Llanddew : near Brecon, Powys, South Wales    Llanddew : near Brecon, Powys, South Wales
Historical Notes & Points of Interest

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Contents of this Page:-

Introduction to Website

The Bishops Palace (Llanddew Castle)

Conservation of The Bishops Palace Hall, 2003

Before & After Photographs



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Introduction to Website

Anyone who has ever undertaken historical research into a specific topic, will be aware of how investigations have a habit of spidering-out into side fields. This is very much the case with our researches into the ancient Welsh village of Llanddew.

We are conducting these researches out of pure interest, so, we feel at liberty to work with a fairly free reign, and follow wherever the story leads us. We learn of an early Christian murdered Saint, a long-lost chapel on the site of an ancient hill-fort, a crusading Norman Archbishop, a sparkling medieval cleric-historian and diarist; we hear tales of two feuding local warlords who are taken to task by their King, how another king raised his standard in the village as he marched his army to do battle at Shrewsbury; we touch on the lives of two brother itinerant artists from the 18th century, a host of 19th century antiquarians, and an energetic Victorian Vicar: but our key sources of information, involves the study of the ancient palace and the church of St. Davids, Llanddew, as their fortunes have ebbed and flowed on the tide of history.


The authors of this site have the aim of helping any interested individual (researcher, student, local or tourist to South Wales) by increasing their knowledge of topics relating to Llanddew. It is not our intent that information included on the site, be used for any commercial gain; and we will try to acknowledge the sources of our information wherever possible.

As our researches involve many diverse (and frequently contradictory) sources, it is inevitable that we may have inadvertently included some errors or misapprehensions. If you have any corrections, comments or ideas about the site, PLEASE contact us.  (click here to send email)

Within each article, some sections of the text will appear in a different colour: clicking on these sections of text will take you to detailed pages (either within this site, or in selected external sites) relating to the topic. Clicking the Back icon on your browser will return you to this Llanddew site.

It is planned that the site will be updated regularly, with the inclusion of new or revised articles, photos, and links to related sites.


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 The Bishops Palace (Llanddew Castle) 



..a view of the Bishop's Palace and Hall at Llanddew, taken from Samuel & Nathaniel Buck's etching of 1741.


Text from Bucks print




To the Right Reverend Father in GOD, NCHOLAS Lord Bishop of St. Davids, -  This Prospect is humbly Inscribed by his Lordships most Obedient & Dutiful Servants Saml.  & Nathl.  Buck:


THIS Castle is situated on the Eastside of the River Hondhy; which running hence about a Mile to the South, falls into the Usk & gives Name to the Populous Town of Brecon;  calld by the Britains Aber-Hondhy.  When this Castle was built, or came into the Hands of ye.  Bishop of St. Davids doth not appear: But in the Statute of that Church made by Henry Gower AD.1342 to discharge and exonerate the Bps.  of this See,  from keeping up more than were necesary;  Six other places of Residence, & this of Llanthew were orderd to be supported & maintaind.  This Castle & Monor is now ye.  Property of the Rt. Revd. The Bp. of St. Davids.

Saml.  & Nathl.  Buck delin.  et sculp.  Publishd according to Act of ParliamtMarch 25th 1741                                           356



It was in the year 1188, that Archbishop Baldwin stayed in Llanddew, during his recruiting-for-the-crusade mission through Wales, ..the Word of the Lord being preached in Llanddew. Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecon (Gerald of Wales, whose home was in the Palace at Llanddew) accompanied the Archbishop on his tour through Wales.

Giraldus loved Llanddew and wrote.... In these temperate regions I have obtained a place of dignity, but no great omen of future pomp or riches, and possessing a small residence near the Castle of Brycheiniog, well adapted to literary pursuits and the contemplation of eternity. I envy not the riches of Croesus, happy and contented with the mediocrity which I prize far beyond all the perishable and transitory things of this world.


On one of Geralds tours, when evil tidings were communicated to him (as he was returning home from the wilds of Cardiganshire) of the seizure of all the lands belonging to the see of St. David, by William de Breos on behalf of the King, it was to his palace at Llanddew he alluded when he addressed these cheering words to his companions: Have we not some good ale at home? Let us go and drink it before it be all gone.


[ ..tangential note:---In the year after their journey through Wales, Archbishop Baldwin presided at the coronation of the new King Richard 1st The Lionheart in London (Sept 3rd 1189).

In Geralds writings, he claims that he and Archbishop Baldwin recruited some three thousand Welsh men to fight in the crusade, and it seems likely that many of these recruits accompanied King Richard (along with Archbishop Baldwin) on the Third Crusade to Jerusalem in 1190. Giraldus was excused from his pledge to crusade, in order to attend to matters at home.

Gerald lived on for a further thirty three years (leaving us with a huge quantity of fascinating writings), but Baldwin was not so fortunate; he was among the thousands of crusaders who never returned home alive. Within a few months, he died (probably from fever) while serving at the siege of Acre (Nov 19th 1190). ]


D.J. Cathcart King, writing in Brycheiniog in 1961, specifically mentions Llanddew Palace as the probable venue for the trial of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, in 1291. Warfare broke out between the two earls in 1290 over Morlais Castle, begun in c1287 by Gilbert de Clare, on land claimed by Humphrey de Bohun. They were severely admonished and fined by Edward 1st who had to march down from north Wales to intervene. However, in a work by Prof. R.R. Davies in his book, Conquest, Coexistence and Change: Wales 1063-1415 (Oxford University Press 1987), he states that the trial actually took place initially at Abergavenny and then subsequently at Westminster. This would seem to be a truer version. But, following this trial, the Marcher lords, who had previously enjoyed a number of liberties, (essentially taking the law into their own hands in the March) felt threatened by the actions of Edward 1 against two of their number. It was the Marcher Lords, according to Davies, who held a crisis meeting at the Palace of Llanddew to discuss how this new aggressive stance by the King threatened their future livelihoods (had they better start behaving themselves or could they carry on as before). So there is a connection between the Palace and the trial, and quite an important one at that, but not in the way Cathcart King thought.


Theophilus Jones (writing in the early 19th century) said of the palace (& castle)..

 .........the remains of the chapel, (hall) and the wall adjoining the road, appear from the formation of the windows in the former and the masonry and structure of the latter, to be of the early Norman architecture, but from its having been in the possession of the church, we are not to expect the occurrence of events within the historians department; accordingly, it seems, amidst the din of war and the horrors of civil commotions, to have escaped the rage of all parties, until the Puritans in the time of Cromwell, more ferocious and eager for plunder than the uncivilised savages of antiquity, laid violent hands on it, and in 1658 sold it, together with the manor, to David Morgan of Bovington, in the county of Hertford, esq. , for 546.7.1p.: it was however restored to bishopric soon after the return of Charles the Second to the throne, and it has continued to pass with the see ever since..


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..part of the west end of the hall photographed in 2002; in a dangerous condition, before conservation work began..

..the section of wall on the right shows a large area of intact original internal render..


Conservation of The Bishops Palace Hall, 2003


By the start of the 21st century, after many changes in fortune and centuries of neglect, the Palace was in a picturesque but dangerous state of repair.

In July 2003, Conservation work began on the ruins of the Hall, the most significant remaining area of the Bishops Palace, Llanddew (sited in the Old Rectory garden) and not a day before time.



..the same west section of the hall in August 2003, at the start of conservation works..


Several interesting stones were revealed when the foliage and ivy were cleared. In the upper inner corner of the west section, a shaped corbel was uncovered which gives the inner height of the hall, and, which possibly supported an arch or beam of the roof. 


..shaped corbel stone at the top, interior corner of the west section of hall..

..a roof-timber support perhaps??


..these stones with intricately carved and pierced window tracery, and dressed stones with square indentations (presumably to accept glazing saddle-bars), all attest to the past status of this building.


In the east section, tie-in stones give the inner line of the south wall showing that the internal dimensions of the hall were:- 48 feet (14.6m) long, 24 feet (7.3m) wide and approximately 14 feet (4.26m) high from, the then, first floor of the hall.


..the east end section of the hall, August 2003, during conservation..


The roof must have been considerably higher than the position of the corbel stone. Some of the original render remains on the interior walls. The walls are almost 4 feet (1.2m) thick and had been well built, with the core laid through the full thickness. Mortar used in the building of the palace was a mixture of lime and river sand/gravel which obviously came from local streams and rivers judging from comparisons of colour and coarseness. The original mortar can still be seen in many areas and is extremely strong. A near match, for the conservation work, has been achieved by using a mixture of lime, coarse sand and brick dust.

Below the hall floor was the undercroft which, from the present ground level, was approximately 6 feet (1.8m) high, though it is thought that the original floor level of the undercroft is some 3-4 feet (0.9-1.2m) lower. This might explain the present relative low position of the light slits. It is thought that the undercroft would have been stone vaulted. Foundations were uncovered in the middle of the inner north wall of the undercroft, of what is suspected to have been a hearth support going up into a first floor fire-place.

Above the arched door on the north side of the west section, roof stones (flashings) can now be seen and there is speculation whether this led into another room or could have been an entrance porch to the hall or, in fact, was the main entrance.



..the removal of foliage revealed this section of wall; showing projecting stone flashing. The flashing is angled at approx. 50 degrees to the horizontal (and gives a possible indication of the other buildings' roof detail). Similar flashing stones, sited further along the wall, suggested the line of the other face of the roof that once covered the lost room (entrance porch or corridor?)..


The walls leading out of this door were quite substantial, judging from the width of the tie-in stones still protruding from the main wall. On most sections of the walls the batter can now be seen.

It is thought, from the minimal architectural evidence, that the hall is early 12th century, and the irregular curtain wall early 13th.


If you would like to visit the Bishops Palace and hall (within the grounds of the Old Rectory) please email a request to arrange a suitable time, by clicking here.



Conservation of the Palace was made possible with grant aid from CADW (Welsh Historic Monuments).

The contractor was Capps & Capps of Hereford, who specialise in the restoration of old buildings.


REV. Sep 2003


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Before & After Photographs


Conservation of The Bishops Palace (Llanddew Castle)  2003


.. two views from west, showing put-log holes, roof-flashing stones and projecting wall details.


.. the Palace from the east,


..and from the south-east.


..the north-east gable-end, viewed from the south.


..this view of the south-west gable (after conservation) shows the small low-level window (originally, a lancet), and the original builders put-log holes. The three larger holes may be part of later alterations, possibly to accommodate the roof timbers of a lean-to structure, perhaps.??


In June 2004, a short blessing service was held in the Palace,

and a play was enacted by children of the village Sunday School.

In attendance were members of the Order of the Knights Templar.

site navigator:-

Introduction to Website

The Bishops Palace (Llanddew Castle)

Llanddew Well & Saint Eluned

The Village Name & A History

The Rev. John Lane Davies

The Church of Saint David, Llanddew




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