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Rhayader Castle

near the town of Rhayader, Powys, Mid-Wales
(Castle mound only - no visible remains)

Helen Burnham 1995

Rhayader Castle 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 which still provides access today. The northern ditch is the most readily visible, from the riverside path below, while that on the east is partly followed by a footpath. The summit of the site is undulating, and may contain the remains of buildings; a slight bank on the side away from the river may be part of a rampart above the eastern ditch. Any trace of a bailey has been lost below housing.

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 14th century; by the 16th Leland was unaware of any castle here.

There is another motte among the houses at Llansantffraed across the river, although the relationship between the two sites is unknown. They lay in separate administrative areas and may not have been in use at the same time.


Additional information about Rhayader Castle (external link)

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