Usk Castle, Monmouthshire
Usk, North East of Newport
Monmouth Road, Off A473
Usk Castle is one of the most picturesque castles we have ever discovered. Today manicured lawns and beautiful gardens fill the castle grounds, surrounded by ivy clad walls and towers. It has a romantic 'secret garden' charm about it.
The site itself dates back to the Romans who built a fort here.
Famous lords of Usk include Richard, Duke of York, whose son (reputed to have been born at Usk castle) became King Edward IV. Also Elizabeth, Queen of Henry VII, Valentine Morris of Piercefield and the Dukes of Beaufort.
Usk is a beautiful town with many interesting places to visit. There is a rural life museum, many small and interesting shops to browse in and plenty of places to eat. Parking in the main car park is free and gives good access to all parts of the town, including the castle.
~ History ~
55AD ~ The Roman's build a fort on the banks of the River Usk on the 'pointed hill', upon the site of an ancient bronze age hill fort. The fort is the headquarters for the XX Valeria Victrix legion and springboard for further campaigns into Wales.
1120 ~ The Norman's build a castle and town on the banks of the River Usk. The town is protected with four gateways and ditch.
1138 ~ The castle is captured by the Welsh.
1174 ~ The Welsh return and retake the castle in spite of strengthening by Richard de Clare which included the building of the tower keep.
1184 ~ The recaptured castle is repaired on the orders of King Henry II at a cost of more than £10.
1212 ~ The wooden palisade of the bailey is replaced by a masonry wall with round towers by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke.
1233 ~ The castle is again captured during the war between Richard Marshal and King Henry III.
1260's ~ The North-East round tower is built by Gilbert de Clare when this district is threatened by a major Welsh rebellion under Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales.
1314 ~ Gilbert de Clare is killed at Bannockburn. Usk Castle passes to Elizabeth de Burgh who erects the hall block, chapel and solar on the northeast side. A new gatehouse and two drawbridges are constructed. In addition the ditches are cleared out and watchtower repaired.
1321 ~ The repair work on the castle is completed in time as the Marcher Lords rebel against the Crown. Elizabeth's husband, Roger Dammory, is one of the rebel lords taking up arms against Hugh Despenser, the King's favourite. Despite initial success by the rebel lords, Despenser is soon back in control. Elizabeth is taken prisoner and her husband dies two days after being captured.
1326 ~ Elizabeth is allowed to return to her castle of Usk. She undertakes further repairs and improvements to the castle.
The castle passes to the Mortimers, who wall in the outer bailey on the south with one round tower and a rectangular gatehouse.
1402 ~ Another major Welsh uprising, this time under Owain Glyndwr, sees the town burnt, but the castle holds out.
1403 ~ The castle falls to the Welsh rebels before eventually being recaptured by the English.
1405 ~ The continued Welsh rebellion see's the castle and town again under attack. Again the castle manages to withstand the attack.
Owain's son Gruffydd leads the Welsh into battle against the English at the Battle of Pwll Melin (yellow pool). The Welsh are defeated and Gruffydd is confined to the Tower of London for the rest of his life.
More than 300 Welsh prisoners of War are massacred in front of Usk Castle.
The castle is gradually left to decay after a spell as town jail and is eventually abandoned, until a brief revival during the Civil War when it is briefly held for the King, but is taken and destroyed by Parliament troops.