Dolforwyn Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameDolforwyn Castle
Alternative NamesCastle at Abrunol; Abermule; Aber miwi; Bachyranneleu; Dolvoreyn; Castell Dol-y-Vorwyn
Historic CountryMontgomeryshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys
CommunityLlandyssil

The castle and borough founded by Llywelyn ab Gruffudd in 1273 occupies the summit of a greatly scarped and terraced ridge. The original layout included two great towers, one round and the other rectangular, set in a rectangular walled enclosure about 70m north-east to south-west by 30m, with massive ditches cutting across the ridge. A third, D-plan tower projected from the long northern wall and there was a two storey domestic range between it and the round tower. The main entrance faced across the ditch to the south-west, approached by a massive ramp, roughly 50m long and 15m wide. The borough may have occupied the summit of the ridge beyond the ramp. A second entrance opened into a rock-cut ditch cutting the castle enclosure in two. It is possible that the intention was for two separate courts each with its own great tower, as appears to have been the case at Ewloe (NPRN 94447) and Criccieth (NPRN 95281). The castle was unfinished in 1277 when it was besieged and captured by the English. The newly formed borough was removed and replaced by the foundation of Newtown (NPRN 33188). In the early fourteenth century the castle was adapted by Mortimer family with the addition of several new buildings, a hall, stores, a bakehouse and brewhouse. There was a grange or home farm without the walls and building platforms beyond the great ramp may be associated with this, rather than with the earlier borough. By 1381 it was 'in a poor state of repair' and in 1398 it was 'ruinous and worth nothing'. Between 1981 and 2002 the castle was cleared and excavated and its remains consolidated for public display. (Coflein–John Wiles, RCAHMW, 24 July 2007)

Located on a sharp promontory above the Severn Valley, in an excellent defensive position, with good views all round.

The early history of the castle is uncertain. The claim that it was founded by Bleddyn ap Cynfyn who ruled between 1065 and 1073 is unsupported by documentary or architectural evidence

Claims for Maredudd ab Rotpert (d.1244) , or Dafydd ap Llewelyn (d1246) are similarly tenuous and it is possible that more than one castle site is involved. The suggestion by Lloyd that it was Llewelyn ap Gruffydd who built Dolforwyn is strengthened by the architectural remains that date to the 1270s. It was taken by Rodger de Mortimer after a lengthy siege in 1277 and granted to him by a charter of Edward I in 1279, but in 1321-2 the castle was held by the king and its content inventoried. Thereafter it gradually fell into decay during its later fourtheenth century Mortimer ownership and by 1398 it was 'ruinous and worth nothing'. The castle, in State care, is in the process of consolidation and excavation leading to eventual presentation to the public.

The castle survives as a ruined structure between a series of earthwork ramparts. It is approximately rectangular in shape and orientated roughly east-west on a high ridge with precipitous slopes to N and S. On the E and W are the earthwork defences of the castle ditch and outer banks, while on the flat land beyond the castle lie earthworks associated with the medieval town. The walls are constructed of roughly course local siltstone and comprise inner and outer faces with corework between. Quarry pits found during the archaeological excavations on site have shown that the stone was acquired on site. The walls survive to a height of c1.5m generally but the keep and sections of curtain wall stand up to 4m. No roofs survive. The castle is bounded by a curtain wall and contains a substantial round tower at the end and a rectangular keep at the W. Between these is a long courtyard divided into two by a deep rock-cut ditch running N-S, and crossed by a masonry bridge. Ranges of rooms stand to the NE, SE and SW with the aisled hall on the NW. Fragmentary remains of a D-shaped tower survive in the centre of the north curtain wall and there is evidence for garderobe projections from the wall on the south. There were two main entrances, one on the W adjacent to the keep, and one on the south by the ditch, which was blocked relatively early in the castle's history. The SW room contains 2 circular ovens, hearths, and a drainage gully. The keep is the earliest feature on the site and consists of thick walls on a battered plinth with narrow doorways and one E window with wide, splayed jambs. It was subdivided later in its history. The round tower has a battered plinth and is equipped with an external stair on the north. The keep, on the highest part of the ridge, was originally free-standing and probably constructed by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (1273-77), followed quite quickly by the round tower and curtain walls. During English occupation between 1277 and 1398 the keep and courtyard buildings were modified, the latter substantially rebuilt. (Listed Building Report)

Masonry castle. sited on ridge overlooking Severn. rectangular curtain wall (footings). towers on N side and at NW corner. whole isolated by ditches to E. Welsh built castle standing on the north side of the river Severn. Was placed to oppose the English forces based on Montgomery Castle. Was built by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1273, but may not have been completed by Easter 1277, when the castle was besieged and captured by the English. Castle consists of a rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a curtain wall, still visible in places. The curtain wall was protected by deep rock-cut ditches isolating the ridge, and by steep slopes along the flank of the ridge. Inside the curtain wall were a number of domestic buildings erected as lean-to structures against this wall - these included a Great Hall, private chambers, store sheds, stables and a chapel. At one end was a tower to command the approach from the east, at the other was the Keep, controlling the castle gate and overlooking the bridge leading up to the town to the west. Excavation by York University has been carried out every summer since 1981. Quarry pits along the south side show where the construction of cellars had been interrupted. Repaired angles of the keep and the replaced east curtain wall show where catapult balls had struck, over 50 were found during works. The English made repairs and altered the keep, built a guardroom with two latrines and completed the domestic ranges, including a paved hall with floral painting on the white, plastered walls. The English also placed a bridge over the courtyard ditch, and its corbelled arch survives. The three towers and NE rooms were for high-class domestic use and the remaining ranges for service and storage. By 1322 the square tower was in domestic use, the round tower was the armoury, and the N tower was not mentioned, but presumably grouped with the hall, chambers and chapel. The SW room was the bakehouse and brewhouse. Other courtyard buildings were granaries and stables. Ditches to E & W, the west having a drawbridge outside the main gate and cross walls preventing attackers entering the ditch. Comparisons drawn with Castell Dinas Bran (PRN 101174) (Heritage in Wales, 2002, pp7). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

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 ReferenceSO151950
Latitude52.5464401245117
Longitude-3.25203990936279
Eastings315180
Northings295010
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney 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.

Calculate Print

Books

  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 54-56
  • 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. 81-2
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 189-92
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 55-60
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Butler, L., 2003, 'Dolforwyn Castle: prospect and retrospect' 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. 149-162
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 38-9 (plan)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 147
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 78
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • Avent, Richard, 1983, Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd (Cardiff)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus)
  • Arnold, C. et al, 1983, Interim reports on excavations at three castles in Wales 1981-1982 (Cardiff: Department of Extra-Mural Studies, University College)
  • Butler, L., 1981, Dolforwyn Castle. Interim Report on the Excavations 1981
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 349
  • Haslam, R.., 1979, Buildings of Wales: Powys (Yale University Press) p. 101
  • RCAHMW, 1911, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Montgomeryshire (HMSO) p. 8-9 no. 34 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England  (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 3-4 (dimensions in yards, should be feet-Reprint of 1877 article) online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 68-73 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1906, Leland's Itinerary in Wales  (Bell and Sons; London) p. 54, 55, 125 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
  • Butler, Lawrence, 2002-3, 'Dolforwyn Uncovering the last of the castles' Castle Studies Group Newsletter Vol. 16 p. 56-59 (reprint of 2002 Heritage in Wales article)
  • Butler, Lawrence, 2002, 'Dolforwyn Uncovering the last of the castles' Heritage in Wales p. 7
  • Butler, Lawrence, 2000-2001, 'Dolforwyn Castle, Powys (SO 152 950) Interim Report on Excavations: July 1st-22nd, 2000' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 14 p. 29-31 online copy
  • Butler, L., 2000, 'The siege of Dolforwyn Castlein 1277' Château Gaillard Vol. 19 p. 25-6
  • Butler, L., 1998-99, 'Dolforwyn Castle, Powys (SO 152 950)' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 12 p. 26-7 (plan) online copy
  • Butler, L., 1998. ‘Dolforwyn Castle. Abermule’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 38
  • Butler, L., 1995. ‘Dolforwyn Castle. Abermule’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 35 p. 69
  • Butler, L., 1995. ‘Dolforwyn Castle, Montgomery, Powys. Second report: the excavations 1987-1994' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 146 p. 133-203
  • Butler, L., 1994. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 34 p. 72-4
  • Butler, L., 1993. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 33 p. 82
  • Butler, L., 1992. ‘Dolforwyn Castle. Powys’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 32 p. 83-4
  • Butler, L., 1992, Internationales Burgen Institut: Bulletin Vol. 47 p. 41-48
  • Butler, L., 1992, 'Dolforwyn Castle, Powys, Wales : excavations 1985-90’ Château Gaillard Vol. 15 p. 73-82
  • Butler, L., 1991. ‘Dolforwyn Castle. Powys’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 31 p. 48-9
  • Butler, L., 1991, Fortress: The castles and fortifications quarterly Vol. 8 p. 15-24
  • Butler, L., 1990, 'Dolforwyn - Welsh castle' Current Archaeology Vol. 120 p. 418-423
  • Butler, L., 1990. ‘Excavations at Dolforwyn Castle. Powys. 1986-90’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 30 p. 19-20, 68-9
  • Butler, L., 1989. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 29 p. 6
  • Butler, L., 1989. ‘Dolforwyn Castle, Montgomery, Powys. First report: the excavations 1981-1986' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 138 p. 78-98
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 ‘Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 312 download copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1987, ‘Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 197 download copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1986, ‘Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 263-4 download copy
  • Butler, L., 1985, 'Dolforwyn Castle, Powys, Wales: excavations 1981-4’, Château Gaillard Vol. 12 p. 167-77 online preview
  • Butler, L. and Arnold, C., 1985. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 25 p. 42
  • Butler, L. and Arnold, C., 1984. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 24 p. 69-70
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1984, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1983’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 28 p. 228-9 download copy
  • Butler, L., and Arnold, C., 1983. ‘Dolforwyn Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 23 p. 62-3
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1983, ‘Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1982’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 27 p. 227 download copy
  • 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
  • Spurgeon, C.J., 1966, ‘The castles of Montgomeryshire’ Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 59 p. 39-42 online copy
  • Craster, 1962, Programme Cambrian Archaeological Association Summer Meeting p. 24-5
  • Lloyd, J.E., 1941, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies Vol. 10 p. 306-9
  • Williams, R., 1901, 'Dolforwyn Castle and its Lords' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 56 p. 299-317 (history)
  • Williams, R., 1894, 'Early documents relating to Dolforwyn Castle' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 28 p. 145-64
  • Sandford, G, 'The Mortimers and their fortresses in Powys-land and its borders' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 28 p. 295
  • Clark, G.T., 1877, ‘The castle of Dolforwyn’. Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 10 p. 326-328 online copy

Guide Books

  • Butler, L. and Knight, J.K., 2004, Dolforwyn Castle, Montgomery Castle (Cardiff: CADW)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward I (1272-1279) Vol. 1 p. 51 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brut y Tywysogion 1278 (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)
  • 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. 320-1

Other

  • Helen Fenwick's Power Point presentation of the memories of field schools is available from The University of York Dept. of Archaeology
  • Butler. L. 1998, Dolforwyn Castle. Abermule. Powys (SO 152 950) - Interim Report on Excavations (July 4th - August 1st 1998)
  • Butler. L. 1994, Dolforwyn Castle. Powys. Interim Report on Excavations July 3rd-July 30th 1994
  • Butler. L. 1989, Dolforwyn Castle. Powys. Interim Report on Excavations: July 2nd - July 22nd 1989