Castell y Bere

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCastell y Bere
Alternative NamesCaerberllan; 'a castle in Merionydd or Ardudwy', Teberri
Historic CountryMerioneth
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd
CommunityLlanfihangel y Pennant

Castell y Bere was established by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in 1221 on land seized from his son, Gruffudd. It was intended to secure Llywelyn's lordship and protect the southern periphery of his territory. Extensive masonry ruins remain of this castle complex, which as well as rectangular and round towers includes two characteristically Welsh elongated D-shape towers, the southernmost of which differs from typical design, being isolated from the main castle structure, overlooked by the rectangular keep, and accessible from the ground floor, thus rendering it defensively weak. The castle had a highly elaborate defended entrance with ditches and two gate-towers, each with a drawbridge and portcullis. Bere was surrendered to Edward I in April 1283, following the defeat of Llywelyn ap Grufudd the previous year. The castle was further fortified with the thick walls linking the south and middle towers, and a small borough was established. Neither the castle nor the borough remained in use after the 1294-5 Welsh uprising, however, during which Madog ap Llywelyn unsuccessfully attempted to re-take the castle for his family. The English abandoned the site and it disappeared from the historical record until the ruins were cleared in 1851 when Roman pottery and coins were recovered from the fabric of the well. (Coflein–K Steele, RCAHMW, 4 November 2008)

The building of Castell y Bere was begun in 1221 when, it is recorded, Llywelyn Fawr took control of Meirionnydd back from his son Gruffudd. Located in the Dysynni valley, on the southern border of Gwynedd, the castle was besieged by an English army from Montgomery in the war of 1282-3 and ultimately fell. Edward I had plans for founding an English borough at Castell y Bere and many alterations to the castle interior may date to this time

The castle was recaptured by the Welsh in 1294 and does not appear again in the royal accounts, suggesting that it was abandoned.

Description :

A large 'Welsh' castle of irregular plan, with rectangular keep, two apsidal towers, one round tower and a large triangular barbican; probably the castle which Llywelyn ap Iorwerth began to build for himself in 1221. Architectural details found when the site was explored in 1851, now preserved in the NMW, are consistent with a date in the second 1/4 of the C13th, and the ground plan displays features which are common to other native castles in North Wales. The castle was remodelled after its capture by Edward I in 1283, and was granted a charter as a borough town in 1284, but no further mention of it occurs after its siege during the rebellion of 1294, and it was probably destroyed and abandoned at that time. Early Iron Age and Roman finds from the castle site, presented to the NMW, include four coins of Gallienus and Carausius and fragments of the rim of a late mortarium, all discovered during conservation work in 1951 on a well near the round tower. It seems probable that the coins came from a hoard and were accidentally incorporated into the mortar-mix of the walling.

The castle has two adjoining keeps. The larger overlies a rock-cut ditch suggesting that it had the adjoining apsidal tower are additions to the original castle. Otherwise no change.

Among the mountains of Meirionnydd, there were four Welsh castles. Only one of these - Castell y Bere, lying at the foot of Cadair Idris - has any significant remains. Even here the remains are not very extensive, despite the fact that Edward I later repaired it for his own use. The high quality of the carved stonework at Bere shows, however, that it was one of the most richly ornamented as well as one of the largest of the native castles. Built by Llywelyn the Great as his headquarters in the early C13th (c.1221), it must have been, in its heyday, a very impressive structure. The fortress was built on an isolated rocky outcrop, with a precipitous south face, high above the Afon Dysynni.

A triangular barbican, built across the rocks and overlooked by a round tower, defends the entrance behind which is a large courtyard with the residential quarters and, on the highest point, a rectangular keep. The castle was further defended by formidable D-shaped towers soaring above the cliffs at either end of the site. As in so many of the Welsh castles the ground plan at Bere is directly related to the ground itself and hugs the contours, emphasising the topography of the hill.

A Welsh castle, built probably in 1221, when Llywelyn the Great is said to have built a castle in this part of Wales.

It stands under the southern slopes of Cader Idris, in the valley of the Dysynni, on one of the numerous rocky crests, probably formed in the Ice Age, in the valley bottoms of North Wales.

This is a very strong position, but the plan of the castle is dictated by the shape of the summit - long, narrow, and irregular. Along the crest of the ridge there are three towers; those at the ends of the rock are apsidal in plan, while the third, which occupies the summit, is rectangular; it was probably the keep. The fourth tower is round, and overlooks the entrance, which is reached by way of an outer gate and a long stair. Directly inside the main gate, and almost blocking the way, is the castle well, which still holds water. Most of the defences seem to have been built in a single programme, except for two walls joining the tower at the south-west end to the rest of the castle. These were added by Edward I, after his capture of Castell-y-Bere in 1283. The tower stands outside the castle ditch, and there is no evidence to show that there were any earlier walls in this position.

The end of the castle came soon; during the rising of 1294 it was reported to be in great peril, after which no more is heard of it. Whether the garrison was rescued remains unknown; but a great quantity of burned timber was found during clearing of the site, and it is plain that the castle was destroyed. (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER)

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 ReferenceSH667085
Latitude52.6582107543945
Longitude-3.97124004364014
Eastings266750
Northings308540
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 221
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 19-20
  • Butler, L., 2009, 'The Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 27-36
  • Purton, P.F., 2010, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 43
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 162-4
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 41-3
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 113-5
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 48
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 49 (slight)
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 75-7
  • Avent, Richard, 1983, Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd (Cardiff)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 276
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 338
  • RCAHMW, 1921, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Merionethshire (HMSO) p. 112-3 no. 349 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy

Journals

  • Brodie, Hugh, 2015, 'Apsidal and D-shaped towers of the Princes of Gwynedd' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 164 p. 231-43
  • Coldstream, N., 2003 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
  • Avent, Richard, 1994, 'Castles of the Welsh Princes' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 11-17
  • Butler, L.A.S.,1974, 'Medieval Finds from Castell-y-Bere, Merioneth' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 123 p. 78-112
  • 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
  • Evans, 1957, Journal of the Merioneth Historical and Record Society Vol. 3 p. 31-44
  • Hemp, W.J., 1942-3, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 97 p. 120-2
  • Wynne, W.W.E., 1861, 'Castell y Bere, Merionethshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 16 p. 105-10 online copy
  • Wynne, W.W.E., 1849, 'Castell Y Bere - County of Merioneth' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 4 p. 211-7 online copy

Guide Books

  • Avent, Richard, 2004, Dolwyddelan Castle, Dolbadarn Castle, Castell Y Bere (Cardiff: CADW)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1221 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Edwards, J.G. (ed), 1940, Littere Wallie, preserved in Liber A (Cardiff) p. 189, 192
  • Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1912, Calendar of various Chancery Rolls - Welsh Rolls 1277-1294 p. 360-1 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 305