The beginnings of a defensive court in Tretower date back to the early 14th century. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, due to the Welsh uprising of Owain Glyndŵr against king Henry IV, the building was in danger. The nearby castle was attacked, but Sir James Berkeley successfully repelled the attackers. The court probably also escaped more serious damages. In 1404, the battle of Mynydd Cwmdu was fought nearby, between the English army commanded by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and the Owain’s Welsh army, as a result of which the leader of the insurgents was almost caught. Less than a decade later, the court was a gathering place for Welsh archers to serve king Henry V in France and contribute to the victory of the English in the Battle of Agincourt.
In the initial period, the lands around Tretower were owned by the Picard family (Pychard), which acquired extensive lands in Herefordshire in exchange for the help given to William the Conqueror. The next owners of the court were William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and his half-brother, Sir William Herbert. Around 1450, they transferred the estate to Sir Roger Vaughan. The new owner made a significant reconstruction and extension of the court.
Roger Vaughan during the War of the Roses belonged to the York House, fighting in the battle at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461 and leading Owain Tudor to the execution after the battle. In 1465, he suppressed the uprising in Carmarthenshire, and soon after he was knighted. In 1471, after the Battle of Tewkesbury, he chased Jasper Tudor, but this time the roles were reversed, Tudor himself caught Roger and cut him off at Chepstow Castle.
The son and heir of Roger Vaughan, Sir Thomas Vaughan, continued to expand the court in the last quarter of the 15th century, reinforcing it with a defensive wall and a gatehouse. Further modernizations were carried out in 1630 by Charles Vaughan, the sheriff of Brecknock, who added cellars, new stairs and remodeled the outside of the west range. Charles handed over court to his son, Edward Vaughan, but he died without posterity, and the estate passed to his sister, Margaret of Maes-y-Gwartha, married to Thomas Morgan. Over the next years, the court often changed owners, but it was not significantly rebuilt, but fell into negligence, serving as a barn, a pigery and a warehouse. It was not until 1929 that the Brecknock Society appealed from the government for the purchase of the building. In the 1930s, it was saved as a result of the renovation carried out at the time.
The oldest fragment of the court is the 14th-century, rectangular, north range. In its interior, in the grounf floor, there was a great hall, open to the high of roof, a private room and another room in the middle. The great hall probably served as a local court in which fines and tithing were paid.
In the fifteenth century, the northern range was rebuilt, increasing it by an additional storey with the added porch facing the courtyard. The lower floor then began to serve as warehouses, a pantry and kitchen at the western end. At that time, a west range was built with a new great hall, a private chamber (solar) and living quarters on the first floor. In the last quarter of the fifteenth century, a defensive wall was built from the south and east, which together with two rangees closed the inner courtyard. The wall had a prominent parapet on the corbels and was topped with a battlement. The gate was placed in a four-sided tower in the eastern curtain. In the 17th century, the basement was added to the northern range. New stairs from the courtyard level led to the underground rooms.
Tretower Court is a unique, rarely seen example of a medieval manor, which, over the centuries, has avoided destruction and significant transformations. It is open to visitors together with the nearby castle from March 24 to November 4 from 10:00 to 17:00.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlewales.com, Tretower Castle & Court.
Website wikipedia.org, Tretower Court.