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Tretower Castle

A Grade I Listed Building in Llanfihangel Cwmdu with Bwlch and Cathedine (Llanfihangel Cwm Du gyda Bwlch a Chathedin), Powys

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8839 / 51°53'2"N

Longitude: -3.1862 / 3°11'10"W

OS Eastings: 318454

OS Northings: 221262

OS Grid: SO184212

Mapcode National: GBR YY.RJ9C

Mapcode Global: VH6C8.QXG4

Entry Name: Tretower Castle

Listing Date: 21 October 1998

Last Amended: 21 October 1998

Grade: I

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 20662

Building Class: Defence

Location: Prominently sited SW of church on S side of Ty Llys farm, W of Tretower Court. Farm buildings are contained within the bailey walls

County: Powys

Community: Llanfihangel Cwmdu with Bwlch and Cathedine (Llanfihangel Cwm Du gyda Bwlch a Chathedin)

Community: Llanfihangel Cwmdu with Bwlch and Cathedine

Locality: Tretower

Traditional County: Brecknockshire

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History

Established c1100 by Picard, a follower of Bernard de Neufmarche who had seized the upper part of the Usk valley. The site, close to the Rhiangoll brook, enabled it to be defended by a wet moat and by natural marshy ground. The earliest defences probably consisted of a motte and bailey with stone revetment to the mound, and timber palisades. The timber defences were replaced, probably mid C12 by Picard's son, Roger Picard I, with a stone shell keep comprising gatehouse, hall and solar. These are said to have been partly removed 1230-1240 by his great-grandson Roger Picard II, who erected a tall circular keep, raised the outer walls of the shell keep to create a wall walk, and raised stone walls around the bailey with round towers at the angles. The castle continued as a garrison throughout the C14, being held by Sir James Berkeley against Owain Glyndwr in 1403. A 4-storey building was erected on the NW side of the mound C14, probably to provide quarters for the garrison, and a large fireplace was inserted into the basement of the solar. During or after the middle ages it became ruinous and by C18 farm buildings had been built inside the bailey, probably using stone from the bailey walls. The Castle was purchased for the nation in 1947, subsequent to which extensive conservation work continued until the 1960s.

Exterior

Ruined medieval castle of rubble sandstone consisting of a circular tower on a motte surrounded by remnants of the shell keep, comprising gatehouse, kitchen and hall, and solar, on top of which are remains of a wall walk.

The tower dominates and is of 3 stages with basement. The wall is 9ft thick and battered at the base, the top of the batter marked by a string course. The basement is lit by 2 loops with very deep splays. The entrance to the tower was at first-floor level on the N side, where creasing of a former gable is visible. Dressings of the doorway survive only inside and consist of a 2-centred arch with stop-chamfer moulding. Within the wall thickness is a mural stair to the second floor. Internally, the NW side of the first floor has a large fireplace with a raked ashlar hood on moulded corbels flanked by scalloped corbels. A window with 2-centred head on SE side has remains of benches in the reveals, while a similar window to S has within its reveal an entrance to a mural stair to the basement. The doorway on 2nd floor is on E side and has a 2-centred head with stop-chamfer surround. The second floor has a fireplace similar to first floor and 2 windows with fine slab seats in the reveals and segmental rere arches with stop-chamfer surrounds. From the reveal of the window in the W side is a short tunnel-vaulted passage leading to an external doorway under a 2-centred arch, giving access to a former wooden bridge which led to the curtain wall walk. The creasing of the gable of the bridge is visible on the external face. A mural stair to the upper storey is lit by 2 narrow lancets. In the slightly narrower upper stage are 2-centred windows to NE and W with segmental, stop-chamfer rere-arches and remains of stone seats. In the E side is a doorway with segmental head. The former gatehouse is on E side of shell keep and survives only at ground level. Within the gateway is a pit over which the drawbridge would have been lowered. On the inner side of the gateway the rebates of the former gate survive, while on N side are jambs of a stairway which led to curtain wall walk. The kitchen and first-floor hall are on S side of shell keep, and have a canted projection, battered at the base, from the line of the curtain wall and solar. The kitchen has an external stack which tapers above a string course defining the roof line of the C12 hall which was then heightened mid C13 to create a wall walk. Internally the kitchen has a semi-circular fireplace flanked by small round-headed windows with deep splays. The N wall of the kitchen is a later addition of C13 and has a doorway with a 2-centred head. Immediately W of the projection is a round-headed doorway leading to a blocked former stairway to hall, which has one stair light blocked and another ruinous. Above the stairway are 2 blocked round-headed windows, both having rere arches with heavy roll mouldings, of which the larger E window lit the hall, the smaller W window the solar. Above the windows is the string course and former wall walk. The solar is on W side of shell keep and is at first-floor level, having a basement with battered wall beneath. The SW corner of the solar collapsed in 1947 but contained a newel stair from the basement possibly added C13 to wall walk. The solar W wall has an external stack carried up above original roof line and blocked off by an offset against the C13 parapet, one loop of which survives. On S side of stack is a blocked round-headed window with segmental rere arch. At basement level 2 blocked openings or recesses are visible internally, and in SW corner is an oven inserted C14. The solar fireplace is blocked but has plain jambs and segmental arch. On the N and NE sides the curtain wall survives only partially at low level.

The bailey is triangular in plan, with castle to W and ruins of round towers at N and E angles. Between the keep and E tower the wall survives at low level and crosses a moat (with round-headed culvert). The wall has battered buttresses. The E tower survives at low level but has a segmental pointed doorway to bailey. The flanking bailey walls are higher at this point. Between the keep and N tower the wall is not continuous, a short length of wall having been added mid C20 from the keep. The remainder of the wall stands at high level and has lean-to farm buildings to the inner side. The section between N and E towers is mostly missing and occupied by farm buildings.

Reasons for Listing

Listed Grade I as an important example of medieval defensive architecture in Wales.

Scheduled Ancient Monument BR014 (POW)G

Other nearby listed buildings

  • II Castle Cottage
    On S side of a minor road immediately N of Tretower Castle.
  • II Ty Llys
    On SW side of Tretower church and on W side of burial ground. The house front is enclosed within forecourt railings.
  • II Zoar Chapel
    Situated on the western side of Tretower at the junction between the lane into the village and that up to the A479. Set back behind railed forecourt with gates and gate-piers.
  • I Tretower Court
    Approximately 150m S of the parish church on W side of a minor road between Tretower and A40
  • II Wall N of Tretower Court
    Detached from NE side of Tretower Court, facing a minor road.
  • II Church of St John the Evangelist
    In the centre of Tretower on S side of A479 and N of Tretower Court. The site occupies a triangular plot surrounded by minor roads.
  • II Wall N of Tretower Court Barn
    On E side of minor road through Tretower immediately N of Tretower Court Barn.
  • II Tretower House
    Approximately 200m NW of Tretower church, set back from S side of A479 and reached by private drive.

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