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New Radnor Castle

In the village, Powys, mid Wales SO 216610
Map link for New Radnor Castle

Photographs copyright © 2002 by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Above: the impressive motte at New Radnor
Below: the castle seen here rising behind the buildings still dominates the village today.

Mike Salter

The historical relationship between the castle of New Radnor, the moated site south of Old Radnor Church, and Castle Nimble in the valley north of Old Radnor is uncertain, but it is likely that all the early references to Radnor mean New Radnor and that Philip de Braose had a castle on this fine defensive site by c.1095. It was destroyed by the Welsh in 1196 after they won a battle nearby, and was destroyed again by them in 1216, 1231, and 1262. It was rebuilt by Edward Mortimer and was garrisoned against the Welsh in 1282. The discovery in 1845, when foundation trenches were dug for the new church, of many headless skeletons and a separate pile of skulls shows fairly clearly what happened to the garrison of 60 men after Owain Glyndwr's forces captured the castle in 1402. The castle was subsequently left to decay and in 1535 Bishop Roland Lee reported to Thomas Cromwell that the only part worth repairing was that in use as the county prison. This was evidently within the gatehouse as Leland refers specifically to that part as recently repaired.

 The Earls of Pembroke were nominal constables of Radnor Castle in James I's reign, and Lord Powis in 1631. The castle was able to briefly accommodate Prince Charles in 1642 but soon afterwards was captured and dismantled by Parliamentary forces. Small cannon balls used in the siege were discovered in the 1780's and one larger ball was embedded in a wall. In 1815 Thomas Rees recorded the castle as being nearly square with massive square towers at the north, west, and NW corners, with two smaller round towers towards the town but it is likely that he was describing what appears on Speed's map of 1610 rather than observed remains. Pointed arches and foundations were revealed by digging in 1773, 1818, and 1864, the well being discovered on the latter occasion. There were still standing walls in 1840. Only earthworks now survive. The oval inner ward 58m long by 35m wide overlooks a steep drop to the High Street on the south and to the Dingle Brook on the east. To the north and west it is separated from a large but weakly defended bailey 150m long by 60m wide by a formidable system of two wide and deep dry ditches. Roger Mortimer obtained a murage grant for walling in the town in 1257 and further grants were made in 1280, 1283, and 1290. From the SW corner of the castle bailey a rampart still survives almost to the Summergil Brook, which probably fed a partially wet moat, and then onto the site of the South Gate. South of the site of the West Gate shale walling is visible in the bank. Less survives of the eastern section of the defenses, where there was a third gate, and the NE section, with a fourth gate near the Dingle Brook. The defenses were probably never restored after the destruction wrought in 1403 from which the town never recovered. It only attained the status of county town in 1536 because of the castle being used as a prison, and soon lost that status to more prosperous Presteigne (Salter). Below right: a public footpath leads to the castle from the town

Below right: a public footpath leads to the castle from the town





Below: views of the town & surrounding countryside from the summit of the motte




Below: the church at New Radnor


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Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas