The first wood-and-earth motte and bailey castle was built in Hay during the Norman conquest of eastern Wales in the 11th century. It belonged to Philip Walwyn, and then, through marriage, it passed into the hands of Miles from Gloucester. The next owner was the de Braose family, which, at the end of the 11th or at the beginning of the 12th century, erected new fortifications, about 200 meters from the old castle. Around 1200, they made the expansion and rebuilding of the castle to stone one.
During the First Baron’s War, Reginald de Braose joined the alliance against king John, who successfully attacked Hay on Wye in 1215. The next destructive fights took place in 1231, when the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great attacked and burned the town and the castle. It was rebuilt by king Henry III two years later. During the Second Baron’s War, prince Edward captured the castle in 1263, but it was recaptured and burned by Simon de Montfort and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd the following year. The next destruction affected Hay during the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr around 1401 and in 1460 during the War of Roses.
In the 17th century the castle was considerably expanded by Howell Gwynne, which turned it into a renaissance manor house. In 1702, it was divided between various tenants and passed into the hands of the local Wellington family. Until 1812, its basement served as part of the town prison. In 1939 and once again in 1977, a great fire destroyed the interior of the castle.
The castle from the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century consisted of a keep in the form of a cylindrical circuit of a defensive wall (ringwall) with dimensions of 85×70 meters and a gate tower, placed on an artificial earth mound. At the beginning of the thirteenth century, the gate was rebuilt into a typical tower – keep. It was a four-sided building with dimensions of 10×8.3 meters, with three floors and basement. A gate to the castle was placed next to the keep. It had a portcullis and a room on the first floor above the passage, from which one could get to the sidewalk of defenders on the defensive walls and to the keep. The defensive walls were almost 3 meters thick at the base and 1.8 meters thick at the top. It surrounded a 75 meter wide from east to west inner ward.
In 2011, the castle was purchased by the Hay Castle Trust foundation, whose aim is to restore the castle and transform it into a center of culture, education and art. The oldest part of the castle urgently needs renovation and because of the danger it is not open to the public.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Pettifer A., Welsh castles, Woodbridge 2000.
Website castlewales.com, Hay Castle.