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Aberedw Castles (I & II)

In the village of Aberedw, Powys, Mid-Wales
SO 079473 & SO 076474

Map link for Aberedw Castle

Text copyright by Paul M. Remfry
Photographs copyright 2002 by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Above: distant view of the motte of Aberedw I as seen from near the site of Aberedw II
Below: view of the still impressive motte at Aberedw I

 

It is not possible to date accurately the motte castle at Aberedw. It may possibly have been founded by the Baskervilles, operating under the Tosnys, around 1093 when the Normans launched a concerted invasion of South Wales. If this was so then it is likely that the castle was lost to native forces in the period 1135-50. This may also have been the time of the foundation of a Welsh castle here. Braose forces re-conquered the cantref of Elfael only in 1195 and it would seem unlikely that they or they followers founded a castle at Aberedw at this time. Braose control of the cantref was seriously threatened in 1196 and lost in 1208. By 1215 Gwallter Fychan the son of Prince Einion Clud (k.1177) was in control of the bulk of the land. Despite the taking of Painscastle by Henry III in 1231 the bulk of Elfael and Aberedw remained under the control of native 'princelings' until the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, possibly at Aberedw, on 11 December 1282. With this Edmund Mortimer expelled the descendants of Einion Clud from the district. In the 1250's 60's and 70's these men had been alternately vassals of both Roger Mortimer of Wigmore and Prince Llywelyn. In their place at Aberedw on 24 June 1284, Edmund installed Walter Hackelutel, who in June 1264 had unsuccessfully defended Hay on Wye Castle for Roger Mortimer against Earl Simon Montfort.

 

Below: side view of the motte at Aberedw I

 

Below: view of the front side of the motte at Aberedw I

 

 

 

 

 

Photographs of Aberedw II

Below: two views of the ruined curtain wall of Aberedw II.

 

By 24 November 1284 the king gave his consent for Walter Hackelutel to continue with the fortification of the castle he had begun in Wales. This was undoubtedly Aberedw. On 6 October 1285 Walter Hackelutel was further pardoned a debt of 57 owed to jews against "his costs and expenses in newly erecting a house in the Welsh Marches and afterwards crenellating it by the king's license for the better security of those parts". By 1293 the Tosnys of Painscastle had begun proceedings against Walter over Aberedw which they claimed as part of their conquest of Elfael which had occurred way back in 1093! Court cases passed possession of the land and castle between the two for a while and eventually the Beauchamps, successors to the Tosnys, seem to have won control of this little lordship and castle. Yet by 1398 the castle was not even deemed worthy of mention. It was a castle built in newly pacified land in 1284 - land that remained pacified after that until the rebellion of Owain Glyndwr. By 1300 it was probably already seen as obsolete and the fall of the castle to the Tosnys and their heirs probably sealed its fate, for why should they require a little fortress set in the mountainous wilds of Wales?

Below: general view across the overgrown interior of Aberedw II

Little now remains of Aberedw Castle above ground although, as at most castle sites, probably some 10 feet of masonry is still buried in its own ruins. Apart from the modern north to south running track that bisects the castle, entrance is currently gained via a low causeway crossing the ditch to the site of the east curtain. There is no evidence that this causeway is medieval and quite likely, as at Clifford Castle, it was constructed to allow easier access to the site. Medieval causeways at such castles are probably non-existent and what we see here is an easy post-Medieval route of access. Medieval access would undoubtedly have been gained via a bridge which may have stood anywhere along the enceinte. The mounds of rubble within the curtain wall at this 'entrance' probably mark the rubble of the curtain thrown back by ancient farmers to allow their animals easy access to the site.

Below (2): interior and exterior views of the SE tower at Aberedw II

Just south of the current 'entrance' is a protruding wall facing, nearly at right-angles to the run of the curtain wall. Possibly this was a window for a lean-to building or this may even mark the site of the now lost gateway. The castle was four square, apparently with a D-shaped tower at each corner. The south east tower (above) is now best preserved and seems to have walls about 5 feet thick. A minimal defensive thickness, and quite outdated by 1284! The north west tower may have been slightly bigger than its companions and might consequently have been a keep. Much of the west side of the castle has been damaged by the later railway cutting and in several places the core of the old curtain and towers hang precariously over the precipice. The mortar still seen between the stones of the walls is now utterly decayed and without urgent attention it seems likely that more of this failed castle will soon disappear.

Paul Martin Remfry

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Additional Photographs of Aberedw II
Learn about historic St Cewydd's Church at Aberedw
Other Titles by Paul M. Remfry

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