The earthwork remains of a motte-and-bailey castle that played a significant role in the Norman conquest and control of central Wales. The grounds of the castle can be accessed with the mound offering superb views over the surrounding countryside. Fragments of the town walls are also visible.
Old Radnor is found around 2.5 miles from the site of the castle at New Radnor. An earthwork can be found near the church consisting of a moat and small flat enclosure. Some have mooted this could have been a castle or fortified site perhaps associated with the Welsh Princes. This suggestion is now out of favour with most historians suggesting it was a structure linked to the nearby church.
Also in Old Radnor, situated on the high ground, is Castle Nimble which was one of the small outstations of Radnor Castle established in the late eleventh century. Its occupation was brief and little is known about it. Today slight earthworks are visible.
Radnor Castle Motte. The castle’s mound towers over the village.
(New) Radnor Castle
Old Radnor Castle (Moat)
Notes: The castle earthworks tower over the village of New Radnor. Footpaths to the site are accessed from Park Road and Mutton Dingle. On-road parking is possible in the village.
Old Radnor ‘Cast;e’ Moat
Old Radnor Church
Raised in the early eleventh century by the Normans as they expanded their control west into Wales, Radnor Castle was regularly embroiled in warfare with the native Welsh. Captured and burnt on multiple occasions, it became irrelevant when its associated town was economically destroyed by Owain Glyndŵr.
HISTORY OF (NEW) RADNOR CASTLE
Possibly a fortified settlement during the Dark Ages and later the site of a wooden keep built by Harold Godwinson during a campaign in 1064, Radnor Castle was established in the late eleventh century in support of the Norman objective to project their power into Wales. Its precise builder is unknown; it may have been raised by William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford who owned the land until his death in 1071 after which it passed to the Crown and was still in Royal control at the time of the Domesday Book (1086). No later than 1096 it then passed to Philip de Braose, Lord of Bramber. Whichever of these individuals commissioned Radnor Castle, it was superbly sited on top of a natural hill that was artificially sculpted to increase its defensive capabilities. A motte was positioned at the summit whilst a rectangular bailey was laid out to the north west. Although overlooked by higher ground on this side, the threat was mitigated by two deep ditches protecting the approach to the bailey.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given its location, the castle had a turbulent history. Shortly after initial construction ten additional motte-and-baileys were built in the immediate vicinity in order to secure control the region. Occupation of these seems to have been short-lived but Radnor itself continued as a major Norman stronghold. It was captured by Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1196 but was soon back with the de Braose family. However in 1210 the then owner - William de Braose - quarrelled with King John who eventually captured his wife and son then starved them to death in Corfe Castle. This horrific act was one of the catalysts for Magna Carta and the subsequent first Barons War. During this conflict Radnor was garrisoned by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, who was allied to the de Braose, but was attacked and burnt by the King. The site was restored to the family in the early years of Henry III's reign but passed back into Crown ownership in 1231 around which time it was attacked by Llywelyn ap Iorweth. It was rebuilt by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in 1233.
In 1247 Radnor passed to Roger Mortimer when he married Matilda, eldest daughter of William de Braose. The Mortimers were increasingly powerful Marcher Lords and were regularly engaged in open warfare against the Welsh. Radnor was rebuilt in stone around this time with large square towers constructed at three corners of the bailey. The Town also received protection in the form of a curtain wall. Nevertheless Radnor was attacked in 1261 and again in 1264 when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was operating in support of the Simon de Montfort rebellion (the Second Barons War). Although Henry III emerged triumphant from this conflict, he sought peace with Gruffudd and conceded both Radnorshire and Brecknockshire to the native Prince in the Treaty of Montgomery (1267).
The accession of Edward I in 1272 marked a significant change in Norman-Welsh relations culminating in the Welsh Wars of Independence (1276-7 and 1282-3). The territorial changes of 1267 had led to Radnor Castle finding itself on the border of Gruffudd's extended lands. Accordingly when hostilities broke out in 1276, the castle was used to launch a Norman offensive into central Wales. Gruffudd was defeated and, following the outbreak of the second War, killed.
In 1401 both castle and town were attacked by Owain Glyndŵr. The town was economically ruined by this attack and never recovered. The military function of the castle also became redundant as the ascendancy of the pro-Welsh Tudor regime in 1485 saw a very different type of rule come to Wales. The Gatehouse continued to be used as a prison by but 1535 the remainder of the structure was described as ruinous. It was briefly reactivated during the Civil War and hosted a visit by King Charles I in 1642 but as the Royalist cause in Wales started to fail the castle was besieged. Subjected to heavy damage from Parliamentary artillery, the remains were thereafter slighted.