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Mathrafal Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Madrael; Matafall

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ13171079
Latitude 52.68784° Longitude -3.28614°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Mathrafal is a banked and ditched rectilinear enclosure, c.100m square, resting on the river Banwy on the SE, with a rather rectangular mound, 35m by 24m and 4.7m high at its NE angle. Previously suggested to have been an royal site, a program of investigation, culminating in excavation in 1989 (Arnold and Huggett 1995) demonstrated that the mound could be associated with an oval ditched enclosure, disused and filled by c. 1310-1430, superceded by the rectilinear enclosure, itself not constructed until after about 1200. The origins of the 'Royal court' tradition have been traced to the mid. C13. A sequence of buildings, ending as C19 farm, occupied the NW angle of the enclosure. (Coflein)

Sub-rectangular motte c25m SW-NE by 30m wide and up to 4.7m high with the possible remains of the single rampart of a small bailey enclosing an area of about 30m by 40m adjoining its south-western side, the whole in turn lying within the north-west corner of a larger rhombic enclosure c90m NE-SW by 80m defended on all except part of south-east side (where it abutts adjacent river) by a single bank and outer ditch with a single entrance in each side. Traces of building foundations apparent in outer enclosure (see OS 1972) are most probably associated with post medieval farmstead (see Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). It has been postulated that the outer enclosure represents a Dark Age settlement while the motte and bailey are later features (see Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). The castle is first documented in 1212 and disappears from historical records during the 15th century.Partial excavation 1985 produced only medieval and post medieval finds (Arnold, C J & Huggett, J W, 1986). Excavation 1985: motte ditch revetted by stone wall. Bailey levelled up with clay dumps below which were layers of burning (C14 date 700+/-60BP). No dating evidence for outer enclosure (Youngs, S M, Clark, J and Barr, T 1986, 198). Survey and geophysical survey (1988) with processing by IBM (UK) suggest that relationship between outer enclosure and the motte is ambiguous (Arnold, C J, Huggett, J W, Reilly, P and Springham, C 1988, 73). Excavation 1989: examined the outer enclosure of the castle and demonstrated that the earlier date is in the 13th century. The outer enclosure was probably that of a manorial enclosure dated after cAD1200 and before cAD 1400 (Arnold, C J and Huggett, J W 1995, 59-74). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

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. Mathrafal consists of an impressive series of rectangular defences set around the motte, with further protection afforded by the River Banwy to the east . Excavations suggest these rectangular defences were the result of 13th century refashioning and enlargement of earlier curving defences. (Scheduling Report)

Original capital of the Princes of Powys. The site may have shifted from an earlier one on a hill top 1km away; the motte was probably built either by Owain Cyfeiliog (c1170) or by Robert de Vieuxpoint (c1210). The seat of Powys was transferred to Welshpool in early C13, and Llywelyn ab Iorwerth destroyed Mathrafal in 1211.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
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This record last updated 28/06/2017 18:13:03