The Brecon Castle was built by Norman Lord Bernard de Neufmarché after he killed the Welsh ruler Rhys Ap Tewdwr at the Battle of Brecon in 1093. The Normans then attacked all of South Wales, defeating the local Celtic rulers and conquering the Brycheiniog kingship. Bernard in accolade of his merits received the title of Lord of Brecon.
The castle was built in a naturally defensive place by the Usk and Honddu rivers, where it could guard the fords and benefit from water mills. Later, it passed into the hands of the de Braose family. When they rebelled against English king John, he conquer the castle in 1207. The de Braose family rebuilt the castle during the First Baron War, which took place in the years 1215-1217. In 1241, the Bohun family received the stronghold, which was in its possession until 1372 and contributed to its significant expansion. During this period Brecon was repeatedly attacked by the Welsh, who for a short period managed to conquer the castle in 1264 and 1265. They also made serious damages during the attacks of 1273 and 1403. From 1372, the castle was taken over by dukes Stafford of Buckingham. The last of them was executed during the reign of Henry VIII, and the castle began to fall into disrepair from that moment. For the last time the castle was besieged by Rowland Laugharne, the commander of the forces of Parliament during the English Civil War in 1645. The first repair works began in the 19th century, thanks to which the castle was transformed into a hotel.
The castle was erected on a high hill, that slopes fell into two, connecting below rivers. Initially, it received the form of motte and bailey. It consisted of a large earth mound on which a wooden keep was erected, surrounded by a stone perimeter wall, to which the material was taken from the Roman ruins of the town of Caer Badden. In 1233, a stone wall protecting the outer bailey was built and the whole complex reached a shape similar to the triangle with dimensions of 100 x 130 meters, pressed between the river Honddu flowing into Usk. At the end of the 13th century, most probably in the time of William de Braose, a stone, cylindrical tower – keep, similar to the one preserved in the Tretower Castle – was erected on the top of the mound. At the end of the 13th century, the building of the great hall was added, and at the beginning of the fourteenth century, a polygonal south-facing Ely Tower (named after the Bishop of Ely, imprisoned here in 1483) was added to it. It obscured the previous corner, cylindrical and shallow turret of the great hall. In the new tower, rooms have been equipped with latrines.
The main castle gate was directed to the west and reinforced by two semi-circular towers, a portcullis and a drawbridge. A defensive wall was connected with it, surrounding the castle complex with a shape similar to a triangle. Inside was the already mentioned three-storey building of the great hall with Ely Tower, next to the private apartments of the lord of the castle. In medieval documents there are references to other rooms and buildings: constable and tax collectors chambers, chapel, treasury, kitchen, stables. The well has been described as being 9 meters deep.
Currently in Brecon you can see a mound with relics of the oldest part of the castle, located in the gardens of the bishop’s palace. In the area of the contemporary hotel there is a fragment of a great hall with a tower standing next to it and a section of the defensive wall constituting the outer wall of the building. The castle itself can be visited independently of the hotel.
Pettifer A., Welsh castles, Woodbridge 2000.
Website castlewales.com, Brecon Castle.
Website wikipedia.org,Brecon Castle.