Mathrafal Castle

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameMathrafal Castle
Alternative NamesMadrael; Matafall
Historic CountryMontgomeryshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

Mathrafal is a banked and ditched rectilinear enclosure, c.100m square, resting on the river Banwy on the SE, with a rather rectangular mound, 35m by 24m and 4.7m high at its NE angle. Previously suggested to have been an royal site, a program of investigation, culminating in excavation in 1989 (Arnold and Huggett 1995) demonstrated that the mound could be associated with an oval ditched enclosure, disused and filled by c. 1310-1430, superceded by the rectilinear enclosure, itself not constructed until after about 1200. The origins of the 'Royal court' tradition have been traced to the mid. C13. A sequence of buildings, ending as C19 farm, occupied the NW angle of the enclosure. (Coflein)

Sub-rectangular motte c25m SW-NE by 30m wide and up to 4.7m high with the possible remains of the single rampart of a small bailey enclosing an area of about 30m by 40m adjoining its south-western side, the whole in turn lying within the north-west corner of a larger rhombic enclosure c90m NE-SW by 80m defended on all except part of south-east side (where it abutts adjacent river) by a single bank and outer ditch with a single entrance in each side. Traces of building foundations apparent in outer enclosure (see OS 1972) are most probably associated with post medieval farmstead (see Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). It has been postulated that the outer enclosure represents a Dark Age settlement while the motte and bailey are later features (see Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). The castle is first documented in 1212 and disappears from historical records during the 15th century.Partial excavation 1985 produced only medieval and post medieval finds (Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). Excavation 1985: motte ditch revetted by stone wall. Bailey levelled up with clay dumps below which were layers of burning (C14 date 700+/-60BP). No dating evidence for outer enclosure (Youngs, S M, Clark, J and Barr, T 1986, 198)

Survey and geophysical survey (1988) with processing by IBM (UK) suggest that relationship between outer enclosure and the motte is ambiguous (Arnold, C J, Huggett, J W, Reilly, P and Springham, C 1988, 73). Excavation 1989: examined the outer enclosure of the castle and demonstrated that the earlier date is in the 13th century. The outer enclosure was probably that of a manorial enclosure dated after cAD1200 and before cAD 1400 (Arnold, C J and Huggett, J W 1995, 59-74). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Original capital of the Princes of Powys. The site may have shifted from an earlier one on a hill top 1km away; the motte was probably built either by Owain Cyfeiliog (c1170) or by Robert de Vieuxpoint (c1210). The seat of Powys was transferred to Welshpool in early C13, and Llywelyn ab Iorwerth destroyed Mathrafal in 1211.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSJ131107
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Jeremy Bolwell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 245 (listed)
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 43
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 148
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 104
  • Reilly, P., 1992, 'Three-dimensional modelling and primary archaeological data' in P. Reilly.and S. Rahtz (eds) Archaeology and the Information Age: A global perspective (Routledge, One World Archaeology 21) p.147n69
  • Arnold, C., Huggett, J., Reilly, P. and Springham, C., 1989, 'Mathrafal: a case study in the application of computer graphics' in S. Rahtz and J. Richards (eds) Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology 1989 (Oxford: BAR International Series 548) p. 147n56
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 298
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker)
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 271 online copy
  • RCAHMW, 1911, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Montgomeryshire (HMSO) p. 113 no. 583 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy



  • Arnold, C.J. and Huggett, J.W., 1995, 'Excavations at Mathrafal, Powys, 1989' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 83 p. 59-74 online copy
  • Arnold, C.J. et al, 1988, ‘Mathrafal, Meifod’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 28 p. 73
  • Musson, C.R. and Spurgeon, C.J. 1988, ‘Cwrt Llechrhyd. Llanelwedd: an unusual moated site in central Powys’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 97-109 online copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1986, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 114-198 download copy
  • Arnold, C.J. and Huggett, J.W., 1986, ‘Mathrafal, Powys: a reassessment’, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies Vol. 33 p. 436-51
  • Huggett, J.W. and Arnold, C.J., 1985, ‘Mathrafal’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 25 p. 42-3
  • Spurgeon, C.J., 1966, ‘The castles of Montgomeryshire’ Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 59 p. 9-10 online copy
  • 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
  • Radford, 1962, Programme, Cambrian Archaeological Association, Summer Meeting p. 32
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Lloyd, J.E., 1936, ‘Mathrafal’ Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 44 p. 44-6 (history) online copy
  • Davies, A.S., 1932, 'Excavations at Mathrafal' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 42 p. 150-52 online copy
  • Pryce, F.N., 1931, Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 41 p. 161-2 [online copy > ]
  • Lloyd, J.E. and Gardner, W., 1923, ‘Mathrafal’ Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 78 p. 453-5
  • Anon, 1912, 'Researches and itineraries during 1912' Welshpool Field Club p. 30-4
  • Williams, R., 1888, 'Royal visits to Montgomeryshire' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 22 p. 111-16 online copy
  • Williams-Wynn, W., 1879, 'History of the Parish of Llynegryn' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 34 p. 327-8, 453 online copy
  • Sandford, G., 1871, Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 4 p. 40-48 (history only)
  • Jones, H.L., 1849, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 6 p. 399 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Jones, T., 1955, Brut y Tywysogion (Red Book Of Hergest Version) (the flawed 1860 translation by William ab Ithel is at online copy) [Scan of original manuscript >]
  • Jones, T., 1952, Brut y Tywysogion (Peniarth MS 20 version) (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)
  • The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fourteenth year of the reign of King John,: Michaelmas 1212 (Pipe Roll Society 68)