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Rhayader Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Tower Mount; Rhaiadyr; Rhaiadr; Rhaedr Gwy; Rhaidr Gwy; Rhys Castle

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SN96836803
Latitude 52.30049° Longitude -3.51488°

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

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The castle at Rhayader is possibly that built by Rhys ab Gruffudd of Deheubarth in 1177. It was destroyed in 1190 by the princes of Maelienydd, rebuilt in 1194 and again destroyed. These events might have concerned the castle mound across the river (NPRN 304969). In about 1200 the powerful Mortimer family either rebuilt the castle of founded it anew on this site, only for it to be captured in 1202. It was stormed and destroyed in 1231 by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth of Gwynedd. This was the principal if not the only castle in the territory of Gwerthrynion. By 1304 it was the 'site of the ancient castle', although it may have continued to have some legal role as a manorial centre, being refered to as a castle in 1316. The borough of Rhayader was probably established in the fourteenth century (NPRN 309594). The remains of the castle consist of a roughly rectangular platform about 50m north-east to south-west by 40m. It rests above headlong slopes or crags above the river on the north-west and southern sides, with a great rock cut ditch up to 10m wide and at least 4.0m deep, on the north and south-eastern sides. The entrance is likely to have been on the north side. There are indications of a bank or rampart on the eastern edge of the enclosure. Stone foundations are said to have been seen in the earlier nineteenth century. (Coflein–John Wiles, RCAHMW 31 July 2007)

Exploits a strong natural crag overlooking the Wye, and is defended on the north and east by rock-cut ditches with a causeway on the north-east. The castle was built by the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, in 1177 at the fringes of his kingdom, and was rebuilt by him in 1194. This later work may have been reinforcement in the face of a threat, since shortly afterwards the castle fell to Maelgwn and Hywel, sons of Cadwallon ap Madog of Maelienydd, the adjoining kingdom to the east. They almost immediately lost it to English Mortimer forces, but it was soon regained by the Lord Rhys. "The castle of Gwrtheyrnion" (the Rhayader area) was again regained by the Welsh in 1202, although it is not clear how they had lost it. The site was probably disused by the early C14. (Burnham)

The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period. A castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but these were not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Rhayader Castle is set on a promontory above the River Wye, with large rock-cut vertical ditch to north-west and a scarp to the river plain on the west and south. The site is open ground covered with rough grass. (Scheduling Report)

A charter of the 1180's proves that Rhys' castle was on the west bank of the Wye in Commote Dewdr and not actually in Gwrtheyrnion where current-day Rhayadr is. From this one piece of evidence it appears clear that Rhys' castle was the motte to the west of the Wye and the Norman castle the ringwork? with deep rock-cut ditch next to the church on the east bank. (Paul Remfry - pers. corr.)
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This record last updated 07/07/2016 10:12:34