View across Montgomery towards Long Mynd
Montgomery is the county town of Montgomeryshire. It has a bustling small commercial centre and attracts increasing numbers of tourists. It is best known for its castle, Montgomery Castle, begun in 1223, and its parish church, begun in 1227.
The town’s name is Norman, but the town is in a place with origins much older: an Iron Age hill fort stands on the edge of the town. Other attractions include The Old Bell Museum, the Offa's Dyke Path, the Robber's Grave and the town wall, as well as several impressive buildings. The town is named after the founder of its castle, Roger de Montgomery, a Norman adventurer and key supporter of William the Conqueror, from Sainte-Foy-de-Montgommery in Normandy. In Welsh, the town is Trefaldwyn, meaning "Baldwin’s Town", after a later lord: Baldwin de Bollers, who built a castle at the top of Hen Domen or Castle Hill in 1223-4.
Montgomery lies just three miles from the border of Shropshire and was in its founding days a stronghold guarding the border and the edge of the mountains.
The town was established around a Norman stone castle on a crag. The castle had been built in the early 13th century to control an important ford over the nearby River Severn and replaced an earlier motte and bailey fortification at Hendoman, two miles away. An important supporter of King William I, Roger de Montgomery, originally from Montgomery in Normandy, was given this part of the Welsh Marches by William and his name was given to the town surrounding the castle.
Montgomery was sacked at the beginning of the 15th century by the Welsh rebel prince Owain Glyndŵr. At this time, the castle and surrounding estates were held by the Mortimer family (the hereditary Earls of March) but they came into royal hands when the last Earl of March died in 1425. In 1485, King Richard III was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth and the Royal Estates, including Montgomery and its castle, passed into the hands of the new King, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, and a Welshman by descent. The castle was then given to another powerful Welsh family, the Herberts, in 1541.
During the Civil War, the castle was captured by Parliamentary forces and subsequently slighted (partially demolished) to remove its military threat.
As a county town, Montgomery prospered, and the consequent buildings give the small town its current character.
In 1923 the Montgomeryshire County War Memorial was completed to commemorate fallen soldiers from Montgomeryshire County. The Memorial is found ¾ mile southwest of Montgomery, on a hill overlooking the countryside.
Montgomery was the birthplace of poet George Herbert in 1593.
St Nicholas Parish Church
The parish church was founded in the first half of the 13th century, though the church has continued to change throughout the ages. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the church is the ornate rood screen, misericords and stalls which were transferred to the church from Chirbury Priory in Shropshire after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. The south transept shows evidence of Montgomery's close association with the Herbert family. The centrepiece is the Elizabethan era tomb or church monument to Richard Herbert of Montgomery Castle, father of poet and Anglican divine George Herbert. This association is recalled in a memorial poem to a well-known local man JDK Lloyd, who wrote the following poem after the style of the town's most famous poet, George Herbert:
smoothe, with no entrance found,
yet soone with newest life to overflow
So has thy tombe, by Pilate sealed,
to us that third day Life revealed,
O grant that I, some morning bright,
my earthly Shell, then broke,
may wear, in White,
Richard Herbert, 2nd Baron Herbert of Chirbury, was the last Herbert to have lived at Montgomery Castle and he was buried in the church in 1655.
In 1821 John Davies of Wrexham was sentenced to death by hanging at Montgomery for highway robbery. Throughout his trial, and after the sentence, Davies declared his innocence and prayed that God would not allow the grass to grow on his grave for a hundred years as a sign of his innocence. His grave remained bare for at least a century, giving birth to the legend of the Robber's grave. The grave (now grassed) can still be seen in the churchyard.
- W. R. Williams, The parliamentary history of the principality of Wales, from the earliest times to the present day, 1541-1895 (1895), p. 143
- The Robber's Grave
- 'The Robber's Grave' story
- Montgomery Church in Wales primary school website
- Ann & John Welton 'The Story of Montgomery' Logaston Press 2003
- BBC Wales on Montgomery
- Ivyhouse Tearooms
- The Dragon Hotel and Restaurant with Swimming Pool
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Montgomery and surrounding area