Hay Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHay Castle
Alternative NamesHay-on-Wye Castle; Gelli; Tregelli; castello de haia; La Haie Taillee
Historic CountryBrecknockshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

Hay Castle is one of numerous castles in the March, but is unusual in that it has been continuously occupied for the last 800 years. It has a residential keep of c.1200 with a 13th/14th century gateway with pointed archway and portcullis slot. The gate has two phases with different styles of carpentry. The north leaf (with wicket) was thought to be 14th century but this work shows that it is a 17th century replacement; the possibly original south leaf failed to date. The keep is a four-storey residential tower, now unroofed, in which the upper floors were annexed to the adjoining Castle House. Sampling of a first-floor timber fireplace beam showed that the keep had been refitted in the 16th century. Castle House, a Jacobean mansion of about 1660 (NPRN 25592), is built against the tower and the castle enclosure has been adapted for its grounds and gardens. (Coflein–Richard Suggett/RCAHMW/2009)

Early records to the castle probably refer to the motte near the church (PRN 439) which was abandoned when the castle was built. Thought to have been built around 1200. Rebuilt in 1231, suffered extensive damage in 1265 and again in 1460. It consists of a strong ringwork, a square keep and curtain wall, now much altered. A late 12th century gate with portcullis grooves and a medieval door still survive. The keep is incorporated into a later tower. The castle mound is c110 metres east-west by 100 metres north-south, damaged on the west by modern buildings and encircled by a modern retaining wall. Adjoining the tower to the west is a large late Tudor mansion which was badly damaged by fire in 1939. (Silvester, R J & Dorling, P J 1993, 30). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Dominating the town with Back Fold, Castle Lane and Oxford Road bordering the castle grounds.

Probably built by Bernard de Newmarch and once surrounded by a moat

The castle is traditionally thought to have been rebuilt by Maude de St Valerie; was burnt by King John in 1216, rebuilt by Henry III in 1233, burnt by Prince Edward in 1263 and later suffered further damage under Owain Glyndwr. The double pile Castle House was begun by James Boyle ca 1660; divided up after 1702 and in 1844 sold to Sir Joseph Bailey. Major restoration by W D Caroe ca 1910; major fires in 1934 (E half) and 1977 (W half); long-term restoration in progress at time of inspection (May 1987).

The interior is partly gutted but retains spinal corridors with largely replaced massive studded partition, pointed Jacobethan openings and timber mullioned internal windows. Replaced A-frame pegged trusses; panelled shutters and doors; chamfered cross beams to 2nd floor. Remains of spiral staircase; dog-leg back stair and openwell timber staircase with swept up handrail - fine Jacobean staircase lost in fire. Projecting stone fireplace to 1st floor and late medieval fireplace to kitchen; late Romanesque quarter-round jambs to pointed arch entrance into spinal passage. Carved head corbels to SW part.

Dominating the town with Back Fold, Castle Lane and Oxford Road bordering the castle grounds. The main front faces the town to NW. 3-storeys, 7-windows; coursed rubble with freestone window dressings and Jacobean shaped gables with finials (central two missing). Stone tile M shaped roof retained to right, the hipped end is thought to be part of Caroe's restoration; roofless hall to left. Massive brick stellar chimney stacks. Mainly small pane sash windows (some missing) or similar dummy windows. Tall central window over former main entrance (reached by modern steps) with pair of fine console brackets; truncated chimney stack above beside paired horned sashes. Scrolled iron brace plates to centre right. Former keep advanced at an angle to left end with massive corner buttresses. Late Romanesque window to ground floor and paired Tudor lights above with labels; broken down wallhead. Attached outer wall of former gatehouse, refaced in 1233 with segmental outer arch and portcullis slot; pointed 2-order arched entrance and studded timber doors, one cross braced to inner side. Battered coursed rubble wall continues to left. Segmental arch to inner side of gateway with rere arch supporting stone staircase to wallwalk and leading in to the now floorless keep with basement to front. SE face of keep retains late Romanesque twin opening under containing arch; dove holes below. Stepped forward to left is a linking bay with irregularly shaped gables, cross-frame windows and diamond leaded glazing under Tudor labels (formerly lighting the main staircase). 5 windows 3-storey SE (garden) front with similar gables to left with quatrefoil panels blocking former attic windows. Sash and casement windows and small rubble porch with pointed arch entrance. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The initial ringwork was oval enclosure, c.71m by 94m defined by scarps. Although it is usually suggested that Hay castle is a successor to Hay Tump Paul Remfry argues that both sites were occupied at the same time and early records of the castello de haia may refer to either site (More usually to this site). It certainly seems likely the timber castle of Hay Tump did not stay in use for long after the masonry castle was built. The two manors of Hay seem to have became united at an early date.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSO229422
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Simon T 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
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

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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Primary Sources

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  • Silvester, R.J. and Dorling, P.J., 1993, Historic settlements in the Brecon Beacons National Park (CPAT report)