Builth Wells Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameBuilth Wells Castle
Alternative NamesBuellt; Llanfair-ym-Muallt; castrum de Beohelt; Buhelt
Historic CountryBrecknockshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

Built by Philip de Braose in the 1090s as a timber and earth motte and bailey. During the next century it changed hands between Welsh and Norman owners and was rebuilt in stone in the 1240s. It was taken and destroyed by the Welsh in 1260. Between 1277 and 1282 it was completely rebuilt by Edward I. In 1282 it was held for the king by John Giffard who may have been involved in the death of Llywelyn the Last who was killed nearby in December 1282. The stone castle had a tower keep surrounded by a curtain wall with six turrets. A gatehouse with two towers protected the inner ward. Unusually the castle has two baileys both of which originally had stone walls. Following a fire in the town in the late 17th century the castle was robbed of its stone for the construction of new houses. Today only the large earthen motte and baileys survive. (Earwood and Townsend)

Motte and two baileys. The motte is 18.3m diameter at the top and stands 18m in height above the ditch. The baileys measure 120m by 18m to 27m; and, 60m by 9m to 11m, and are surrounded by a wet ditch 5-8m deep. A shell keep once stood on the motte. he first castle dates to the end of the 11th century, it was refortified in 1210 and rebuilt in stone in 1242. The castle was destroyed in 1260. A new castle was commissioned by Edward I in 1277. The tower keep was surrounded by a wall with six turrets, gatehouse with two towers and two stone-walled baileys. (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

The monument comprises the remains of a motte and bailey castle, a military stronghold built during the medieval period. A motte and bailey castle comprises a large conical or pyramidal mound of soil or stone (the motte) surrounded by, or adjacent to, one or more embanked enclosures (the bailey). The site comprises a large, steep sided Motte, standing 18m high above the ditch with a summit 18.5m in diameter, and two Baileys

One Bailey is located to the SW of the Motte and measures approximately 120m by 20m, the second is located to the SE and measures 60m by 10m. Both Baileys are surrounded by a deep ditch with an outer encircling bank. The original Builth Castle was built around 1100 by Philip de Breos and would have comprised a Motte and Bailey with a wooden keep and timber fortifications. The first stone castle was built around1240 but was destroyed by the Welsh in the 1260s. The castle subsequently became on the ten key castles built in Wales by Edward I, with work starting in 1277. A substantial stone fortification was built on and around the orignal Motte and Bailey, including a shell keep, a stone curtain wall with six towers, a defended drawbridge and a stone outer wall. The works were never completed and much of the stone structure was removed in the 16th century to build a house on the site of the modern White House. Nothing of the stone fortification is visible on the site today. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Compared with the other great Edwardian castle of Wales there is no obvious masonry. No castle more clearly demonstrates the difficulty in getting good quality mortar in central Wales than Builth.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO044510
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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Laitude 52° 8' 56.69" Longitude -3° 23' 55.03"

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Laitude 52° 8' 56.69" Longitude -3° 23' 55.03"

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Laitude 52° 8' 56.69" Longitude -3° 23' 55.03"

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Laitude 52° 8' 56.69" Longitude -3° 23' 55.03"

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Laitude 52° 8' 56.69" Longitude -3° 23' 55.03"

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Primary Sources

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  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward II (1318-1323) Vol. 3 p. 415 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 101-3
  • C145/92(14) (Survey of 1324) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 167 No. 669 [online copy > https://archive.org/stream/calendarofinqu02grea#page/167/mode/1up])