumn storms and winter frosts. The friable state of the stonework, the poor mortar and the loss of the roughcast weather-coat on an exposed hill top site have posed considerable problems of masonry conservation for Cadw architects.
Geophysical and geochemical surveys were conducted in the town area west of the castle. This enabled some house platforms to be identified, along with a palisade and a probable base for a circular stone-built dovecote. The town was replaced by a grange or farm during the English occupation. In 1279 Roger Mortimer founded Newtown on the valley floor as a direct successor to this Welsh hilltop town. The ditch east of the castle sheltered a mid18th-century cottage built with stone robbed from the castle, but having a brick chimney base. This confirmed the accuracy of a drawing of the castle by Moses Griffiths’ in 1776. That drawing had provided the first evidence for the north tower – otherwise unsuspected before excavation started, though with hindsight an uneven area on the north hill-slope was the apron of debris derived from the erosion of the tower.
There was no evidence either on Griffiths’ drawing or on the ground for any protective walling across the west ditch to prevent attackers from infiltrating the ditch and storming the drawbridge at the castle’s main entrance. However both link walls were found by excavation, that on the south was still intact whilst that on the north had been much reduced by stone robbing.
Two of the three excavation reports have been published in Archaeologia Cambrensis and the final one is due out in 2005. The post-excavation processing of finds is in progress with some specialist reports already completed. Only pottery and bone occurred in large quantities. The Welsh phase was aceramic, but the English occupation showed a reliance on pottery from Herefordshire (the Mortimers’ home area), Chester and Bristol with a few French and Spanish imports. The bone was analysed to show how the different proportions of cattle, sheep, pig and deer varied throughout the castle’s lifespan, but also indicated that different species of deer were hunted at the various phases. Both sea and river fish augmented the diet, which also included mussels and cockles from the west coast of Wales and oysters from the east coast of England.
The other finds showed the differences between the discards of construction (iron hammers and axe-heads, lead pay-tokens and plumb-bobs, crucibles with copper slag, mortar mixing floors) and the debris of military life (over 50 andesite catapult balls quarried from Montgomery castle’s rock, scraps of chain mail, an iron dagger with an inlaid blade and a few arrowheads). There were the casual losses of civilian life (copper alloy hat badges and belt buckles, a Rhineland lava quern, silver pennies and bronze jettons, legs broken from flagons or ewers, lead archaeologycurrent 232 197
Above The North Tower, showing the original doorway and stairs.
Below General view of the excavation, looking west towards the keep.