Parish History

Ewyas Harold is a village and civil parish in the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, England, near to the Welsh border with Monmouthshire and about half way between the towns of Abergavenny and Hereford. The population of this civil parish at the 2011 census was 883.

The village is named after Harold, son of Ralph the Timid earl of Hereford, and grandson of King Æthelred the Unready. It lies on the site of Ewyas Harold Castle, of which only the motte remains.

Ewyas Harold common is a large area of common land within the parish, rich in wildlife. It contains an ancient greenway, meadow saffron (left over from cultivation by the monks at Dore Abbey), and some villagers still have commoner’s rights.

The history of Ewyas can be traced back to the 5th – 6th century AD when the River Severn divided the Kingdom of Mercia from Wales and Clydawg was recorded as King in Ewyas – he being a holy man. Ewyas lay beyond Offa’s dyke and was finally occupied by the English in the 10th century.

Archenfield, Ewyas’ neighbour and an independent kingdom prior to Offa, was annexed to Mercia in the late 8th century.

In 915 AD there were ravages of the ‘Black Pagans’ or Danish Pirates harrying Ewyas and Archenfield and making off with the Bishop of Llandaff.
In 1042 AD on the accession of Edward the Confessor, Herefordshire and its loosely annexed dependencies, Archenfield and Ewyas, were severed from the earldom of Mercia.

This newly forged fifth earldom Godwin (King Harold’s father) gave to his son Sweyn who was banished in 1046.Hereford was then given to Earl Ralph who gave Richard (son of Scrob) land in the north of the county (Richards Castle), while Osbern Pentecost was given Ewyas and they built castles at these locations.

The castle at Ewyas was dismantled in 1052. After the Conquest, William Fitz-Osbern subdued the borders through castle building which included the one at Ewyas Harold which he built for Alured. It would appear that Alured’s (or Alfred’s) castlery included the Castle, inner bailey and borough below it.

The Domesday Book reports a population of about 500. It also appears that the current civil parish of Ewyas Harold was divided into two lost English settlements, Mulstonestone (where Osbern Pentecost built his castle), and Manitone (possibly where the modern village of Ewyas Harold now lies).

The Harold from whom Ewyas takes its name acquired lands at in 1086 AD. Robert his son was responsible for issuing five grants to the monks of the priory at Ewyas as well as founding the Cistercian Abbey at Dore and being benefactor to the Priory of Craswall.