CPAT Regional Historic Environment Record
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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

(a) Joist 1586(19C). (b) Beam (re-used) 1629(22C). (c) Beam 1663(25C); Joists (0/3). (d) Tiebeam (0/1); Principal rafters 1813(20C, 21C). Site Masters (a, b, c) 1480-1586 POWIS1 (t = 9.5 EASTMID; 9.1 WALES97; 8.6 NORTH); (d) 1701-1813 pws78 (t = 5.6 KSTASQ02; 5.1 EASTMID; 4.6 BSPROOF).

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).

Sources :
Anon , 1861 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Anon , 1882 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Anon , 1978 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Anon , 1999 , Photograph of Powis Castle, castle
Arnold, C J , 1985 , Powis Castle, Welshpool , Archaeology in Wales : 25 : 42
Arnold, C J , 1985 , Powis Castle: Recent Excavations And Observations , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 73 : 30-7
Arnold, C J , 1986 , Powis Castle: The Outer Bailey , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 74 : 70-2
Arnold, C J , 1987 , Powis Castle, Welshpool , Archaeology in Wales : 27 : 62
Arnold, C J , 1988 , Powis Castle, Welshpool , Archaeology in Wales : 28 : 73-4
Arnold, C J , 1989 , Powis Castle: Report on the survey of the south and south-east elevations
Arnold, C J , 1990 , Powis Castle, Powys - Report on the survey of the long gallery roof
Arnold, C J , 1990 , Powis Castle: The Outer Bailey , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 78 : 65-71
Arnold, C J , 1993 , Powis Castle: The Development Of The Structure , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 81 : 97-110
Brown, R L (ed) , 1996 , Eisteddfod, Church and Community
Burnham, H , 1995 , A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys
Cadw , 2000 , Database of Listed Buildings in Wales
Cadw , 2016 , Database of Listed Buildings in Wales ( © CPAT)
Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust , 1978 , Site visit record - PRN123
Davies, J , 1999 , The Making of Wales
Department of the Environment , 1981 , Listed building description - Powis Castle, castle
Dineley, T , 1684 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Emery, A , 2000 , Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, volume II: East Anglia, central England and Wales
Gallagher, C , 2014 , Powis Castle, Powis: the development of the East Front (draft report)
Hall, P , 2001 , The Prestigious Gardens Of Powys
Historic Buildings Council for Wales , 1996 , title unknown - Bettisfield Old Hall, house
Historic Buildings Council for Wales , 1998 , title unknown - Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd Church (St Mary)
Jones, N. W. and Logan, W. , 2016 , Powis Castle East Front: Building Survey and Watching Brief ( © )
Kenyon, John R , 2012 , Castle Studies and Montgomeryshire: an Appreciation , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 100 : 87-99
Lafuente, M & Roseveare, M , 2008 , Tannery Site, Machynlleth ( © )
Linnard, W , 2000 , Welsh Woods and Forests: a history
Lowry , 1776 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Miles, D & Suggett, R , 2005 , List 169: Welsh Dendrochronology Project - Phase 9
Miles, D & Suggett, R , 2005 , List 169: Welsh Dendrochronology Project - Phase 9
Moore, D , 1997 , Thomas Pennant's Vision of the Landscape , Archaeologia Cambrensis : 146 : 138-177
Morgan, R , 1980 , A note on Powis Castle , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 68 : 90-92
Morriss, R.K , 2003 , Powis Castle, Welshpool:Part III. An Architectural & Archaeological Analysis of the Castle
National Trust , 1987 , Powis Castle
National Trust , 1998 , The National Trust, Annual Archaeological Review 1997-98
National Trust , 2012 , Powis Castle: A souvenir guide
Ordnance Survey , 1964 , OS map
Ordnance Survey , 1981 , OS record card SJ20NW 7
Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory , 2011 , Dated Buildings Register ( © CPAT)
Phillips, John Rowland , nd , Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales And the Marches 1642-9
Powys Archives , 2016 , Powys Archives Newsletter - Spring 2016 ( © CPAT)
Rees, S E , 1997 , Historical and Cultural Importance of Ponds , Aquatic Conservation : 7.2 : 133-139
Roseveare, M.J & Roseveare, A.C.K , 2002 , Evaluation of the Site of the East Garden and Associated Features at Powis Castle, Powys, Wales ( © CPAT)
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and Monmouthshire , 1911 , Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of the County of Montgomery ( © CPAT)
Silvester, R J , 2008 , Humfrey Bleaze's Map of Welshpool and Powis Castle, 1629 , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 96 : 1-14
Smith, D W , 1984 , Berriew In Stuart Times , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 72 : 7-28
Stephenson, David , 2007 , Powis Castle: A Reappraisal of its Medieval Development , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 95 : 9-21
Stephenson, David , 2012 , The Middle Ages in the pages of the Montgomeryshire Collections: some re-considerations , The Montgomeryshire Collections : 100 : 67-85
The Handley Partnership , 2014ff , HAAbase built heritage assessment system: Buildings at Risk database
The National Trust , 1981 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
The National Trust , 1987 , title unknown - Powis Castle, castle
Welsh Historic Gardens Trust , 1998? , Guide to the Historic Parks and Gardens of Wales
Williams, J G , 1988 , The Castles of Wales during the Civil War, 1642-1647 , Archaeologia Cambrensis : 137 : 1-26
Youngs, S M, Clark, J & Barry, T , 1986 , Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985 , Medieval Archaeology : 30 : 114-198
John Cornforth, 'Powis Castle, Powys', Country Life, 9/7/87, pp.106-111;
Richard Haslam, Powys, Buildings of Wales series, 1979, pp.188-195;
J Lawson & M Waterson, 'Pritchard as Architect and Antiquary at Powis', National Trust Year Book, 1975-6;
National Monuments Record, Aberystwyth;
The National Trust, Powis Castle, 1988 and 1994;
G.S. & M.C.J., 'Powis Castle Past and Present', Montgomeryshire Collections, Vol.15, 1882, pp.361-404.

Events :
35048 : Powis Castle, outer bailey, excavation 1984-85 (year : 1984-85)
35049 : Powis Castle, petrology study 1986 (year : 1986)
35051 : Powis Castle, building recording 1987-89 (year : 1987-89)
35050 : Powis Castle, outer bailey, watching brief 1985-86 (year : 1985-86)
49139 : Powis Castle, excavation 1997 (year : 1997)
123041 : Powis Castle, assessment project 2001 (year : 2001)
123042 : Powis Castle, desk-based assessment 2001 (year : 2001)
123043 : Powis Castle, geophysical survey 2001 (year : 2001)
106335 : Powis Castle, evaluation 2001 (year : 2001)
130086 : Powis Castle, castle, dendrochronological sampling 2004-5 (year : 2004-5)

Related PRNs : 32981, 7746_1

Compiled date : 31-12-1993


Images :



Archaeological data, from the Historic Environment Record, supplied by The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust in partnership with Local Authorities, Cadw and the partners of ENDEX © CPAT, 2019 (and in part © Crown, 2019). It is intended to be used for private research only and is not for use as part of commercial projects. If you wish to use this information for publication in printed or multimedia form or to compile resources for commercial use, prior permission must be obtained in writing. Use of this information is subject to the terms and conditions of access to HER data published on CPAT's website. Please contact the HER if you have any further questions regarding this information. Please quote the Primary Reference Numbers (PRNs) in any correspondence.

January 23, 2019, 3:06 am - File produced for Archwilio from CPAT's Regional HER.
Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool, Powys SY21 7RR.
tel (01938) 553670, fax (01938) 552179, website www.cpat.org.uk

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