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Usk Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Brynbuga; Brunebegy; Burenbegie; Huske; Uske; Oscae

In the community of Usk.
In the historic county of Monmouthshire.
Modern authority of Monmouthshire.
Preserved county of Gwent.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO37980046
Latitude 51.70502° Longitude -2.90328°

Usk Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Usk Castle is a substantial masonry castle dating from around 1138 and now generally ruinous. It is first recorded in the possession of Richard de Clare in 1262, but probably held by the de Clare family from the conquest of South Wales. It subsequently passed through severeal hands in the fourteenth century and for a time was controlled by Edmund Mortimer, Earl of the Marches. After the death of his nephew Richard, the Duke of York, it passed to Edward VI, subsequently staying in the hands of the crown until the death of Henry VII. It then passed to the Earls of Pembroke. The castle stands on a spur overlooking the Usk and consists of a rectangular area surrounded by curtain walls with towers at intervals and a large gatehouse on the east side. To the south-east is an outer bailey with walls on its south-east side, a corner tower on the south, and a gatehouse at the north end of the south-east wall. The gatehouse is square in plan, a three storey structure with a doorway reached by stone steps on the east side and round headed windows on the south side. Internally there is a fireplace on the north-west side, and a number of doorways at different levels. The north tower is D-shaped with a large square-headed doorway with a square mullioned window above on the inside wall, and external doorways in the north and south walls, that to the south leading to a small platform. On the first floor is a fireplace. The banqueting hall is 14th century in date, being altered around 1500. It stands against the curtain wall on the north side. Along its south side is a buttressed wall with two windows and a doorway, with a third window above. The west wall has a further, large window and there is a fireplace in the north wall at first floor level. The Garrison Tower is circular and located midway along the south-west curtain wall. It stands to its full height with a crenallated parapet, and there are doors into it on either side of the curtain wall. At a level corresponding to the top of the curtain wall is a small passageway leading to a garderobe on the north side and a spiral staircase on the south side, and there are small slit windows on four levels. The Round Tower in the south corner, stands to the same height as the curtain wall, with a doorway surviving on the north side. Curtain walls survive to various heights. On the north-east side there is a large gateway with a pointed arch, to the west of which is a low grass bank. Above this are three supports in the wall for the first floor of the building that was there. There is also a tapering fireplace in the middle. To the north of the gateway is another fireplace and grass covered low remains of rooms, and to the north of this is a small projection with a rounded niche. The north side has St Georges chapel, an area of garden made into an open air chapel. At the west end a small tower projects to the outside of the curtain wall, internally having a fireplace and the remains of a spiral staircase. The south-west curtain wall retains its wall walk, and there are three openings, one of which has a pillar and appears more recent. The south-east wall has a small 'room' inside the wall at an upper level. The Dovecot tower is at the south end of the outer bailey wall; it is round in plan and stands to its full height. The internal north-west wall has niches for use as dove boxes. (Source SAM description) (Coflein)

Possibly dating from late C11 (although this has been questioned by Spurgeon and Phillips who suggest new built masonry castle of mid C12), first mentioned in 1138 when captured. Lies on a hill in northernmost sector of Roman fort. The bailey had a masonry wall with round towers added c1212-19 by William Marshall. Gilbert IV de Clare is said to have added the NE tower in the 1260's. When Gilbert V de Clare was killed at Bannockburn in 1314, Usk passed to Elizabeth de Burgh who erected the hall block, chapel and solar on the northeast side. The castle later passed to the Mortimers, who walled in the outer bailey on the south with one round SW tower and a rectangular gatehouse. Owain Glyndwr burnt the town in 1402 and 1405, but the castle may have held out. Castle said to be 'worth nothing' in 1550. Now generally ruinous. The gatehouse has been incorporated into a later house and a barn is incorporated in part of the curtain wall. The principal enclosure, with a largely C13 towered encience, is subrectangular, c.80m by 54m, whilst with all possible ramifications the castle may have occupied an area c.210m by 150m, integrated with the town defences.
Links to mapping and other online resources

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Coflein   County HER       Listing    
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Sources of information, references and further reading

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The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of the described site.

This record last updated on Thursday, November 21, 2013