Tretower Court

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameTretower Court
Alternative Names
Historic CountryBrecknockshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys
CommunityLlanfihangel Cwmdu With Bwlch And Cathedine

Tretower Court was built during C14 with alterations made in C15. The buildings are arranged around a courtyard with the oldest along the north wing. This C14 wing consists of a rectangular building of two storeys. The main rooms are on the upper floor. In C15 west wing there is a hall, solar and service rooms. The building was altered in C17. C15 gatehouse stands on the east side with a postern gate to the north. The house and its curtain wall have been much restored in modern times. (Earwood and Townsend)

N range is c1300, with major C15 alterations to all but the lower floor; the W range was added in C15; gatehouse was added to the E in 1480. Further alterations made in C17 and later centuries, although many of these have been removed to leave the house in its medieval state. Rubble stone construction. (Haslam). (Coflein)

Tretower Castle was established c1100 and passed through the Picard, Bluet, Berkeley and Herbert families, until c1450 when Sir William Herbert gave Tretower to his elder half-brother Sir Roger Vaughan. It was probably Vaughan who built Tretower Court, consisting of a W range (dated after c1447 by dendrochronology), which had a large great hall, with solar, cross passage, service rooms and kitchen, and a N range (dated after c1460 by dendrochronology). The N range had a first-floor hall with solar and bed chamber on one side, and a large guest room on the other, below which was a room commonly interpreted as a court room. Roger Vaughan's son Sir Thomas completed the courtyard by adding an embattled gatehouse c1480, followed by a curtain wall walk. Charles Vaughan inherited Tretower Court in 1613 and is said to have remodelled part of the courtyard c1630 by adapting part of the cross passage, service rooms and kitchen of the W range as a 2-storey dwelling with a 5-bay facade. The main rooms were adapted from the old service rooms, cross passage and kitchen

The S wall walk was roofed over and fenestrated similar to the W range (giving the impression of a much larger house) and giving access to the main rooms of the house without needing to cross the courtyard. The rooms in the N range were separated from the main house by the C17 but probably remained inhabited. The property remained with descendants of the Vaughan family until it was sold in 1783, when it is said to have become a farm. Rooms at the W end of the N range remained occupied while the remainder was used as farm buildings. The C17 doorway to the W range was enlarged to form a barn door. By the early C20 the building was entirely given over to farm use and was bought by the Brecknock Society in 1928 and given to the nation in 1930. Extensive conservation work began in 1930 and continued until the 1960s, with a break during the war years, when much of the building was restored according to the then current archaeological interpretation. The major features of the restoration were the gallery to the N range, continuing around the W range, an oriel window to the solar and a Renaissance style doorway to the W range.

The gatehouse has a segmental tunnel vault and cobbled floor. In the side walls are benches in recesses. In the S wall is a narrow stone stair to the first floor, which has a fireplace on the N side with integral oven, and stone treads on the S side of a former stair to the upper storey. The N and S walls also have doorways to the wall walk. In the N range upper storey is a dividing wall between the solar and bed chamber. Grooves in the tie beams define former screens between the outer apartment (consisting of a small 2-bay hall and inner room), 3-bay main hall and solar. The halls and bed chamber have arched-brace central trusses, the remaining trusses have tie beams with queen and crown posts. The outer apartment hall has a fireplace in the N wall, with a raked stone hood added during restoration, the main hall and solar have fireplaces with deep chamfered lintels. In the lower storey are cross beams and a single spine beam, all with run-out stops. Grooves in the beams define the position of the court room and steward’s room. The court room at the E end has a boarded ceiling and a fireplace with deep chamfered lintel. The steward’s room has a garderobe entered through a lintelled doorway. Beyond the steward’s room is the cider cellar, with a segmental tunnel vault. The retiring chamber has a fireplace with a deep lintel in the dividing wall and a separate oven to the R of it with a stone vaulted roof and a raked stone hood projecting on corbels. The W range has a 3-bay ground-floor great hall, with arched-brace trusses and wind braces. At the S end is a 2-tier post-and-panel partition with Tudor-headed doorways to the cross passage. At the N end is a similar screen above a stone partition wall with 2-centred doorway to the solar. In the W wall is a fireplace with big jambs and lintel. The solar has heavily-moulded spine and cross beams. A fireplace in the W wall has a deep chamfered lintel, to R of which is a garderobe in a shallow projection. On the N side is a Tudor-headed doorway to R leading to the N range, and a straight wooden stair to the gallery and heated chamber above. The chamber has a post-and-panel partition on N side with 2 ogee-headed doorways, on the R to the N range gallery, on the L to the garderobe. The renewed doors are studded with strap hinges. A fireplace in the W wall has a chamfered lintel. On the S side of the great hall the service rooms and former cross passage are now undivided. The service rooms are 2-storey with a joist-beam ceiling. In the W wall is a fireplace with a deep lintel. The first floor was originally 2 rooms but was converted to a single room when the fireplace was added in the W wall in the C17. The 4-bay roof has crown posts flanked by raking struts. At the S end is the ground-floor kitchen, reached from the service rooms through three Tudor-headed doorways in a post-and-panel partition. The 2-bay roof is a continuation of the service room roof. A large fireplace in the S wall has a segmental arch. Of the first floor one cross beam survives. In the W wall is a first-floor fireplace with a stop-chamfer surround, and plastered walls have traces of red and light-blue paint.

Consisting of 2-storey N and W ranges around a courtyard. An E gatehouse is flanked by a curtain wall and wall walk, which continues on S side to enclose a quadrangular yard. Of random rubble sandstone and stone tile roofs throughout. The curtain wall to E has a wall walk above machicolations, which is roofed to the L of the gatehouse with a Tudor window flanked by loops. To L of centre is the 2-storey gatehouse (its upper stage having been taken down). A wide doorway with 2-centre arch is recessed beneath machicolations. Above is a single window with moulded surround. The postern to R of the gatehouse is narrower but similar to the main gateway. At the R end is the N wing gable end, with a restored 7-light mullioned and transomed window in the upper storey, and a blocked doorway below (which led to the court room) flanked by corbels. The courtyard elevation of the gatehouse has a 2-centre archway, to R of which is a small Tudor stair light. The upper storey has Tudor windows in the front and L side walls. The curtain wall has recesses R and L of the gatehouse, and the wall walk above to R has a 2-light window. The N range has, facing the courtyard, 6 windows in the lower storey with renewed wood mullions and doorways to the court room, steward’s room, cider cellar and a retiring chamber to L at the end of a skew passage in the angle with the W range. A first-floor gallery projects on brackets and is reconstructed with open square panels. The S face of the upper storey is timber framed in square panels with lath and plaster infill. The upper storey has 5 windows similar to the ground floor and 3 doorways with Tudor heads, and boarded and studded doors with enriched strap hinges. The doorways lead to the outer chamber, the main hall and solar. The gallery continues round to W wing above the solar, where it is also timber-framed but with open panels. In the lower storey the solar has a 4-light oriel window in reconstituted stone. To L, the courtyard elevation of the W wing is a C17 remodelling (contrasting with the rear elevation in which the original layout of rooms remains discernible) of 5 bays with Renaissance detail. In the upper storey are 2-light windows, with cross windows below, and a central doorway in ashlar replacing the barn doors inserted C18 or C19. The courtyard elevation of the S curtain wall has a similar cross window to R and four 2-light windows to the covered wall walk, which projects on machicolations. A centrally-placed doorway has a recess to R containing a fine C17 grave slab to members of the Vaughan family, brought from Cwmdu church. A similar recess is at the L end. The S elevation of the curtain wall has scars of former gabled projections to R and L. The W wing projects S beyond the line of the curtain wall. In the angle between is a C16 outshut housing a stair to the wall walk. The short E wall has two 2-light C17 first-floor windows. The S gable end has an end stack with two diagonal shafts, and two C17 2-light windows in the upper storey and a similar cross window lower R. To R of centre is a shallow oven projection, and to L is a blocked C15 window. The long W front has openings corresponding with the C15 division of rooms. To the L is the gable end of the N range with 1-light windows in both storeys. Between the W and N ranges is a full-height garderobe turret. The solar to the L of the W range has 1-light windows flanking an external stack cut down to eaves level. To R of the solar is the great hall with an external stack cut down to eaves height, and flanked by a 2-light window to L and 1-light to R. To R of the hall is the cross passage doorway (renewed in concrete). The service rooms R of the former cross passage have three C17 cross windows in the lower storey, beyond which the kitchen has a 2-light transomed C15 window and C17 lattice glazing behind original iron bars. The passage, service rooms and kitchen have a continuous range of six 2-light C17 windows in the upper storey and 2 gablets offset to R, each with stacks having paired diagonal shafts. The N wall of the N range has a shallow garderobe turret and stack (cut down to eaves level) to L, flanked by 1-light upper storey windows with stone surrounds and integral iron bars. L of centre is another stack cut down to eaves level, flanked by similar first-floor windows. To R of centre is the solar garderobe turret, with a similar small window to L, and windows to R inserted C15 into the retiring chamber and bed chamber above. The courtyard has a cobbled path from the gatehouse to the main C17 doorway in the W range, and a narrower cobbled path at right angles leading to the S curtain wall. (Listed Building Report)

14th century fortified manor house next to Tretower Castle (PRN 666). Much of the building surviving today dates from the late 15th century when the north range was probably refurbished and a wooden gallery added. The west range was built by Sir Roger Vaughan at the same time and contains a central hall with a kitchen to the south and private apartments on two floors at the north end. A three storey gatehouse was probably built by Sir Roger's son. During the 16th century a cider making cellar was added but little other alterations were made other than the rearrangements of some of the rooms and the insertion of some new windows. The court was abandoned in the 18th century and used as a farmhouse and outhouse. If was refurbished after being taken into state care between 1929 and 1935. (Burnham, H 1995, 162-5). Felling date of AD1470 obtained from beam great hall (Suggett, R 1996, 28). Internal wall decoration survives where at some time in the past beech-tree leaves were pressed onto the plaster infills of the roof trusses in the first-floor northern hall. Traces of red paint can also be seen on the roof timbers (Heritage in Wales, 2001, p. 19). (Coflein)

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 ReferenceSO185211
Latitude51.883228302002
Longitude-3.18394994735718
Eastings318590
Northings221180
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Books

  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 147-149
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 34 (mention)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 669-71
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 17
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 22
  • Haslam R,, 1979, Buildings of Wales: Powys (Yale University Press) p. 380-4
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 384 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy

Antiquarian

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

Journals

  • Robinson, David, 2012 Feb 8, ''A court of royal style' Tretower Court and Castle, Powys' Country Life p. 42-47
  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Tretower Court' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 33-46 (photo and plan only)
  • 2001, Heritage in Wales Vol. 19 p. 19
  • Suggett, R., 1996, 'The chronology of late-medieval timber houses in Wales' Vernacular Architecture Vol. 27 p. 28-37
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 228
  • 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
  • Ralegh Radford, C A, 1960, 'Tretower. The castle and the court', Brycheiniog Vol. 6 p. 32-50 online copy
  • Massingham, H.J., 1952,'A manor of the Welsh Marches' Country Life Vol. 112 p. 331-2
  • 1936, 'Report of the 90th Annual Meeting' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 91 p. 366-8
  • Marshall, G., 1932, 'Tretower Castle and Court, Brecknockshire' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club p. 171-6
  • Gardner, 1922-3, Proc. Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Association p. 35-42
  • Parker, I.H., 1876, 'Tretower Court' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 31 p. 285-7 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)

Other

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