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
CommunityBuilth

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)

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
Latitude52.1492691040039
Longitude-3.39879989624023
Eastings304400
Northings251010
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Copyright John Grayson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Copyright Eirian Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 213
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 99-100
  • Browne, D.M., 2009, 'Builth Castle and Aberystwyth Castle 1277-1307' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 59-71
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 50-3
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 16 (plan)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 10
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 33, 35
  • Remfry, Paul, 1998, Castles of Breconshire (Logaston Press) p. 183-7 (plan)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 61-3
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 1-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 327
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 121
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 293-9
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 169
  • Armitage, Ella S., 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London) p. 290-1
  • Hamilton Thompson, A., 1912, Military Architecture in England during the Middle Ages (London) p. 50-1
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthworks of England (London) p. 406, 409 online copy
  • Morris, J.E., 1901, The Welsh wars of Edward I : a contribution to mediaeval military history, based on original documents (Clarendon) p. 252 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 304-8 (reprint of 1874 Arch. Camb. article) online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 483-5 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Spurgeon, C.J., 1979. ‘Builth Castle’ Brycheiniog Vol. 18 p. 47-59 online copy
  • Spurgeon, C.J., 1977, ‘Builth Castle’, 124th Annual Meeting in Aberystwyth, South Montgomery and North Radnor, 1977, CAA p. 29-30
  • 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
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • King, D.J.C., 1961, ‘The castles of Breconshire’ Brycheiniog Vol. 7 p. 85-6 no. 18 online copy
  • Renn, D.F., 1961, 'The round keeps of the Brecon region' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 110 p. 138
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Edwards, J. Goronwy, 1944, 'Edward I's Castle-Building in Wales' Proceedings of the British Academy Vol. 32 esp p. 22-4, 66
  • Clark, G.T., 1874, 'The castle of Builth' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 29 p. 1-7 online copy

Primary Sources

  • William ab Ithel (ed), 1860, Brut y Tywysogion Jesus MS 111 (Red Book of Hergest) 1168, 1210, 1215, 1217, 1228, 1241 online copy [Scan of original manuscript > http://image.ox.ac.uk/show?collection=jesus&manuscript=ms111]
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1169, 1260 online copy
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 409
  • Clark, A. and Holbrook, F. (eds), 1816, Rymer's Foedera Vol. 1 p. 170 (online copy for syllabus)
  • Shirley, W.W., 1862, Royal and other historical letters illustrative of the reign of Henry III (Rolls Series 27) Vol. 2 p. 149-50 online copy
  • 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])