Cefnllys Castle (Radnorshire, Wales)
Cefnllys Castle was one of many in the Marches that suffered a short but challenging existence.
The original castle for this district was 1.5km NNE of the local church, a motte by the river Dinieithon. The current stone castle was constructed starting c. 1242 built by Roger Mortimer on behalf of his father Ralph de Mortimer, and was probably near completion in 1246 when Ralph died. The Mortimer’s castle likely consisted of round keep with an oval bailey.
In November 1262 the Welsh revolted against the Mortimers and at Cefnllys they captured and killed the inhabitants before destroying the castle. Roger de Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun brought their forces to the district and camped in the ruins of the castle, but they were besieged by Llewelyn ap Gruffydd and forced to accept the offer of free passage back to their territories to the east of Offas Dyke. As Roger Mortimer retreated to Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire, Llewelyn’s forces held his now ruined Cefnllys Castle.
The treaty of Montgomery in 1267 allowed Roger de Mortimer to refortify Cefnllys, however this led to further disagreements as evidenced by Llewellyn's complaint to Edward I. In 1273/4 an entirely new castle was built on the site. This new castle comprised of a large circular or octagonal tower keep standing in the middle of a courtyard with square towers at the corners. It is likely that the older castle was leveled and the materials re-used. The castle was once again garrisoned against the Welsh in 1282, occupied by 8 horsemen and 20 infantrymen.
Roger Mortimer died in 1282 and his estates passed to his son Edmund. The castle was captured by the Welsh again in 1294 and once again required rebuilding.
Lord Edmund’s son Roger Mortimer was forced to surrender his estates to Edward II in 1322 as a result of his support of Thomas of Lancaster’s rebellion. The area was granted to the Earl of Kent along with the rebuilt Cefnllys Castle, now the capital of the district. Mortimer only reacquired Cefnllys Castle after he deposed Edward II in 1326, however his term as ‘King’ was short-lived and in 1330 he was himself executed by Edward III, leaving his estates to his widow. Records indicate that in 1356 her son (another Roger) repaired the barn, prison, and keep at Cefnllys Castle.
No further action seems to have occurred at Cefnllys Castle, although it was garrisoned in 1403 in response to Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion. The surrounding area was ravaged but the castle itself seems to have escaped unscathed.
The castle came into the Crown’s possession in 1461 when Edward, Duke of York, seized the throne. It seems at this point that the castle was no longer of any defensive use and it was subsequently left to decay. By 1558 it was described as a ruin.
Today the site is hardly more than scattered rocks and ditches. The public can access the castle at any time by parking near the church and following the footpaths.
Pictures taken July 2019.
The Castles of Mid Wales - Mike Salter