Medieval origins at Powis Castle and Garden

The east front is our original medieval entrance © 76841/Andrew Butler

The east front is our original medieval entrance

Famous for its mild climate, fertile soil and gently rolling hills, in the 12th century, the kingdom of Powys was already known as 'the paradise of Wales'.

Powis Castle was built in the mid-13th century by a Welsh prince - Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn. He wanted to establish his independence from the aggressive princes of Gwynedd (North Wales) who were traditional enemies.

In contrast, the castles of North Wales (such as Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy) were built by the English to consolidate Edward I’s conquest.

Exile and rebuild

By the late 13th century, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd had established himself as Prince of Wales, and in 1274 he destroyed Powis Castle and forced Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn into exile.

However, within three years, Llywelyn’s principality crumbled and Gruffudd of Powys was able to regain his lordship and rebuild Powis Castle.

An heiress

Gruffudd, his son and grandson all died by 1309, and with no male heir, the castle and lordship passed to an heiress, Hawise, who married Sir John Charlton from Shropshire.

In 1312, Hawise’s uncle, Gruffudd Fychan, attacked the castle in an attempt to claim the lordship. Charlton repaired the castle and built the great drum towers.

Charlton Lords

Descendants of the Charltons continued as Lords of Powis for over 100 years. In 1421 the lack of a male heir resulted in the castle and estate being divided between two daughters, Joyce and Joan, who had married Sir John Grey and Sir John Tiptoft respectively.

Greys and Tiptofts

Under the Tiptofts and their successor, Lord Dudley, the Outer Ward of the castle became neglected.

In the 1530s Edward Grey, Lord Powis, took possession of the whole castle and began a major re-building programme that made Powis the most imposing noble residence in North and Central Wales.

A Herbert lease

In 1578, Powis was leased to Sir Edward Herbert (c.1542–95), the second son of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Anne Parr (sister of Catherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII).

As a second son, Edward had to make his own way in the world, and in 1587, he purchased the castle and the estate.