Medieval Origins of Powis Castle

A view from the deer park of the castle's medieval entrance. Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales

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 - wanting to establish his independence from his traditional enemies, the aggressive princes of Gwynedd (North Wales). 
 
This was in contrast to the other castles of North Wales (such as Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy) which built by the English to consolidate Edward I’s conquest of Wales.
 

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, forcing Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn into exile.
 
However, within three years Llywelyn’s principality had crumbled leaving Gruffudd of Powys to regain his lordship and rebuild the castle.
 

An heiress

 
Gruffudd, his son and grandson had 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 but failed. Charlton repaired the damage and built two great drum towers, which you can still see, either side of the castle’s west entrance. 
 
Powis Castle's west entrance
A view of the entrance to Powis Castle and Garden, Powys, Wales

Charlton Lords

 
Descendants of the Charltons continued as Lords of Powis for over 100 years. 
 
However in 1421, 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.
 

Greys and Tiptofts

 
Under the Tiptofts and their successor, Lord Dudley, the Outer Ward of the castle was neglected and needed considerable restoration.
 
Luckily, 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 was not likely to inherit his family home so he had to make his own way in the world. In 1587, he purchased the castle and estate and it remained in the hands of the Herbert family until 1952 when George, 4th earl of Powis, bequeathed the castle and gardens to the nation, under the care of the National Trust.