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

There are earthwork remains

Alternative NamesPain's Castle; Payn's Castle; Castle Paine; Mauds Castle; Castrum Matildis; Elfael; Elvael; Castle Matilda; Garde Doloureuse
Historic CountryRadnorshire
Modern AuthorityPowys
1974 AuthorityPowys

The motte and bailey castle at Painscastle is 164m by 106m overall, set within a larger, possibly subrectangular enclosure, c.210m by 185m. The castle was rebuilt in 1231, possibly involving traces of stone tower upon motte. A tessilated, "fairy" pavement was uncovered here in C19. (Coflein)

Motte and bailey with subsequent masonry castle. Motte some 11m (max) high with encircling ditch which also separates it from a sub-rectangular ditched bailey lying to it's NNW. Whole enclosed by counterscarp rising some 4.5m above the ditch and additional outer defences (see also par 381b 381d). at least one tower site and other building sites in bailey visible to OS, 1981 though keep noted by Aogg, A H A & King, D J C, 1967 not then apparent. Site occupies minor local summit. Castle prob built by Pain Fitz John in early c12th with masonry phases started in 1231 by Henry III. The wooden keep was constructed in c. 1130 when a Norman knight, Pain Fitz-John saw the defensive possibilities afforded by the pre-existing mound. On Pain's death, the castle was passed to the Braose family and in the 1190's the castle's name was changed from Painscastle to Castle Matilda. The castle withstood a siege in 1198, when the Prince of Powys, Gwenwynwyn, failed to capture it. The castle was destroyed in 1401 by Owain Glyndwr (Gregory, D, 1994, 49-51). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Today the main feature of the castle is the large motte. Traces of foundations suggest that it originally supported a round tower, though the foundations have largely been grubbed up. Entrance to the keep was apparently gained through a barbican which crossed the motte ditch to the west. In 1231, £72 was spent on this barbican and the provision of a drawbridge. The bailey is roughly rectangular and deeply ditched, with a strong counterscarp bank. It too shows evidence of the stone walls having been grubbed up, robber trenches running along the lip of the ward

The overall shape of the castle is that of a playing card, and as a Roman fort could be expected in the area it is possible that this is what was originally here. Roman pavements have been found at the site. (Remfry, 1996)

The monument comprises the remains of a motte and bailey castle, a military stronghold built during the medieval period. A motte and bailey castle comprises a large conical or pyramidal mound of soil or stone (the motte) surrounded by, or adjacent to, one or more embanked enclosures (the bailey). Both may be surrounded by wet or dry ditches and could be further strengthened with palisades, revetments, and/or a tower on top of the motte. Pain’s Castle, also known as Castle Matilda, is a large, turf-covered motte and bailey castle with the motte placed at the southern end of a roughly rectangular bailey. The motte is surrounded by its own ditch, which in turn is connected to the ditch around the bailey. The motte reaches a height of c.11m above the ditch on the south side and 6.5m on the north, while its irregular summit, which may well conceal traces of masonry, measures c.18m north-south by c.15m. A break in the north-west side of the motte ditch appears to lead into the bailey and more specifically, to a circular area which projects into the main bailey ditch, and may represent the position of a round tower. Around the bailey ditch lip there are signs of a curtain wall in the form of a continuous low mound beneath the turf. Low mounds on the east side of the bailey probably represent the sites of domestic buildings. The bailey ditch has a maximum depth of c.6m on the north side. The outer bank, which runs around both motte and bailey, rises c.4.5m above the ditch bottom; on the east and north-east it has been damaged by later activity. The castle is thought to have been built by Pain FitzJohn in c.1130, and withstood a siege by the forces of Powys in 1198. Modifications in stone are attested from 1231 onwards, but the castle was destroyed by Owain Glyndwr in 1401. A slighter outer enclosure around the west and north of the castle may represent the position of an associated borough. (Scheduling Report)

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 ReferenceSO166461
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

() above

Latitude 52° 6' 26.57" Longitude -3° 13' 6.92"

View full Sized Image
Copyright Phil Laycock and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

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


  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 95-7
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 59-60
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 317 (1196 siege)
  • Remfry, P., 2008, The Castles and History of Radnorshire (SCS Publishing)
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 225-7
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of Mid Wales (Malvern) p. 65
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 180-1
  • Remfry, Paul, 1999, Painscastle, 1066 to 1405 (SCS Publishing Worcester)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 115
  • Remfry, P., 1996, Castles of Radnorshire (Logaston Press) p. 132-4 (plan)
  • Gregory, D., 1994, Radnorshire: A Historical Guide
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 216
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 174-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 411
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 370
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 272
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 775-6
  • Howse, W.H., 1949, Radnorshire (Hereford) p. 272-3
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 132
  • RCAHMW, 1913, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Radnorshire (HMSO) p. 64 no. 254 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 293 online copy
  • Lloyd, J.E., 1912, History of Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 585 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy [online copy >]



  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • 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
  • 1959, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 108 p. 159-60
  • 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)
  • Cole, E.J.L., 1954, 'Castle Matilda' Transactions of the Radnorshire Society Vol. 24 p. 30-2 (slight) online copy
  • Morgan, Rev W.E.T., 1927, 'Painscastle' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 29-32
  • Dawson, M.L., 1923, ‘Painscastle and its story’ Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 78 p. 28-52 (poor history)
  • Sandfort, 1882, Montgomery Collections Vol. 15 p. 81-2
  • Cheese, E.H., 1879, 'Painscastle-in-Elfael, Radnorshire' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. 181-7

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1196, 1198, 1215, 1231 (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)
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1231 online copy
  • Jones, T. (ed), 1948, 'Cronica de Wallia and other documents' Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies Vol. 12 p. 27-44 (1231)
  • 'Annales de Wigornia' in Luard, H.R (ed), 1869, Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 4 p. 388, 422 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 449 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 4-5 online copy
  • Roberts, C. (ed), 1835, Excerpta e Rotulis Finium in Turro Londinensi Asservatis, Henrico Tertio Rege, A.D. 1216-1271 (Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 108 online copy
  • Christie, R.C. (ed), 1887, Annales Cestrienses: Chronicle of the Abbey of S. Werburg, at Chester p. 57-8 online copy
  • Bémont, C., 1884, Simon de Montfort Comte de Leicester (Paris) p. 379 (mention in a fragment of of a chronicle of Battle Abbey on the War of the Barons (1258-1265)) 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. 402-3
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference