The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Dolforwyn Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle at Abrunol; Abermule; Aber miwi; Bachyranneleu; Dolvoreyn; Castell Dol-y-Vorwyn

In the community of Llandyssil.
In the historic county of Montgomeryshire.
Modern authority of Powys.
Preserved county of Powys.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO15189501
Latitude 52.54644° Longitude -3.25204°

Dolforwyn Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


The castle and borough founded by Llywelyn ab Gruffudd in 1273 occupies the summit of a greatly scarped and terraced ridge. The original layout included two great towers, one round and the other rectangular, set in a rectangular walled enclosure about 70m north-east to south-west by 30m, with massive ditches cutting across the ridge. A third, D-plan tower projected from the long northern wall and there was a two storey domestic range between it and the round tower. The main entrance faced across the ditch to the south-west, approached by a massive ramp, roughly 50m long and 15m wide. The borough may have occupied the summit of the ridge beyond the ramp. A second entrance opened into a rock-cut ditch cutting the castle enclosure in two. It is possible that the intention was for two separate courts each with its own great tower, as appears to have been the case at Ewloe (NPRN 94447) and Criccieth (NPRN 95281). The castle was unfinished in 1277 when it was besieged and captured by the English. The newly formed borough was removed and replaced by the foundation of Newtown (NPRN 33188). In the early fourteenth century the castle was adapted by Mortimer family with the addition of several new buildings, a hall, stores, a bakehouse and brewhouse. There was a grange or home farm without the walls and building platforms beyond the great ramp may be associated with this, rather than with the earlier borough. By 1381 it was 'in a poor state of repair' and in 1398 it was 'ruinous and worth nothing'. Between 1981 and 2002 the castle was cleared and excavated and its remains consolidated for public display. (Coflein–John Wiles, RCAHMW, 24 July 2007)

Located on a sharp promontory above the Severn Valley, in an excellent defensive position, with good views all round.
The early history of the castle is uncertain. The claim that it was founded by Bleddyn ap Cynfyn who ruled between 1065 and 1073 is unsupported by documentary or architectural evidence. Claims for Maredudd ab Rotpert (d.1244) , or Dafydd ap Llewelyn (d1246) are similarly tenuous and it is possible that more than one castle site is involved. The suggestion by Lloyd that it was Llewelyn ap Gruffydd who built Dolforwyn is strengthened by the architectural remains that date to the 1270s. It was taken by Rodger de Mortimer after a lengthy siege in 1277 and granted to him by a charter of Edward I in 1279, but in 1321-2 the castle was held by the king and its content inventoried. Thereafter it gradually fell into decay during its later fourtheenth century Mortimer ownership and by 1398 it was 'ruinous and worth nothing'. The castle, in State care, is in the process of consolidation and excavation leading to eventual presentation to the public.
The castle survives as a ruined structure between a series of earthwork ramparts. It is approximately rectangular in shape and orientated roughly east-west on a high ridge with precipitous slopes to N and S. On the E and W are the earthwork defences of the castle ditch and outer banks, while on the flat land beyond the castle lie earthworks associated with the medieval town. The walls are constructed of roughly course local siltstone and comprise inner and outer faces with corework between. Quarry pits found during the archaeological excavations on site have shown that the stone was acquired on site. The walls survive to a height of c1.5m generally but the keep and sections of curtain wall stand up to 4m. No roofs survive. The castle is bounded by a curtain wall and contains a substantial round tower at the end and a rectangular keep at the W. Between these is a long courtyard divided into two by a deep rock-cut ditch running N-S, and crossed by a masonry bridge. Ranges of rooms stand to the NE, SE and SW with the aisled hall on the NW. Fragmentary remains of a D-shaped tower survive in the centre of the north curtain wall and there is evidence for garderobe projections from the wall on the south. There were two main entrances, one on the W adjacent to the keep, and one on the south by the ditch, which was blocked relatively early in the castle's history. The SW room contains 2 circular ovens, hearths, and a drainage gully. The keep is the earliest feature on the site and consists of thick walls on a battered plinth with narrow doorways and one E window with wide, splayed jambs. It was subdivided later in its history. The round tower has a battered plinth and is equipped with an external stair on the north. The keep, on the highest part of the ridge, was originally free-standing and probably constructed by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd (1273-77), followed quite quickly by the round tower and curtain walls. During English occupation between 1277 and 1398 the keep and courtyard buildings were modified, the latter substantially rebuilt. (Listed Building Report)

Masonry castle. sited on ridge overlooking Severn. rectangular curtain wall (footings). towers on N side and at NW corner. whole isolated by ditches to E. Welsh built castle standing on the north side of the river Severn. Was placed to oppose the English forces based on Montgomery Castle. Was built by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1273, but may not have been completed by Easter 1277, when the castle was besieged and captured by the English. Castle consists of a rectangular courtyard, surrounded by a curtain wall, still visible in places. The curtain wall was protected by deep rock-cut ditches isolating the ridge, and by steep slopes along the flank of the ridge. Inside the curtain wall were a number of domestic buildings erected as lean-to structures against this wall - these included a Great Hall, private chambers, store sheds, stables and a chapel. At one end was a tower to command the approach from the east, at the other was the Keep, controlling the castle gate and overlooking the bridge leading up to the town to the west. Excavation by York University has been carried out every summer since 1981. Quarry pits along the south side show where the construction of cellars had been interrupted. Repaired angles of the keep and the replaced east curtain wall show where catapult balls had struck, over 50 were found during works. The English made repairs and altered the keep, built a guardroom with two latrines and completed the domestic ranges, including a paved hall with floral painting on the white, plastered walls. The English also placed a bridge over the courtyard ditch, and its corbelled arch survives. The three towers and NE rooms were for high-class domestic use and the remaining ranges for service and storage. By 1322 the square tower was in domestic use, the round tower was the armoury, and the N tower was not mentioned, but presumably grouped with the hall, chambers and chapel. The SW room was the bakehouse and brewhouse. Other courtyard buildings were granaries and stables. Ditches to E & W, the west having a drawbridge outside the main gate and cross walls preventing attackers entering the ditch. Comparisons drawn with Castell Dinas Bran (PRN 101174) (Heritage in Wales, 2002, pp7). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Coflein   County HER   Scheduling   Listing    
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   Historic Wales   V. O. B.   Geology   LIDAR  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
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.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales, the four welsh archaeological trusts and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain Designated Historic Asset Descriptive Information from The Welsh Historic Environment Service (Cadw), licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
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.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown.
Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Lidar coverage in the UK is not complete. The button above will give an idea of the area of coverage. Higher resolution lidar images in both DSM and DTM form may be available from Lle A geo-Portal for Wales (click the preview tag to bring up a map and then select format byclicking on the small blue diamond in the top right corner of the map.)
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*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 28/06/2017 18:13:03