Abergavenny Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameAbergavenny Castle
Alternative NamesY Fenni; Bergevenn'; Gevenu; Berguevenis
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent

The remains of the fourteenth century and later masonry castle at Abergavenny are built upon earlier earthworks. The motte is much mutilated to accomodate a nineteenth century castellated tower, whilst there are substantial, if fragmentary, remains of the walls and towers of the roughly 54m by 67-40m bailey to the north. (Coflein)

Situated W off the main road on the southern approach to the town centre.

C12 earthworks from the castle of Hamelin de Ballon built in about 1090. The surviving masonry structures are from the C13 stone castle built by de Wallingford and its later extension in the early C15. Some of the walling dates from the earlier period, c1295-1319, while most of the circuit walls, with the remains of the Banqueting Hall and the South-west and South-east Towers date from c1403-09 as the Barbican probably does also. There are some fragments on the motte which may date from c1241, but this area seems to have very largely been reconstructed in 1818-9. Abergavenny Castle was the scene of the infamous massacre of seventy unarmed Welsh guests of William de Broase on Christmas Day 1175, but nothing of what survives can really be associated with this event as the castle was captured by the Welsh princes in 1182, recaptured by Reginald de Broase in 1215 and then destroyed following capture again by the Welsh princes in 1233. Rebuilt by the English to the end of the century the castle survived a siege by Owain Glyndwr in 1404 and was still in good condition at the time of John Leland's visit in the 1540s. In 1643 it was garrisoned for the Crown in the Civil War, then abandoned and slighted, then re-garrisoned for Parliament in 1645 and besieged in 1646, but stood firm. Following the end of the Civil War it fell gradually into decay. In 1818-9 the Marquess of Abergavenny built what was then The Court House (now Abergavenny Museum qv) as a hunting and shooting box; and it was later leased by other families

In 1881 the Castle was leased to The Abergavenny Improvement Commissioners and they converted it into what became a successful pleasure ground. It is still maintained by the local authority as a park but it is now displayed as an Ancient Monument rather than as a picturesque ruin within a garden.

Fragmentary survival of interior features including two garderobes in the South-west Tower.

Built entirely of Old Red sandstone rubble, roughly coursed, with the earliest work on the Gatehouse perhaps distinguishable from the rest; part of the work on the south-west Tower approaches a more ashlar quality. Circuit walls with the remains of two towers and the main Gatehouse survive. Walling survives to the height of 5-6m, with the polygonal south-west Tower the most impressive, with the effect enhanced by the very fine and large copper beech tree that grows within it. (Listed Building Report)

Castle situated in a strong defensive position above the confluence of the Rivers Usk and Gavenny. Documentary evidence suggests that it was in existence by AD 1090. Originally a motte and bailey castle, which was rebuilt in stone during C13. It had a circular round tower on the motte and the outer bailey is divided to form a small forecourt to the motte. A large polygonal tower and a long barbican was added c.1300. Documentary history suggests that it was captured by the Welsh on at least one occasion and subsequently recaptured. It was held against Glyndwr and dismantled 1645. (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust)

The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period. The castle originated as a motte and bailey, probably built by the Norman Lord Hamelin de Ballon in 1087. It is located in a strategically important position above the valley of the River Usk, in a position to suited to the prevention of Welsh incursions into the lowlands. It was the seat of the Norman Lord of Abergavenny and played host to a number of Kings when they visited the area. Originally the motte would have been surmounted by a wooden tower with a bailey containing a timber-built hall and other wooden buildings to the NE. The wooden tower was quickly replaced by a stone tower, the remains of which are probably below the Victorian building that now houses the Museum. The Great Hall, located between the motte and the gatehouse, was the scene of the murder of Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, the long-time Welsh rival of William de Braose, Lord of Abergavenny. The murder took pace on Christmas Day 1175. In retaliation, Abergavenny Castle was burnt down by relatives of Seisyll in 1182 who captured most of the men within the castle, but not William de Braose who was not at home. Following the burning of the wooden hall and the castle, de Braose built the enormous curtain wall which survives to nearly its full height to the SW of the gatehouse. In the 13th and 14th centuries the castle was extensively rebuilt by the Hastings family following its destruction by Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke in 1233. They were responsible for the construction of the towers in the W corner of the castle, one round and one octagonal. Only the outer walls survive, but they stand four storeys high in places. The octagonal tower has large window openings and the remains of a spiral staircase. On the S side is a small garderobe tower with an arched outlet at the bottom. At the eastern end of the towers is a cross wall which divided the castle ward into two. Its northern end formed one wall of the hall block and has a doorway which led into the rooms below the hall. Further along is a fine lancet window and the base of a spiral staircase. To the SW of the cross wall is a stretch of walling that belonged to a freestanding building. The hall was located immediately inside the curtain wall, between it and the modern car park, where the ground is sunken. It was a large rectangular room at first floor level, and traces of the floor level can be seen on the inside of the curtain wall. The hall was entered through stairs at the NE end, where steps and a door are visible. In the middle of the ward are the remains of some walls and steps leading to the cellars – originally thought to be the castle dungeons. The gatehouse is probably the youngest part of the castle, built in the 15th century at the time when the last Welsh War of Independence was being fought against Owain Glyndwr. The keep and most of the other castle buildings were destroyed in the Civil War. The modern castle building, now the museum, was built in 1818 as a hunting lodge for the Marquess of Abergavenny. The castle ward was extensively landscaped during the Victorian period. (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 ReferenceSO299139
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  • Olding, F., 2012, Discovering Abergavenny: archaeology & history (Abergavenny: Abergavenny Local History Society)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 235, 274
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 96
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 168-9
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  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 110-164
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  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Abergavenny Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 8-14
  • Phillips, N., 2000, 'Abergavenny Castle 1087-1535' Gwent Local History Vol. 88 p. 17-31
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  • Kenyon, John R., 1984, 'Abergavenny Castle: a reinterpretation of Thomas Cooke's painting The Castle and Mount', Caerleon, 1785' Monmouthshire Antiquarian Vol. 5(1-2) p. 62-3
  • 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
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  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 208 online copy

Guide Books

  • Ralphs, 1956, Abergavenny Castle (Abergavenny)

Primary Sources

  • Ancient charters, royal and private, prior to A.D. 1200 (Pipe Roll Society 10) p. 43 no. 26
  • Brut y Tywysogion 1172, 1175, 1215, 1233 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1233 online copy
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 336, 339, 427 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 307-8
  • Round, J.H. (ed), 1899, Calendar of Documents Preserved in France (Record Office) p. 367-8 online copy
  • 'Annales de Theokesberia' in Luard, H.R (ed), 1857, Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 1 p. 91 online copy
  • Stamp, A.E. (ed), 1929, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry IV (1402-1405) Vol. 2 p. 111 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 2 p. 259 online copy


  • Phillips, Neil, 2005, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (PhD Thesis University of Sheffield) Download