Porthamal Tower

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NamePorthamal Tower
Alternative NamesPorthamel; Porthamael; Great Porthaml
Historic CountryBrecknockshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

Site of C15th manor house attested by fortified perpendicular gateway and barn with C15th-C16th doorways. No other extant medieval remains. Formerly seat of William Vaughan a local sheriff of 1539. (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Located axially on the approach to Great Porth-amel farmhouse, below the NW side of the main road from Talgarth to Hay. History: Gatehouse to the major medieval manor house of the area, the Vaughan family seat, and providing access through what Leland described as 'a strong wall embatteled' enclosing a precinct around the the seat of the Vaughan family, which had been largely demolished by the early C19. Exterior: Two storey gatehouse, late C15, red sandstone with some lighter coloured stone, stone slate roof. Wide 4-centred carriage arches, similar both at front and back, with hood moulding, the outer arch having a segmental inner arch to permit the closing of gates. Ashlar sides show scars for precinct wall with wall walk and parapet, which remained as late as 1911. Large window from stair on N side, behind wall. Upper floor has 2-light windows with hood moulds. Crenellated parapet, stepping up to accommodate head of stair in NE corner. Pyramidal roof behind C19 timber gates. Carved gargoyles. Interior: Within the through carriageway, the walls are rendered and the vault carried on ribs springing from stilted round-moulded corbels, the ribs having an ogee and hollow chamfer. Chamfered door to stair in N wall, rising past a large window to the first floor chamber. Chamber has 2-light windows in square heads, inset, the spandrels with outer casement mouldings. Original ferrumenta but no glazing line. A fireplace within a depressed arch set in a chimney breast slightly forward of the S wall, with a relieving arch over. Wall stair continues to the slabbed wall walk. Listed I as a rare survival of a medieval domestic gatehouse, being one of only 3 in Powys, and one including stonemasonry of the highest quality

(Listed Building Report)

The monument consists of a tower erected in 1536, possibly a gate tower of a small mansion. It is a square, red sandstone, two storey tower complete up to its battlements. Most of the mouldings of the doors, windows and battlements are still in place. It is approximately 8m in height. The entrance, running east - west, is approximately 3m in height, with pointed archways at both ends. On the east side the arch has a moulded stone surround with decorated stops and the entrance is closed by wooden gates. On the west side the arch is plain with simple moulding and no decoration. Inside there is a cobbled floor. The walls are smooth stone and the ceiling is a four-ribbed vault. There is a small door on the north side which leads to stairs to the room above. Above the entrance on the east side is a two-light window with drip moulding above and decorated stops. A string course running round the wall has the stumps of two gargoyles in it. On the west side there is also a window above the archway, similar to the archway in that it is unadorned. Above is a moulded string course below the battlements with one gargoyle at the north end and the stub of one at the south end. The south side is featureless. In the centre of the lower part of the wall is an area of unevenness where a wall running southwards from the tower was originally attached. This feature is repeated on the north side. On the north side there is a small doorway c 2.5 m up the wall, with a surround of dressed stone. There is a narrow slit window above and slightly to its east. The battlements on this side step up two steps at the north-east corner. (Scheduling Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO159351
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 121
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 22
  • Smith, P. 1975, The Houses of the Welsh Countryside (HMSO) p. 137
  • Jones, Theophilius, 1898, A History of the County of Brecknock (Brecknock) Vol. 2 p. 339 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy


  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1906, Leland's Itinerary in Wales  (Bell and Sons; London) p. 108 online copy


  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Jones, S.R. and Smith, J.T., 1964, 'The houses of Breconshire. Part II' Brycheiniog Vol. 10 p. 76-83 online copy