Builth Castle
Builth Castle
One of the first of Edward I's castles in Wales, begun about 1277 on an earlier motte. The castle stands on a high bluff on the edge of the town. Little remains today beyond the outline of earth-covered walls, but in its time Builth ranked with Harlech and Caernarfon as one of Edward's most impressive fortifications in Wales.
The first castle at Builth was long before Edward, however. Around 1100 Philip de Braose took control of Buellt cantref (the local Welsh administrative district) and erected a motte and bailey fortification at a strategic crossing of the River Wye. Around 1168 Rhys ap Gruffudd atttacked and destroyed Builth. It was rebuilt, then occupied by English and Welsh in turn.

In 1277 Edward launched his first Welsh campaign, and refortified Builth Castle to create a new and much stronger fortress. He quickly threw up several temporary buildings to create a hall, kitchen, chapel, and smithy, then proceeded to build substantial stone buildings to replace them. The man most likely responsible for the design was Master James of St George, Edward's master mason and the architect responsible for so many of Edward's subsequent Welsh castles. When complete, Builth Castle was composed of a great tower atop the earlier motte, surrounded by a masonry curtain wall incorporating several small towers.

Several features make Builth unusual among Edward's Welsh castles; it was easily the smallest of his castles, it was located inland, and all its masonry has long since vanished, taken by local landowners as building material.

Builth played a dramatic role in the history of Wales; Llewelyn ap Gruffydd came here in 1282 to plead for help in his rebellion against the Normans. On leaving Builth his force fell into an ambush at nearby Cilmeri and Llewelyn was killed. In 1294 Builth withstood a seige by Madog ap LLewelyn, but it was heavily damaged in an attack by Owain Glyndwr a century later.