Painscastle, (Castell Paen), Powys

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Painscastle, NW of Hay-on-Wye





Painscastle is named after its Ango-Norman builder Pain Fitz-John, one of King Henry I of England's "new men", who owned their positions and wealth to the King. This 12th century castle was rebuilt in stone in the 13th century after repeated successful attacks by the Welsh.

Today only earthworks remain but it is clear to make out the motte and bailey layout of the castle.

Access can be achieved by parking south of the castle near a T-junction and with consideration taking a path across the field up towards the tree-line and follow the fence west to the gate.

~ History ~

1115 ~ Pain Fitz-John as one of King Henry I's most trusted royal officials, is rewarded with marriage to an heiress, thereby gaining control of the town of Ludlow and its castle. He later begins the building of a new castle which would take his name.

1135 ~ King Henry I dies, leaving his wish that his daughter should take the throne. Pain, along with the majority of the English and Normandy nobles supported his nephew, Stephen who is crowned King. Before long open civil war breaks out between those who support King Stephen and the supporters of Empress Matilda.

1136 ~ Throughout King Stephen's campaigns to secure his throne Pain is anactive supporter of the King's cause.

1137 ~ Pain is ambushed and killed by the Welsh whilst leading a relief expedition to the garrison at Carmarthen Castle

Soon after the death of its Lord, Painscastle is captured and destroted by Madog ab Idnerth.

The castle is later rebuilt only for the Welsh to return in large numbers and again destroy the castle.

1190's ~ The castle is in the hands of the powerful Baron William de Braose.

1195 ~William's indomitable wife Maud defeats the Welsh at Pains Castle.

1196 ~ Prince Rhys of Deheubarth besieges the castle but is unable to capture the castle, eventually leading to a truce.

1198 ~ The Welsh return and attack the castle, this time led by an incensed Gwenwynwyn of Powys, following the death of his cousin Talhaiarn having been dragged through Brecontied to a horse and then beheaded.

Lord William Braose takes his men from the safety of the castle and fights a pitched battle against Gwenwynwyn's blockading army. Not only does he defeat them, but he follows up by chasing and killing fleeing Welsh soldiers. He takes no prisoners and slaughters over 3,000 men, in the bloodiest massacre in Welsh history. The River Bachawy runs red with blood from the slaughter.

William earns the fear and loathing of the Welsh people because of his cruelty and becomes known as the ‘Ogre of Abergavenny’.

1208 ~ King John of England takes possession of the castle after William falls out with the King, after he truthfully suggests that the King had murdered his own nephew, Prince Arthur. William is forecd to flee the Kingdom.

Lord William's wife, Maud, and his son are imprisoned in Corfe Castle, and put in a cell with only a piece of raw bacon and a sheaf of wheat to sustain them. When the cell door is opened after 11 days, mother and son are found dead. It appears that the boy had died first and, that in the anguish of starvation, Maud had eaten the flesh of her son. Lord William’s other son, William the Younger, succeedes his father as Lord of Brycheiniog.

1215 ~ As the Baron's War ignites against King John, the castle is captured by the de Braose Welsh ally against the King, Gwalter ab Einon Clud.

1216 ~ Gwalter submits the castle to King John and gains the lordship of Elfael.

1222 ~ The death of Gwalter see's his Welsh forces switch allegiance to Llywelyn the Great. The castle is destroyed.

1230 ~ William de Braose the younger is caught in the bedchamber of Lord Llywelyn Gwynedd, with Llywelyn's wife, daughter of the king of England. Llywelyn has William publicly hanged in the marshland of Aber Garth Celyn, the spot remembered as Gwern y Grog, 'The Hanging Marsh'.

1231 ~ King Henry III rebuilds the castle in stone, with a round tower on the motte and a curtain wall with an east gatehouse and several D-shaped flanking towers.

1255 ~ The is granted to Roger Tosny.

1264 ~ A year following Roger's death, the castle is captured and wrecked by the Welsh.

1277 ~ Ralph Tosny rebuilds the castle but it later passes to the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick.

1401 ~ The Beauchamp's garrison the castle against the Owain Glyndwr's Welsh rebellion.