Bronllys Castle, Powys


★★

The keep
Top floor

Circular, three-storey keep-tower on top of a mound, the only remnant of a 12th century castle. Accessible up to roof level
Management
Entry
Free
Location
On the southeast side of Bronllys, near the Afon Llynfi
The Norman castle at Bronllys, a village on the north side of the Brecon Beacons, was never very large or important, and has been abandoned since the late 15th century. At its peak in the early 1400s it consisted of a circular, three story tower-keep on top of a tall motte overlooking an inner bailey protected by walls and corner towers, also containing a few smaller stone buildings, plus an outer bailey to the north, enclosed by a moat. The keep was built upon an earlier stone structure which in turn replaced the original timber fortification that was established around 1100 under stewardship of nobleman Richard FitzPons (died 1129).

No trace remains either of the bailey walls or the subsidiary buildings, which included stables, a chapel, and a hall, but the keep survives virtually to its full height (80 feet), only missing the roof and the intermediate floors, while retaining all the original details in its walls including windows, fireplaces, chimneys and internal stairways, these still accessible, allowing views of the structure from all levels. Land occupied by the two baileys is now privately owned, and part is occupied by a 19th-century house, though traces of the moat and other earthworks are still visible here. The keep tower is managed by Cadw, admission is free, and the interior is open every day between 10 am and 4 pm, being closed by a gate at other times.



Location


The castle is situated on the southeast side of Bronllys, now surrounded by woodland which mostly conceals it from the A479 that runs past to the south. In Norman times the neighbouring land would have been treeless, allowing unobscured views over the undulating surroundings. The castle overlooks the confluence of the River Dulais with the larger River Llynfi, itself a tributary of the River Wye, meeting this 3.5 miles north. Parking is available in a layby opposite, from where a short path leads to a grassy area at the base of the tower, entrance to which is via a flight of metal steps up the motte.

The Keep


The steps up the motte lead to a doorway on the east side of the keep, accessing the first floor, originally a hall, above a windowless, vaulted basement. On this level are two narrow, lancet windows, one with seats in front. Steps within the thick wall, starting beside the western window, climb to a wooden platform at the second floor level (originally the solar, or living room), opposite a fireplace and two more windows, then from here another stone staircase rises to a viewing area at the top floor level, opposite more windows and alcoves, built into walls that are still several feet thick. The uppermost level was added some time after the lower two storeys, as evidenced by subtle differences of masonry style.



History


Like most others of the time, the first castle at Bronllys was a simple motte and bailey structure, built to defend the manor recently granted to Richard FitzPons by Bernard de Neufmarche, Lord of Brecon. The keep was added by Walter de Clifford (died 1263), great grandson of Richard, in the early 13th century, and the place was occupied for nearly another 200 years, playing a minor role in defence of this part of far west England against Welsh insurgencies, including the rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr in in the early 1400s, by which time the castle was owned by the Crown. Abandonment followed soon after, and the place has lain ruined ever since, while remaining mostly intact, without need for any significant stabilisation work.