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Newtown Castle

Powys, Mid-Wales (SO 106 915)

Photograph and text copyright by John Northall

With acknowledgements The Royal Commission into Ancient Monuments in Wales and Newtown Council.

Above: The west side of the motte and the traces of its in-filled ditch.

The earthwork castle near the centre of Newtown was built in the second half of the thirteenth century to protect a Norman frontier settlement. The Mortimer family had penetrated along the Severn valley from their base at Montgomery and they founded a market town within a loop of the river Severn. The new town was in the Welsh district of Cedewain, on land ascribed to Llewelyn ap Gruffudd by the treaty of Montgomery in 1267, so protection was necessary.

The older motte and bailey of Gro Tump, a leftover of previous wars, lies about a mile to the east but seems to have played no part in the new arrangements. Instead, a broad-topped motte, some 39 metres across and 5 metres high, was built to protect the southern side of the town. A circular ditch surrounded the motte and there were probably earthen ramparts running from it to the north and east to join the river, thereby providing all-round defence.

Above: The motte had a flat top and provided enough space for several buildings. The visitor is standing on the remains of stone footings that probably date to the English civil war.

Llewelyn had built a castle and town of his own four miles away at Dolforwyn, mid-way between Newtown and Montgomery, and when this fell to the Mortimers in 1277 Newtown became the principle town in the area. Its status was confirmed on 16th January 1279 when King Edward the First granted Baron Roger de Montgomery a charter to hold a market every Tuesday at 'Newentowne', a tradition that continues to this day. Sir John Price remodelled the motte in 1641 during the English civil war, when its damaged eastern side was removed and a straight ditch cut along its edge.

The motte can be seen in a public park near to the council offices and a length of embankment can just be traced to the east, parallel to the modern road.

 

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