Tretower Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameTretower Castle
Alternative NamesStratdewy; Ystrad Yw; Stratewy; Straddewy
Historic CountryBrecknockshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys
CommunityLlanfihangel Cwmdu With Bwlch And Cathedine

An early motte and bailey castle underlie the fabric of the mainly mid twelfth to early thirteenth centuries castle at Tretower.Replaced as a residence by nearby Tretower Court (NPRN 16305) from about 1300, it was still largely intact in the early sixteenth century. The surviving remains are of rubble sandstone and consist of a circular tower and the remains of a shell keep. The three storey tower with basement dominates - it has an entrance on the northern side at first floor level. The fireplace on the northwestern side on the first floor has moulded and scalloped corbels whilst a similar fireplace on the second floor has fine slab seats. The remains of the gatehouse are to the east of the keep and the kitchen and first-floor hall are to its south. The the solar is to its west. (Source CADW listed buildings description). (Coflein)

Ditched motte topped by a masonry tower surrounded by a shell keep with bailey (mostly destroyed by farm buildings in northern part) adjoining to east. Geophysical survey 1992 revealed several anomalies of possible archaeological interest although interpretation has been complicated by modern disturbance. The first castle was built by Picard, one of the Norman conquerors, presumably in wood but with a stone revetted motte. The castle was rebuilt in stone by Roger, the son of Picard, who constructed a stone shell keep and a high stone wall incorporating a gatehouse in 1150. Buildings included a small hall, a solar and a kitchen. During the 13th century the bailey was protected by a stone wall with rounded corner towers. The internal buildings were demolished and the windows blocked to form a curtain wall within which was erected a tall round tower with an entrance on the first floor. There were three floors and a basement with one room on each floor

The castle was finally abandoned in the 14th century when the new court was built nearby although it was refortified in the early 15th century during the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr. (Burnham, H 1995, 162-4). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Established c1100 by Picard, a follower of Bernard de Neufmarche who had seized the upper part of the Usk valley. The site, close to the Rhiangoll brook, enabled it to be defended by a wet moat and by natural marshy ground. The earliest defences probably consisted of a motte and bailey with stone revetment to the mound, and timber palisades. The timber defences were replaced, probably mid C12 by Picard's son, Roger Picard I, with a stone shell keep comprising gatehouse, hall and solar. These are said to have been partly removed 1230-1240 by his great-grandson Roger Picard II, who erected a tall circular keep, raised the outer walls of the shell keep to create a wall walk, and raised stone walls around the bailey with round towers at the angles. The castle continued as a garrison throughout the C14, being held by Sir James Berkeley against Owain Glyndwr in 1403. A 4-storey building was erected on the NW side of the mound C14, probably to provide quarters for the garrison, and a large fireplace was inserted into the basement of the solar. During or after the middle ages it became ruinous and by C18 farm buildings had been built inside the bailey, probably using stone from the bailey walls. The Castle was purchased for the nation in 1947, subsequent to which extensive conservation work continued until the 1960s.

Ruined medieval castle of rubble sandstone consisting of a circular tower on a motte surrounded by remnants of the shell keep, comprising gatehouse, kitchen and hall, and solar, on top of which are remains of a wall walk. The tower dominates and is of 3 stages with basement. The wall is 9ft thick and battered at the base, the top of the batter marked by a string course. The basement is lit by 2 loops with very deep splays. The entrance to the tower was at first-floor level on the N side, where creasing of a former gable is visible. Dressings of the doorway survive only inside and consist of a 2-centred arch with stop-chamfer moulding. Within the wall thickness is a mural stair to the second floor. Internally, the NW side of the first floor has a large fireplace with a raked ashlar hood on moulded corbels flanked by scalloped corbels. A window with 2-centred head on SE side has remains of benches in the reveals, while a similar window to S has within its reveal an entrance to a mural stair to the basement. The doorway on 2nd floor is on E side and has a 2-centred head with stop-chamfer surround. The second floor has a fireplace similar to first floor and 2 windows with fine slab seats in the reveals and segmental rere arches with stop-chamfer surrounds. From the reveal of the window in the W side is a short tunnel-vaulted passage leading to an external doorway under a 2-centred arch, giving access to a former wooden bridge which led to the curtain wall walk. The creasing of the gable of the bridge is visible on the external face. A mural stair to the upper storey is lit by 2 narrow lancets. In the slightly narrower upper stage are 2-centred windows to NE and W with segmental, stop-chamfer rere-arches and remains of stone seats. In the E side is a doorway with segmental head. The former gatehouse is on E side of shell keep and survives only at ground level. Within the gateway is a pit over which the drawbridge would have been lowered. On the inner side of the gateway the rebates of the former gate survive, while on N side are jambs of a stairway which led to curtain wall walk. The kitchen and first-floor hall are on S side of shell keep, and have a canted projection, battered at the base, from the line of the curtain wall and solar. The kitchen has an external stack which tapers above a string course defining the roof line of the C12 hall which was then heightened mid C13 to create a wall walk. Internally the kitchen has a semi-circular fireplace flanked by small round-headed windows with deep splays. The N wall of the kitchen is a later addition of C13 and has a doorway with a 2-centred head. Immediately W of the projection is a round-headed doorway leading to a blocked former stairway to hall, which has one stair light blocked and another ruinous. Above the stairway are 2 blocked round-headed windows, both having rere arches with heavy roll mouldings, of which the larger E window lit the hall, the smaller W window the solar. Above the windows is the string course and former wall walk. The solar is on W side of shell keep and is at first-floor level, having a basement with battered wall beneath. The SW corner of the solar collapsed in 1947 but contained a newel stair from the basement possibly added C13 to wall walk. The solar W wall has an external stack carried up above original roof line and blocked off by an offset against the C13 parapet, one loop of which survives. On S side of stack is a blocked round-headed window with segmental rere arch. At basement level 2 blocked openings or recesses are visible internally, and in SW corner is an oven inserted C14. The solar fireplace is blocked but has plain jambs and segmental arch. On the N and NE sides the curtain wall survives only partially at low level. The bailey is triangular in plan, with castle to W and ruins of round towers at N and E angles. Between the keep and E tower the wall survives at low level and crosses a moat (with round-headed culvert). The wall has battered buttresses. The E tower survives at low level but has a segmental pointed doorway to bailey. The flanking bailey walls are higher at this point. Between the keep and N tower the wall is not continuous, a short length of wall having been added mid C20 from the keep. The remainder of the wall stands at high level and has lean-to farm buildings to the inner side. The section between N and E towers is mostly missing and occupied by farm buildings. (Listed Building Report)

Consists of a motte and bailey which were built during the Norman conquest of Brycheiniog. In C12 the wooden buildings were replaced in stone. A shell keep was built around 1150, a hall and solar were erected to the south-west side of the motte and a kitchen was built at a slightly lower level. In the early C13 the inner walls of this range were demolished and a round tower was built. Today it is this tower which dominates the castle site. The tower has three storeys each with a single room with a fireplace and a window. The foundations of the tower contain a basement. Within the curtain wall of the castle are the remains of a small, rectangular gatehouse. (Earwood and Townsend)

Gatehouse Comments

The round tower surrounded at an uncomfortably close and substantial curtain wall looks most odd. However, when one realises that many tall mottes had full height vertical revetments, usually of timber but occasionally of stone (eg Farnham) this castle would have looked much more like a stone version of many timber castles with a tower on top of a vertical sided 'motte'.

- 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 ReferenceSO184212
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  • Higham, Robert, 2015, Shell-keeps re-visited: the bailey on the motte? (Castle Studies Group - online publication) online copy
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 370
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 146-147
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 56-8
  • McNeill, T., 2003, 'Squaring circles: flooring round towers in Wales and Ireland' in Kenyon, J.R. and O'Conor, K. (eds), The medieval castle in Ireland and Wales: essays in honour of Jeremy Knight (Dublin: Four Courts Press) p. 96-106
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 34-5 (plan)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 15-17
  • Remfry, Paul, 1998, Castles of Breconshire (Logaston Press) p. 176-81 (plan)
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 218-9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 21
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 381
  • Haslam R,, 1979, Buildings of Wales: Powys (Yale University Press) p. 380, 384-5
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 332
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 172
  • Fisher, J. (ed), 1917 Tours in Wales (1804-1813) by Richard Fenton (Cambrian Archaeological Association) online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 499-503 (Reprint of 1876 Arch. Camb. article) online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • King, Edward, 1799-1805, Munimenta Antiqua Vol. 3 p. 38-42
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 38-42 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 358


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


  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Tretower Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 47-51 (photo and plan only)
  • King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
  • 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. 81 no. 10 online copy
  • Renn, D.F., 1961, 'The round keeps of the Brecon region' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 110 p. 138-9 and plate
  • Radford, C.A.Ralegh, 1960, 'Tretower. The castle and the court', Brycheiniog Vol. 6 p. 1-31 online copy
  • Marshall, G., 1932, 'Tretower Castle and Court, Brecknockshire' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club p. 169-71
  • Gardner, 1922-3, Proc. Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Association p. 31-4 (King writes 'not important')
  • Clark, G.T., 1876, 'Tretower, Blaen Llyfni and Crickhowel Castles' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 31 p. 276-83 online copy

Guide Books

  • Robinson, D.M., 2010, Tretower Court and castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Radford, C.A.Ralegh, revised and edited by Robinson, D.M., 1986 3rd edn, Tretower Court and Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Radford, C.A.Ralegh, revised by Robinson, D.M., 1985. Tretower Court and Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Radford, C.A.Ralegh, 1950. Tretower Court and Castle (HMSO)
  • Radford, C.A.Ralegh, 1948 2edn. Tretower Court and Castle (HMSO)
  • Humphreys, D.W., n d, Tretower Castle (sn)

Primary Sources

  • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) Vol. 3 p. 264b (evidence of date of Picard's in area) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry III (1231-34) Vol. 2 p. 328 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1321-24) Vol. 4 p. 49 online copy
  • Stamp, A.E. (ed), 1929, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry IV (1402-1405) Vol. 2 p. 111 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. 107


  • Geophysical Surveys, 1992, Report on geophysical survey Dyffryn Lane Geophysical Surveys (Bradford)