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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Pain's Castle; Payn's Castle; Castle Paine; Mauds Castle; Castrum Matildis; Elfael; Elvael; Castle Matilda; Garde Doloureuse

In the community of Painscastle.
In the historic county of Radnorshire.
Modern authority of Powys.
Preserved county of Powys.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO16644615
Latitude 52.10709° Longitude -3.21842°

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

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The motte and bailey castle at Painscastle is 164m by 106m overall, set within a larger, possibly subrectangular enclosure, c.210m by 185m. The castle was rebuilt in 1231, possibly involving traces of stone tower upon motte. A tessilated, "fairy" pavement was uncovered here in C19. (Coflein)

Motte and bailey with subsequent masonry castle. Motte some 11m (max) high with encircling ditch which also separates it from a sub-rectangular ditched bailey lying to it's NNW. Whole enclosed by counterscarp rising some 4.5m above the ditch and additional outer defences (see also par 381b 381d). at least one tower site and other building sites in bailey visible to OS, 1981 though keep noted by Aogg, A H A & King, D J C, 1967 not then apparent. Site occupies minor local summit. Castle prob built by Pain Fitz John in early c12th with masonry phases started in 1231 by Henry III. The wooden keep was constructed in c. 1130 when a Norman knight, Pain Fitz-John saw the defensive possibilities afforded by the pre-existing mound. On Pain's death, the castle was passed to the Braose family and in the 1190's the castle's name was changed from Painscastle to Castle Matilda. The castle withstood a siege in 1198, when the Prince of Powys, Gwenwynwyn, failed to capture it. The castle was destroyed in 1401 by Owain Glyndwr (Gregory, D, 1994, 49-51). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Today the main feature of the castle is the large motte. Traces of foundations suggest that it originally supported a round tower, though the foundations have largely been grubbed up. Entrance to the keep was apparently gained through a barbican which crossed the motte ditch to the west. In 1231, £72 was spent on this barbican and the provision of a drawbridge. The bailey is roughly rectangular and deeply ditched, with a strong counterscarp bank. It too shows evidence of the stone walls having been grubbed up, robber trenches running along the lip of the ward. The overall shape of the castle is that of a playing card, and as a Roman fort could be expected in the area it is possible that this is what was originally here. Roman pavements have been found at the site. (Remfry, 1996)

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. Pain’s Castle, also known as Castle Matilda, is a large, turf-covered motte and bailey castle with the motte placed at the southern end of a roughly rectangular bailey. The motte is surrounded by its own ditch, which in turn is connected to the ditch around the bailey. The motte reaches a height of c.11m above the ditch on the south side and 6.5m on the north, while its irregular summit, which may well conceal traces of masonry, measures c.18m north-south by c.15m. A break in the north-west side of the motte ditch appears to lead into the bailey and more specifically, to a circular area which projects into the main bailey ditch, and may represent the position of a round tower. Around the bailey ditch lip there are signs of a curtain wall in the form of a continuous low mound beneath the turf. Low mounds on the east side of the bailey probably represent the sites of domestic buildings. The bailey ditch has a maximum depth of c.6m on the north side. The outer bank, which runs around both motte and bailey, rises c.4.5m above the ditch bottom; on the east and north-east it has been damaged by later activity. The castle is thought to have been built by Pain FitzJohn in c.1130, and withstood a siege by the forces of Powys in 1198. Modifications in stone are attested from 1231 onwards, but the castle was destroyed by Owain Glyndwr in 1401. A slighter outer enclosure around the west and north of the castle may represent the position of an associated borough. (Scheduling Report)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 05/07/2016 10:39:52