Norman castle at Abergavenny
Abergavenny Castle was established c.1087 by Hamelin de Ballon, the Normans’ first Lord of Abergavenny. It originally consisted of a motte, a mound with a wooden tower to impress on the Welsh who was in charge, and a bailey around it where wooden dwellings were erected for the soldiers and servants.
If you go to the top of the steps by the entrance to the museum, you’ll see that the Normans would have had a good view of any enemies approaching, especially over the Usk river. At that time, a ford crossed the river where the water’s shallow.
In 1175, the castle was the site of an infamous massacre after William de Braose, lord at the time, invited the local Welsh lord, Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, his relatives and retainers, to a Christmas meal.
To hear how to pronounce Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, press play: or, download mp3 (22KB)
As was customary, the guests left their weapons outside, only to be overcome and killed. Their descendants later took revenge, overcoming the castle defences. However, de Braose was not there that day. Welsh archers were famed for their skills, and often employed as mercenaries. A story of the revenge attack tells of arrows, fired by attackers on the castle, penetrating the wooden door that was 10cm thick.
The castle was destroyed in 1233 by Welsh forces led by Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. It was rebuilt in stone over the following decades, including a great hall and two towers.
The entrance gate you can see dates from further rebuilding in the early 15th century, when Owain Glyndŵr was leading an uprising across Wales. His forces invaded and burnt much of Abergavenny but didn't get into the castle.
The castle was caught up in further turbulence during the Civil War, as you can read here.
With thanks to Gill Wakley, of Abergavenny Local History Society
Postcode: NP7 5EE View Location Map
Other CRIME HiPoints in this region:
Boat Inn, Chepstow – four men fined in 1880 for throwing a customer in the river in a betting dispute
Abergavenny post office – suffragette fined in 1912 for breaking a window in protest