The remains of Cefnllys castles are about 2 miles due east of Llandrindod Wells in Powys
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Article by Paul Remfry

Photo: Hugh Wood - MHS field trip with Paul Remfry in 2010 looking north from the southern castle

Not one, but two castles grace the steep and inaccessible hill of Cefnllys which dominates the central plain of Maelienydd around Llandrindod Wells. The main or northern castle was fortified by the young Roger Mortimer of Wigmore (d1282) on behalf of his father Ralph Mortimer (d1246) between 1242 and 1245. The castle was taken from Roger's steward, Hywel ap Meurig, a little before 27 November 1262. As news of the disaster spread, the ancient Brian Brampton of Brampton Bryan Castle, already at least sixty years old and with another ten years of campaigning and crusading before him, sensed what was to come. He made his will on 27 November and marched out at the side of his lord, Roger Mortimer, for Cefnllys. At the castle the Marcher army came face to face with disaster. Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d1282) blockaded them with a Welsh army of some 300 heavy cavalry and 30,000 foot. Returning from France on 24 December 1262 King Henry III landed at Dover and learnt to his distress of Roger's plight. He immediately began to make arrangements for his relief, something which the government of England had omitted to do. Yet before this could arrive, Roger accepted his cousin Llywelyn's offer of a free passage through his lines back to England, leaving Cefnllys castle a ruin.

Photo of the northern castle: Gregg Archer

By the Treaty of Montgomery on 29 September 1267 it was agreed that Roger Mortimer could re-occupy Maelienydd and rebuild Cefnllys castle on condition that, once this was done, the right to hold the land should be settled between Roger and Llywelyn. By the end of 1268 Llywelyn had complained to the king that although Roger had rebuilt the castle he had received no justice concerning the ownership of it or the land. In July 1273 or 1274 Llywelyn again pressed his case, this time with Edward I and additionally complained that Roger had also built a new work on the site, the current southern castle. Llywelyn's deputations brought him no satisfaction and Cefnllys was still a Mortimer castle when Llywelyn was humbled in 1277. In late 1294 Cefnllys castle again succumbed to the men of Maelienydd who rose in the general rising of Madog ap Llywelyn of Meirionydd.

No action seems to have occurred at Cefnllys during the fourteenth century, but in 1403 Cefnllys castles were victualled and armed. Despite this, in 1406 it was recorded that Cefnllys castle was 'so burned and wasted by the rebels that no profit could issue to the king without better custody'. Cefnllys was repaired in the 1430's though this too was a ruin by 1588.

Photo: Gregg Archer

Cefnllys castle now consists of the entire fortified hilltop. To the south are the remains of an octagonal tower surrounded by a small base court with gatehouse. The northern castle has been largely robbed out and is now little more than a jumble of quarry workings, although the buried ruins of a keep still seems to survive.

Photo: Hugh Wood - site of the southern castle