Powys Digital History Project

Rhayader and the Elan Valley
Rhayader Castle

by Stephen Collard

Detail from an O.S. 6"map showing the site around 1904
(far right)

County Archives

Today very little remains of Rhayader Castle, only a deep trench on the north side cut into the rock near the entrance to Waun Capel Parc. This channel is popularly known as the Moat. The Castle at Rhayader originally occupied a large area of ground, in fact most of the north west side of the town.
The area today known as ‘The Castle’, is believed to have originally been the Keep and the north west lookout point, about 150 yards to the south of this was the castle's mill. This mill, also long gone, now has on its site a supermarket. Historians claim the castle was of wooden construction, due to the plentiful supply of local timber.


The castle was built around 1178 by Rhys ap Gruffydd. This served to repel the Normans who were establishing themselves on the coast of Cardiganshire. Rhys had built the castle partly in response to the brutal slaughter of his son-in-law Einion Clyd who had met his end at Llawr Dderw on the Old Coach Road to Aberystwyth in 1176. There is a standing stone called ‘Maen Serth,’ located at the murder scene, which is said to be visible from the site of the Castle.


The castle mound
above the river

Photograph by kind permission of
Stephen Collard

An interesting account by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman) written in 1188 relates how a delinquent locked up in Rhayader Castle arranged for his wife to smuggle a magic bell into the dungeon. This bell named ‘Bangu’ and believed to have belonged to St. David, was given to the man’s gaolers to buy his release. On receiving this ransom they decided to keep the bell and not release their prisoner. Giraldus goes on to tell us how that very night ‘as if by Divine vengeance’ the whole town was consumed by fire excepting the wall on which the bell was hung.

 The cleared
Rhayader Castle
mound in late
summer 1998

The castle over the last eight centuries has had most, if not all, of its features eroded away.

In 1998 the Castle site was cleared of brambles and weeds, and information boards have been erected by Rhayader 2000 showing various points of interest.

  Information supplied by the
Rhayader & District History Archives