Tretower Castle

So striking was the massive circular tower built by Roger Picard II that his castle became known as Tretower – or ‘the place of the tower’.

Over two centuries, from about 1100, the Picards transformed themselves from invading Norman adventurers to powerful Welsh lords.

So this monumental tower with four storeys and stone walls nine feet thick wasn’t merely for protection. It was social climbing made visible, an open imitation of the castles at Pembroke and Skenfrith.

It would be remarkable enough on its own. But Tretower is two wonders in one. Just across the castle green lies an entire medieval court that became a byword for magnificence.

It was the creation of Sir Roger Vaughan and his descendants. During the Wars of the Roses Sir Roger became one of the most powerful men in Wales – and Tretower reflected his fame.

It became a magnet for medieval Welsh poets who drank its fine wines and sang the praises of its generous host. Now, thanks to meticulous restoration, you can vividly imagine being one of Tretower’s most honoured guests.

You’ll find the great hall laid out just as it might have been for a lavish feast in the 1460s. In the recreated 15th century garden you can stroll among fragrant white roses that symbolise Sir Roger’s passionate Yorkist sympathies.

Tretower Castle

Tretower Castle was first built in the 11th century by the Norman family of Picard. It underwent three successive phases of development before the more spacious court house was established close bya as the main residential focus of the site in the 14th century.

The 11th century castle was a small mound and bailey, with timber defences. In the mid 12th century the defences on the mound were replaced in stone: residential quarters were ranged around an encircling protective stone wall with a gatehous – an arrangement know as a Shell Keep.
In the earlier 13th century most of the buildings inside the shell keep were demolished to make room for a high circular tower: this contained the Picards’ private accomodation; it was entered at first-floor level and linked to the earlier curtain by bridge. At the same time the defences of the bailey were replaced in stone, with circular angle towers.*

Tretower Court

The Vaughan family abandoned Tretower Court shortly after 1700. So began its slow decline under a series of tenant farmers.

Rooms once graced by lords and ladies suffered the ultimate indignity – they became a home for pigs. Tretower was in a truly sorry state when it was bought for the nation in 1934.

The original conservation effort lasted for four long decades and saved the fabric of the buildings. In 2010 a further major restoration by Cadw brought the interiors vibrantly to life.

Now all the rooms of the west range – from the medieval kitchen, buttery and pantry to Sir Roger Vaughan’s great hall – are equipped as they would been in their 1460s heyday.

Every piece of furniture and all the furnishings, even the pots and pans in the kitchen, are modern replicas. All especially made. All based on authentic 15th-century evidence.

Under the glorious wooden roof of the great hall Sir Roger’s high table is laid with the finest linen and tableware. Look out for the impressive oak dresser and a cupboard painted in green earth or ‘terre verte’. It’s adorned with the strange heraldic device of the Vaughan family – a boy with a snake around his neck.

Most eye-catching of all is the painted cloth behind the high table. It depicts four scenes from the eventful lives of the Vaughans, starting with the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and ending with the siege of Harlech Castle in 1468.

Tretower Court

Tretower Court

Tretower Court

Tretower Court

Tretower Court

*From a signboard at the castle

12 Comments CherryPie on Dec 16th 2021

12 Responses to “Tretower Court and Castle”

  1. For a tiny country like Wales, they do have lots of castles.
    Picard? Like that one in Star Trek? ;)

  2. Sackerson says:

    Thanks, think we’ll visit next time we go to Hay-on-Wye.

  3. Shabana says:

    such a beautiful story of magnificent castle dear Cheri ,this is incredible that how nicely it is maintained till today ,special thanks for the inside images though i love outside look most but this old place seemed to sustain it’s previous glory amazingly !
    health ,peace and happiness !

    • CherryPie says:

      It is well maintained and repaired and it is possible to see how the inside rooms would have been partitioned to make several smaller rooms for separate accommodation.

      Sending you love and wishes for your peace and happiness.

  4. What a fabulous placae and so interesting. I really must see if we can visit there next year when in Herefordshire.

  5. ....peter:) says:

    this is a fine presentation of the ancient castles Cherie….
    i got in to visit you today….peter:)

  6. Wonderful photos. It’s somewhere I’ve not yet been, although not a great distance away.

    • CherryPie says:

      It is well worth a look :-)

      The guide that greeted us was very informative on the history. He wanted to know where we were from which led him to say that Stokesay Castle was a similar type of building to Tretower Court.