Notes: Castle has very limited signage but is relatively easy to find as the tower is visible from the main road. Dedicated (free) car park for castle visitors.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
A very well presented site. The ruinous remains of the castle can be accessed (no wall or tower parapet access) and the later Tudor era house, complete with some reconstructions and associated small garden, can also be explored.
1. The Medieval name for the area was ‘Stradewy’ but this fell from use with Tretower - ‘the place of the tower’ - becoming the accepted norm.
2. The circular Keep at Tretower undoubtedly was influenced by similar Keeps in the South March; most notably Pembroke, Skenfrith and Bronllys.
Originally a motte and bailey fortification, Tretower Castle was constructed to sustain Norman control over the former Welsh Kingdom of Bycheiniog. Attacked by the Earl of Pembroke in 1233, it passed into the hands of the Berkeley family and then the Herberts who settled relatives there.
HISTORY OF TRETOWER CASTLE
Tretower Castle was built following the conquest of the former Welsh kingdom of Bycheiniog in the final years of the eleventh century. One of the Norman invaders was a Picard who was granted the area around Tretower as a reward for his support and it was he who built the first castle; an earth and timber motte-and-bailey. This was upgraded circa-1150 with a stone shell keep built around the motte.
Like many Norman castles in the Marches, Tretower was caught up in the politics of the Border Marches. In 1233 it was attacked by Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, who had allied himself with Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. The castle was heavily damaged but was repaired by Roger Picard who also built the impressive circular Keep that survives to this day.
By the early fifteenth century the Picard line had died out and, after various owners, the castle passed through marriage to the Berkeley family whose main residence was at Berkeley Castle. It was they who were charged with the safe keeping of Tretower during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion of 1400-10.
In 1429 the castle was sold to William ap Thomas whose son, William Herbert, would become the Earl of Pembroke. Herbert settled a half brother, Roger Vaughan, at Tretower who built a new residence at the foot of the castle; the Tretower Court visible today. But both Herbert and Vaughan suffered during the Wars of the Roses with both dying as a direct consequence of the war between 1469-71.The Vaughan family remained supporters of York however and in 1485, after the death of the Yorkist Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, they rebelled against the new Henry VII and launch an attack on Tretower Castle itself. Henry pardoned the offence in 1487 and the Vaughan family returned to Tretower Court. The family remained in residence until the early eighteenth century after which the castle and court passed through several owners before being abandoned and ultimately taken into State care by the Ministry of Works.