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Powis Castle, castle
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 123 Trust : Clwyd Powys Community : Welshpool Unitary authority : Powys NGR : SJ2157106461 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Masonry castle Status : listed building I
Description : The castle was owned by the Princes of Powys but passed through Hawys, daughter of Owain, to the Cherleton family and then to the Herbert family in 1578. In the early 19th century the castle was owned by Clive of India's son.
The earliest part probably dates to about 1200 (the tower at the north-east end of the inner ward). Little is known of the early form of the castle owing to the many alterations that took place in the medieval and post medieval periods. Late 13th and early 14th century castle surviving as parts of inner gatehouse and bailey curtain now mostly masked by 17th and 18th century restoration.
1688, Powis Castle Park and ponds destroyed and house damaged (Smith, D W 1984, 16).
Excavations (1985) within the servants' hall found rubbish below first surviving floor level datable to c.1650-75; in storeroom no datable artefacts found. Investigation of fabric at north-east gate: inserted into pre-existing structure, rounded wall turrets later additions but pre 19th century. Original form rectangular/square tower. Original window in north-east wall. Complex structural sequence in south-east range. South-west gatehouse c1300 (Arnold, C J 1985, 30-7).
Excavations (1985) beneath the stable block revealed base of 13th century corner tower with curtain wall running to north and west. Further traces of curtain wall noted during repairs to curtain wall (Arnold, C J 1985b, 42; Youngs, S M, Clark, J & Barry, T 1986, 198).
Excavations in outer bailey (1984-85). North-west range largely intact. Other two sides poorly preserved. South-west side occupied by stables and garage, erected 1668. Building on south-east side comprises Lady Powis' stables with, in front, former laundry. Traces of wall located during construction of a room below Lady Powis' stables. Wall stood 0.73m high, lower 0.48m comprising mortared rubbled footings. Inner face rendered with lime mortar. Curvature of wall and thickness suggests southern corner tower. No dating evidence other than pre-1668. Floor/coutyard surface of red sandstone located 20m to north-east. 1.3m below present courtyard level. Correspons with original door sills in north-west range (Arnold, C J 1986).
Mortar and petrology survey undertaken during repointing works (Arnold, C J 1987, 62).
Remnant of shell keep discovered during repointing work (Arnold, C J 1988, 73-4).
Watching brief in outer bailey 1985-6. Rock cut ditch detected, 62 feet wide, visible to un-bottomed depth of 20 feet, narrowing towards base, revetted by battered masonry wall on south side. East curtain wall located below terrace wall (Arnold, C J 1990, 65-71).
Masonry and mortar survey recorded 1987-9. Earliest section of wall recorded is lowermost section of curving wall on south side. Characterised by discontinuous courses of large and small masonry. Possibly remnant of shell keep or ringwork. Late 12th/early 13th century? Second phase involved increase in height to 15m, lancet windows, 13th century?. Third phase recognised by different mortar. West gatehouse survives, original crenels visible in places, 13th century? Fourth phase comprised insertion of mullioned windows in central area. 16th/17th refenestration? Fifth phase represented by insertion of triangular-headed door in fine red sandstone, small rubble masonry above. Door subsequently blocked. Post 1742. Sixth phase involved refenestration and unification of internal floor levels, 1815-18. Seventh phase - insertion of plumbing and small repairs, late 19th/20th century (Arnold, C J 1993, 97-110)
Transformed from castle to country house before 1594 (Williams, J G 1988, 4).
The stronghold of Gruffyd ap Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Upper Powis, on this site was destroyed in 1275, but in 1277 Edward I made him Baron de la Pole and the Castle was subsequently rebuilt. The barony became extinct in 1551 and in 1587 the Castle was purchased by the Herberts. It was captured by Parliment in 1644. There was much rebuilding from 1667, associated with William Winde. The Clives inherited the castle by marriage in 1801 and adopted the name of Herbert. Bodley remodelled the building c.1902-4.
Mainly 3 storeys. Sandstone. Transmullioned windows. Battlements. Irregular plan round the two oblong courtyards on narrow spur. A conspicuous landmark. Chief features include: late C13 outer walls and bastions of N side of forecourt; early C14 gateway to inner bailey; Late Elizabethan long gallery; Restoration outer gate and state bedroom; great staircase attributed to Winde (c1700); E Tower by Smirke (1828). Wall and ceiling paintings by Verrio and Lanscroon on stair and in Library and blue drawing room. (S).
(Former listing description)
An archaeological investigation was carried out by the National Trust in 1997. A hole (1 x 3m), was excavated behind the retaining wall of the lower terrace to ascertain the stability of the retaining wall, how it was built and what existed prior to its construction (National Trust, 1998, 58-9).
Grant received from the Historic Buildings Council for Wales for restoration of lanscroon murals on the Grand Staircase (Historic Buildings Council for Wales, 1996, 40).
Dendro Dating: (a) State Bedroom Felling date: Summer 1587
(b) Re-used beam over bed alcove Felling date: Summer 1630
(c) Bed alcove Felling date: Winter 1663/4
(d) Roof over tank room Felling dates: Spring 1814
Repair work provided an opportunity to sample timbers from the state bedroom on the first floor of the south side of Powis Castle. This room, which adjoins the celebrated long gallery, is described in the National Trusts Guidebook (2000, p.16) as a remarkable survival of the 1660s.
The State Bedroom is the only bedroom in Britain where a balustrade still rails off the bed alcove from the rest of the room. Sampling clarified a complex building sequence. Samples from the undisturbed east end of the state bedroom showed that the chamber (a) and by implication the adjoining long gallery which has plasterwork dated 1593 was built from timber felled in 1587. It therefore belongs to the improvements made to the Castle by Sir Edward Herbert who was resident between 1578 and 1595.
The royal bed alcove was constructed shortly after the Restoration, c. 1664 (c), but using timber from several sources, including one dating from 1630 (b). The ceiling was again adjusted in the early nineteenth century, with pugging for sound insulation, probably c. 1814 when a new stubby king-post roof over the range was constructed as part of Sir Robert Smirkes improvements (d). Dating commissioned by John Latham, National Trust archaeologist, in partnership with RCAHMW, (Miles and Suggett 2005, VA 36, list 169).
Geophysical survey and excavation undertaken by ArchaeoPhysica and Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust in 2000 identified various features, thought to date from an early, potentially military, phases of the castle, superseded after a phase of substantial alterations by formal pleasure grounds (ArchaeoPhysica, 2001).
Depicted on Bleaze's map of 1629 (Silvester, R J, 2008).
It is tempting to suggest the first stages of building at Powis Castle belonged to the period 1241-57 under the lordship of Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn and possibly comprised [where now stands the Inner Ward] a shell-keep, the NE gate and conceivably the hall on the N side, though the latter 2 may have belonged to a second phase. The first structure almost certainly suffered near total destruction in 1274 (contradicting arguments in Spurgeon, 1965-6). A second phase, likely a rebuilding, perhaps began in the late 1270s and 1280s with the rebuilding and adaptation of the remains of the shell-keep, the E gatehouse and the hall. A third phase identified by Arnold (see Arnold, 1993) involved the building of massive drum towers protecting a W-facing entrance, the reorientation of the castle from E-facing to W-facing and the probable the creation of a second ward facing to the W. The date of this restructuring is suggested as the early 14th century (Stephenson, David, 2007).