ABERGAVENNY CASTLE 1087 1535 by NEIL PHILLIPS I THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CASTLE The earliest date suggested for the building of the Norman castle at Abergavenny is pre-1087. This has been arrived at from a charter in which Hamelin de Ballon, the builder of the castle, gave to the monks of the Abbey of St. Vincent and St. Lawrence at Le Mans 'the chapel of his castle. and land for making a principle church in which they would serve God, and land for their own dwellings together with more land to build a bourg also' The priory, dated circa 10872 thus post-dates the building of the castle. Further evidence comes from the de Ballon charter in which he also gave 'elsewhere one church with all its appurtenances'.J If this other church was St John's then it already existed prior to 1087, suggesting the presence of an earlier settlement. Further dating evidence exists in the form of some Type VIII silver pennies bearing Abergavenny mintmarks.4 These coins are thought to date to circa 1083- 1086.5 It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that there must have existed some form of a secure, defensive structure in Abergavenny prior to 1086, to allow for such coins to be made. Boon, however, points out that 'Aelfwine', the moneyer, was a common name on Type VIII coins, there being near contemporary examples at both Cardiff and Rhuddlan, amongst others, during the reign of William I. He suggests that the inscription '+IFLIPINE ON FANI' means that the penny was made by Aelfwine for the 'bourg (de) Fenni' rather than minted at Abergavenny.6 Hamelin de Ballon's castle is likely to have been a motte and bailey construction as this was the norm at the time. A watching brief on the E tower in 1990 seems to have confirmed this premise, when core infill was interpreted as having come from an adjacent free standing bank.7 That bank, the much-reduced motte, now has the museum building on it. In 1188 Gerald of Wales described the castle as having a master tower surrounded by ditches and walls.8 Further detail is furnished by Gerald in his praise of the bowmanship of the men of Gwent when he records that .two men-at-arms were rushing across a bridge to take refuge in the tower which had been built on a great mound of earth.9 It is not certain if the castle was still a wooden construction at this time for neighbouring castles such'as Bronllys had already acquired a stone keep by 1175.10 Whatever the construction of the castle, Brut y Tywysogyon records that Richard Marshal had it completely destroyed in 1233.11 It is probable therefore that any surviving medieval ruins today post-date 1233. An