Powys Digital History Project

Maesllwch Castle 2
The building

  The early years
Maesllwch Castle is situated half a mile to the north of Glasbury on Wye, in the old County of Radnorshire.The house originally belonged to the Vaughan family - Richard Haslam in the Powys edition of ‘The Buildings of Wales’ mentions a hall house belonging to William Vaughan, who died in 1582. On his death, the house passed out of the family, through a daughter, to a Charles Lloyd (died 1698). His daughter married Humphrey Howarth, who built a second house on the site in 1715. This house, known as Maeslough House, was a 2 storey, 5 bay house, with a hipped roof , in the Queen Anne style.
The Howarth family were bankrupted around 1750, and the estate was bought by the Clive family, who then sold it in 1772 to John Wilkins, banker & solicitor from Brecon on behalf of his son Walter, who had made his fortune in India.
Plan of the Castle and park around 1840 (based on the tithe map)  plan of Maesllwch c.1840
  A grand design
His son, also Walter Wilkins, commissioned architect William Lugar to build a new, castellated, house on the site; it was moved a little further forward to enjoy a better view over the river Wye. Building continued until 1850. Probably 3 generations of Wilkins were involved in the planning of the castle. The ground plan was the same as that of Glanusk Park near Crickhowell. The exterior style ranged from 14th century to Perpendicular, with 6 dissimilar towers. The entrance hall was a glass roofed atrium; the interior was also an eclectic mix of styles: Norman, Regency and Gothic, and was completed around 1840. It is thought that Lugar also designed the lodge, which stands at the end of the drive, on the Glasbury to Clyro road.
  In 1879, to the east of the service wing, a tower of bedrooms was added, known as ‘The Bachelor Tower’, separated from the other formal rooms by a top-lit Gothic billiard room; also more stables and coach houses. The architects this time were E H Burnell & H S Legg. According to CADW’s Register of Landscapes, Parks & Gardens of Special Interest in Wales, the billiard room was originally built as a chapel, but never consecrated.  

Engraving of Maesllwch Castle from a photograph taken before the 1879 additions

Powys County Archives

engraving of Maesllwch c.1870
  In the second World War, the castle was first used as a Canadian hospital; then, in 1942, by the Land Army. It was de-requisitioned in 1951. The upkeep costs of this huge building must have been considerable and, like many landed families in the middle of this century, the de Wintons had to take drastic action; most of the west end, including a large circular porte cochere on the north west side was demolished - leaving the eastern towers, north wall, service wing and the 1879 additions. Partial rebuilding in 1951-55 created a terraced garden which, through its design, illustrates the position of the lost towers and the porte cochere. The Butlers’ pantry, outer hall and the end of the drawing room, along the north side of the garden, were subsequently used as potting sheds!
In 1970 and again in 1973, parts of the west end of the castle were converted to separate living quarters. The de Winton family live in the central block. The east end and billiard room are not in use.
A survey carried out in 1775 shows the park to be in existence, suggesting that it was made in the early part of the century by the Howarth family. The extent of the park at that time was roughly what it is today, except for a part by the river, which was bought in the late 19th century.
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