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FOURTH SERIES.No. XVII.
THE CASTLE OF BUILTH.
The name of Builth, borne at this time by a considerable town, and a Hundred of the county of Brecknock, is very ancient. As, like Brecon, the town is placed in an open valley, accessible without much difficulty to an enemy from the east, it has suffered from invasion from a very early period, and to these and similar attacks are to be attributed the various strongholds both of earth and masonry, of which the remains are so abundant upon the marches of England and Wales, and in such tracts of the latter territory as either Saxon or Norman, having overrun, thought it worth while to retain,
The construction of Offa's Dyke in the eighth century must have been preceded by many years of conquest, and the establishment of many English strongholds throughout the annexed district, and probably also beyond it. Nothing short of a present inability to rise, would have kept the Welsh quiet during the construction of such a work, or have forced them to accept, even passively, a limit which cut off a large part of their fairest territory. The fortresses of Builth and Brecon, which resemble in general character those of known English origin elsewhere, were probably advanced posts thrown up either during the wars which preceded the dyke, or to aid the aggressions which followed it. Analogy drawn from the plan of construction leads rather
4TH SER., VOL. V.
to the latter conclusion, and would attribute these works to the ninth or early part of the tenth century.
However this may be, it is certain that when Bernard Newmarch invaded Brecknock towards the end of the eleventh century, he found the earthworks of Brecon and Builth already existing, and occupied them, as was usual, by works of a Norman character. Whether these were palisades and defences of timber is not known. Probably they were, for a structure of masonry required time and peace, and generally tradition has imputed the oldest Norman military buildings in Wales to the immediate successors of the conquerors, rather than to the conquerors themselves. Where the age can be safely inferred either from the design of the building or from its ornament, it is generally found to be of very late Norman, verging upon the Early English period.
Newmarch was succeeded by Milo Fitz Walter, who married his daughter. He was created Earl of Hereford by the Empress Maud in 1140, and received from her the moat, or more probably the “mote” and castle of that city. His sons died childless, Mahel, the last of them, having been killed by the falling of a stone from Bronllys tower. Builth was inherited by his sister Bertha, who married Philip de Braose, who indeed is said already to have possessed himself of that territory, and to have married its lawful heiress, as Newmarch had married the Welsh Nest, by way of precaution.
Their son, William de Braose, also a powerful baron in Devon, flourished in the reigns of Henry II, Richard, and John, and died in exile in 1210. His son Giles, Bishop of Hereford, succeeded, and dying in 1215 was followed by his brother Reginald. In his time occurs the earliest mention of the castle.
In 1219, 4 Henry III, the Sheriff of Gloucestershire is directed to give immediate aid to Reginald de Braose “ad castrum suum de Buetto firmandum et fossatum et trencheyas ibidem faciendas contra inimicos nostros. Also 12 Sept. 1223, 7 Henry III, the king directs all the sheriffs of England, cepting those of Stafford, Salop, Worcester, Gloucester,
and Hereford, who probably had already, being near, discharged their duty, to raise men and march to Gloucester, the reason being the king's sure information that Reynold de Braose was besieged in his castle of Builth by Llewelyn and a multitude of armed men. What the result was, is unknown, but some years later, in July 1260, after De Braose's death, when the castle was in charge of Roger de Mortimer, it was besieged and taken by Llewelyn. Roger was in London, and as it was his duty to have been at his post he had a regular remission in form, stating that he was attending Parliament by special precept. It is stated therein that he held the castle " ex ballio” by deputation from Prince Edward. In August, Llewelyn was still in possession, and there remains a precept on the subject, directed to Richard de Clare and others.
Reginald de Braose, who was lord during the siege of 1223, is generally stated to have died in 1221, which seems disproved by Rymer's record. He died, however, about that time, and was followed by William his son, who in 1229 was hanged, according to the Welsh, by Llewelyn. On his death leaving only daughters, the crown took the castles, and they were granted to Prince Edward, who held them in 1254, when his father renewed the grant.
5 Edward I some question arose about certain tythes held by the prior and convent of Brecon under William, William his son,...and Reginald de Braose, Lords of Builth, and it appears from a later entry, 13 Edward I, that it was their duty to find a chapel or chantry within the castle, then called “the King's Castle.” 25 Edward I John Giffard was custos, and his allowance was reduced by the treasury because it was more than was usual.
17 Edward II, 1324, a survey was taken of the castle for the Crown. The castle yard and curtilage were worth per annum 12d., and there were 40 acres in demesne of arable at 3d. per acre, total 10s. Also 10 acres of meadow at 12d., total 10s. Also the “com
munitas patriæ," hangers on outside the vill, paid the king every second year, for all services and annual rents, 10 cows or 20 marcs in money at the lord's pleasure, that is, 6s. 8d. for each cow, its money value at that time. Rents of assize in Lanveir 70s., probably from 75 burgesses. A ferry 4s. per annum.
The land of Talevan, in the king's hands, 2s. The land of Tyr Maukyn, 2s. Pannage of hogs, 20s. The king had there four mills, each at 10s. No villenage there. All pleas and perquisites of the court merchant in Lanveir 57s. per annum. Pleas and payments of the courts
patriæ,” 178. Ammobrages, 13s. 4d. No royalties, villenage, demesne, or other outgoings. No profits accruing to the king in Builth save the above.
Llanfair ym Muallt is St. Mary's in Builth, the Welsh name of the town. Ammobrage is thought by Spelman to be the same with Chevage, a poll-tax paid by villeins to their lord. Jones, the Brecknock historian, gives it a Welsh etymology, and makes it a sort of excise.
The importance of these frontier castles naturally ceased after the settlement of Wales by 3 Edward I, and the Crown no longer cared to retain them. 9 Edward III, Builth Castle was vested in Eubolo le Strange and Alesia his wife, and 14 Edward III Thos. de Bradestan, Banneret, had “ Thlanver" Castle, probably " Blaenlleveny," and the Lordship of Builth.
16 Edward III, 1342-3, Gilbert Talbot, Justiciary of South Wales, was directed to raise levies in the divisions of Builth, Ewias-Lacy, and Ewias-Harold, and similar precepts were issued in 1367.
34 Edward III, 1360-1, Roger de Mortimer held the castle and cantred of Builth, and 5 Richard II, Edward Earl of March and Philippa his wife held Bewolthe or Beult Castle, as did Earl Roger, their successor, 22 Richard II. On the attainder of the Mortimers the castle fell to the crown, and so remained till granted away by Charles II, since which it has passed through