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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 402326

Map Reference SO14NE

Grid Reference SO166460

Unitary (Local) Authority Powys

Old County Radnorshire

Community Painscastle

Type of Site BATTLE SITE

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Medieval

Site Description To inform the consideration of The Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Wales , a phased programme of investigation was undertaken on the 1198 battle of Painscastle. Detailed reports of these investigations are available and comprise documentary and historical research (Border Archaeology), and non-invasive and invasive fieldwork (Archaeology Wales 2012 and 2013).

The battle of Painscastle can be viewed in the context of the protracted struggle for control over the Central Marches (comprising the cantrefs of Elfael, Cedewain and Maelienydd) between the Anglo-Norman Marcher lords (in particular the families of Mortimer and de Braose) and the native Welsh princes, which intensified significantly following the death of the powerful Welsh lord of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Gruffydd, in April 1197.

The Cronicon de Wallia notes that around 22nd July 1198 Gwenwynwyn assembled a substantial army and then marched directly on the castle of Painscastle (Castellum Paen) which he then proceeded to besiege (without siege engines) for three weeks (Remfry 2007, 233). The castle, in possession of William de Braose, was of key importance, controlling the strategically important Bachawy valley, one of the principal gateways between England and central Wales, and functioned as the administrative centre of a lordship encompassing the native Welsh commote of Elfael Is Mynydd.

A peaceful resolution to the conflict failed and Geoffrey fitz Peter, Hubert Walter’s successor as Justiciar of England assembled an army to relieve the castle. The fullest accounts of the resulting battle are contained in two English chronicle sources, the Ymagines Historiarum (Images of History) by Ralph de Diceto, dean of St Paul’s (fl. c.1152-1202) which dates the event to 13th October 1198 and the Chronica of Roger of Howden (fl. 1174-1201) which notes:

'quo cum venisset, commisit praelium campestre cum predicto Wenhuwin et suis; et licet plurimi Walanorum armati essent, tamen non valentes resistere exercitui Anglorum, versi sunt in fugam, et projicientes arma sua, ut levius citiusque fugerunt, occisi sunt ex illis plusquam tria milia et septingenti, exceptis retentis et illis qui lethaliter vulnerati evaserunt a campo' (Stubbs, 53).

Translation: 'although the Welsh in arms were very numerous, still not being able to make resistance to the forces of the English, they were put to flight, and throwing away their arms, that, being less burdened, they might move more swiftly, there were slain more than 3700 of them, besides those who were captured and those who being fatally wounded escaped from the field' (Stubbs, 53).

The Cronicon de Wallia and the Brutiau list the Welsh leaders killed during the battle as Anarawd ap Einion, Owain Cascob ap Cadwallon, Rhiryd ap Iestyn and Robert ap Hywel.

The site of the battle is placed by both the English and Welsh chronicle sources in the vicinity of the castle (SO 1662 4615, Scheduled Monument RD006), however it is difficult to establish a precise location. The site of the battle is not marked on historic Ordnance Survey maps, however the modern OS 1:25,000 map specifically locates the battle in the field lying immediately south-west of the castle earthworks (SO 1654 4606), although on what authority is uncertain.

Bones are reported to have been uncovered to the south of the castle near Rhydlydan farm (Remfry 1996, 31-32 & Archaeology Wales 2012), although no archaeological record exists for the finds. The ford at Rhydlydan (SO 1667 4570) has also been suggested as the battle site in relation to the discovery of an ancient sword and cannon ball (Dawson, 51). In 2012 and 2013 a phased programme of investigation comprising LiDAR analysis, geophysical resistivity surveys, metal detector survey and excavation was undertaken in areas around Rhydlydan farm. No features readily identifiable with the 1198 battle were located (Archaeology Wales, 2012 and 2013).

RCAHMW (Battlefields Inventory), Jan 2017

Archaeology Wales, 1198 Battle of Painscastle, Powys: Battlefield Survey (2012).
Archaeology Wales, 1198 Battle of Painscastle, Powys: Battlefield Survey and Excavation (2013).
Border Archaeology, Painscastle (13 August 1198): Documentary and Historical Research Report (2009).
Dawson, M. L., ‘Painscastle and its Story’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 78 (1923), 51.
Remfry, Paul M. Annales Cambriae: A Translation of Harleian 3859: PRO E. 164/1: Cottonian Domitian, A1: Exeter Cathedral Library MS.3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E. 164/1 (Castle Studies Research, 2007).[/ref]
Remfry, Paul M., A Guide to Castles in Radnorshire (Logaston, 1996).
Stubbs, W. (ed), Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Hoveden (4 vols; London,1868-71), IV, 53

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