Abergavenny Castle

bergavenny Castle is a castle in Wales situated at the confluence of the Gavenny and Usk rivers. A castle was possibly constructed here during the Norman Conquest of England and Wales before 1100. It was the property of Hamelin (de Ballon) who built a motte and bailey castle. The castle passed into the hands of Brien Fitz-Count in around 1119, a supporter of Queen Matilda during the Civil Wars with King Stephen. The castle passed down to his son William de Braose.

In 1175 a terrible massacre occurred at the castle. A few years earlier, in 1172 or 1173, the castle was captured from William de Braose by Sitsyllt ap Dwfnwal, a Welsh Chieftain. The castle was restored to Braose by Sitsyllt and the chieftain was invited to a feast to celebrate its return. But instead of this being a friendly meeting Braose had Sitsyllt ap Dwfnwal and his guests cruelly murdered.

The castle has had a chequered history being attacked many times and changing hands. In 1215 the castle was captured from King John's forces by LLewellyn, the Prince of Wales. In 1403/4 it was attacked and destroyed by Owain Glyndwr. Again in 1646 during the English Civil War the castle was subject to attack. This time the castle was totally destroyed so it could not be used as a fortification again. The stones were robbed to provide building material for the nearby town.

 


Abergavenny Castle Key Facts
CountyMonmouthshire (9 castles)
CategoriesMotte & Bailey / Stone / Norman Square Keep
Built on a hill to the north of the River Usk. This castle was originally a wooden motte and bailey type. A stone keep later replaced the wooden structure.
RemainsSmall amount survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times


YearMonthEvent
1175   Murder of Sitsyllt ap Dwfnwal
 Abergavenny Castle was captured from William de Braose by Sitsyllt ap Dwfnwal, a Welsh Chieftain. The castle was restored to Braose by Sitsyllt and the Chieftain was invited to a feast to celebrate its return. Instead of a friendly meeting Braose had Sitsyllt ap Dwfnwal and his guests murdered.[1] 
1182   Abergavenny Castle attacked
 In 1182 the castle was invaded by sons of Sitsyllt in revenge for the death of their father.[2] 
1215   Llewellyn captures Abervagenny Castle
 The castle at Abervagenny was captured from King John's forces by Llewellyn.[1] 
1403   Abergavenny attacked by Glyndwr
 The castle at Abergavenny was attacked and burnt by Owain Glyndwr.[1]

Episode: Glendowers Revolt  

Motte and Bailey Castles

Virtual reconstruction

The Norman Conquerors built their castles in locations where they could keep control of the local populations of Saxons or at important locations such as river crossings or on key roads. Many motte and bailey castles were built on the border with Wales to try and keep the Welsh at bay. The advantage of this type of castle was that it was quick to construct. Making a fortification from wood was much easier than making one of stone.

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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