Bronllys Castle

Talgarth, United Kingdom

Bronllys Castle is a motte and bailey fortress standing south of Bronllys, towards Talgarth in Powys. The original castle, constructed of wood, was founded in or soon after 1100 by Richard Fitz Pons, the owner of the nearby Herefordshire barony of Clifford, who was a supporter of Bernard of Neufmarché.

In 1144 Roger Fitzmiles, Earl of Hereford, detached the land surrounding Bronllys from the Lordship of Brecknock, and gave it to Richard's son, Walter de Clifford, who then rebuilt the castle in stone. Walter seems to have been responsible for building the round tower on the motte, as in 1165 it caught fire and a stone tumbling from the battlements killed Earl Roger's last surviving brother Mahel de Hereford; Gerald of Wales claims that, while dying from the injury, Mahel repented of his previous persecution of the Bishop of St. Davids, which he blamed for his fate.

Roger and his brothers were childless, so Brecknock passed first to their sister's husband, Philip de Braose, then to Eleanor de Braose, and so came under the control of her husband, Humphrey de Bohun.

In September 1233 Walter's grandson, another Walter de Clifford, had a force of over 200 men defending the castle against his father-in-law Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. Walter had no son, only a daughter, Maud, who married John Giffard, and inherited the lands when Walter died in 1263. The land was divided between the two daughters of John and Maud, with Bronllys going to the youngest, Maud.

Maud (the daughter) died in 1311, and Edward II gave the castle to Rhys ap Hywel (a local resident descendant of the former kings of Brycheiniog) as reward for loyalty to the crown. Rhys rebelled against the machinations of Edward's favourite and the king took back Bronllys; after Rhys helped depose Edward, being a member of the search party who seized him, he regained Bronllys.

Bronllys was inherited by Rhys' son, Philip ap Rhys. Although Philip's brother, Einion Sais was a prominent military supporter of the new king, Edward III allowed himself to be persuaded by Humphrey de Bohun, Lord of Brecknock that a place like Bronllys should be ruled by a powerful magnate such as himself, rather than a weak one such as Philip, so Edward transferred the castle to Humphrey.

Bronllys was inherited by Humphrey's nephew, Humphrey de Bohun. This Humphrey only had daughters, so when he died in 1373, the land was initially retained by his widow. Humphrey's titles and authority went into abeyance, and were disputed between the Duke of Gloucester, married to the older daughter, Eleanor, and Henry Bolinbroke, married to Mary de Bohun. After deposing Richard II, Henry used his royal authority and terminated the abeyance in Mary's favour, effectively transferring the lands to himself by jure uxoris in 1399.

Following the deposition and death of Richard II, the Glyndŵr Rising broke out in Wales. The castle was fortified against Owain Glyndŵr's forces, but Bronllys was never again occupied.

Anne of Gloucester, daughter of Mary de Bohun's elder sister Eleanor, petitioned Henry for her grandfather's lands to be returned to her. Anne's son, and heir, Humphrey Stafford, inherited the Earldom of Buckingham from his uncle, and was raised to Duke as a reward for his loyalty to Bolinbroke's heirs. His grandson, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was suspected of plotting against King Henry VIII, and was subsequently executed for treason in 1521; Bronllys was forfeited to the crown, with which it has remained ever since.

In 1521, the year the castle became a crown property, the antiquarian John Leland went to inspect it, reporting that it had fallen into great disrepair. By 1583 the disrepair was substantially worse. It is now in the care of Cadw, the arm of the Welsh Assembly charged with care of historic monuments and is open to the public between April and October.



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Founded: c. 1144
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Alan Sutton (7 months ago)
Great, small Castle tower. Fantastic views and only 87 steps to the top. Best of all it's open all year and free to enter. Well worth a visit if passing near.
dugroz (9 months ago)
A super fun little castle! No admission fee, no tour, just walk up and look around!
Jonathan Conway (9 months ago)
Easy to get to. Just a tower on a mound (Motte and Bailey), but well looked after. Not wheelchair accessible as there are lots of stairs. Ok to bring dogs. Worth popping in if you're passing, the views are lovely.
Daisy Dink (9 months ago)
Talgarth and Bronllys best kept secret! Open between 10 ish and 4ish depending on season and the gate keeper. Bronllys Castle isn't actually a castle. Originally built as a motte and bailey castle around the late 11th/early 12th century, All that remains is a single 3 storey tower in a small wooded, grassed glade with the odd stone wall and indent in the ground where the moat once was. Most of the land that belonged to the castle is now in private hands, but still enough here to enjoy the quiet atmosphere. You can climb up to the top via a wooden staircase, some of the steps are narrow in places, but once at the top, the views are fabulous! You can see why it was once of great strategic importance to both the Welsh and English (has been in the hands of both sides at different times). The views are panoramically breathtaking, as are the stairs! If you are lucky and you most likely will be, you will see the kites dancing on the thermals as Talgarth/Bronllys has quite a large population - definitely an extra perk :0) This site is unmanned and does have some information boards, it does NOT have toilets or facilities. There is no actual parking here though there is room for about 4 cars in the lay by opposite (unless the local constabulary are using it for their speed camera/ party bus, they're not keen on sharing the space!) It takes about 10-15 mins to walk around the site and climb to the top of the tower to enjoy the views. Most visitors I have spoken to have decided to drop in as they were passing by on the way to somewhere else. It is a beautiful quiet space for a picnic (no picnic benches, so bring a rug) or to just sit and take time out to watch the world go by, before rejoining the rest of the world
Rosslyn Rose (11 months ago)
Love this castle. There aren’t many left like this in Wales where you can climb the tower to the top. You need to have a certain level of fitness to get to this structure. There is a large three flight metal staircase that needs to be climbed to get up the motte to enter the castle, then a couple more stone staircases to reach the top. There is parking available at a small lay-by opposite or down the hill a little. No comfort amenities nearby but this is a sight worth trekking for. You can’t go all the way round the tower as the back half is in someone’s back garden. The history behind this castle is that it was possibly built on an earlier settlement. Richard Fitz Pons built the first motte and Bailey at the turn of the 12th century, and a few centuries later William de Clifford erected a stone castle on the same spot. It was added to over the centuries and adapted often up to the 14th century, even after it had been damaged by both fire and the attacks of Owain Glyndwr and his armies. Finally it was used as a prison before being counted as uninhabitable by Elizabeth I. On an information board at the ruin, there is a copy of a print by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck from 1741 showing what the whole castle looked like in the 18th Century. Unfortunately no sight of that huge structure exists now, just the majestic tower of Bronllys.
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