After 1066, the Normans quickly established rule in the Marches of Wales and, in 1087, Hamelin de Ballon built a motte and bailey castle on a hill overlooking the River Usk at Abergavenny. It had a timber tower with buildings below. A later Norman lord, William de Braose, invited the local leader Seisyll ap Dyfnwal and his men to a feast on Christmas Day in 1175 and murdered them. In retaliation, the Welsh burnt the castle in 1182.
The castle is approached through the gatehouse, which was probably rebuilt about 1400 during the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr. On the right, on sunken ground, stood the great hall where the massacre took place, probably in a wooden building. The present remains are from a 13th-century stone hall, and the steps which led up to it are visible. By then, a stone keep replaced the wooden tower.
During the 13th and 14th centuries the castle belonged to the Hastings family and they built the high southwest tower, which consisted of two towers, one polygonal and one circular. Only the outer walls still stand but in places they are four storeys high. The top floor, with its arched window, may have been the castle’s chapel, while visible remains include a spiral staircase and garderobes (privies) above the ditch.
No lords of Abergavenny have lived in the castle since the 1400s although there was a constable with a garrison. During the English Civil War, the castle held for Charles I but it was blown up in 1645 to prevent usage by Cromwell’s men. A Victorian hunting lodge, built in 1818 for the Marquess of Abergavenny, stands on top of the Norman motte. It is now a local museum.
Don’t miss: The castle cellar, which could have been used as a dungeon
Castle Street, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Open 1 Mar–31 Oct daily 8am–5pm;
1 Nov–28 Feb daily 8am–4pm.
Abergavenny Museum (in grounds) Open 1 Apr–31 Oct Mon–Sat 11am–5pm (closed 1–2pm), Sun 2–5pm;
1 Nov–31 March Mon–Sat 11am–4pm (closed 1–2pm).
Abergavenny tourist information: 01873 853254