The village of Brampton Bryan is on the A4113 in North Herefordshire, 11 miles west of Ludlow.
The castle is in the centre of the village but is privately owned and not normally open to the public.
SO 369726

Article by Paul Remfry
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Photo: Paul Remfry

Brampton Bryan castle was probably founded in the late eleventh century by Richard Barre, an important sub-tenant of the Mortimers of Wigmore and the name is a corruption of 'Brampton Barre'. The fortress probably subsequently passed to the family of Unspac who then took the surname Brampton from their new fortress. The last male Brampton probably died unsuccessfully defending Cefnllys castle from the Welsh during the uprising of 1294. He was succeeded by his two infant daughters, the elder of whom, Margaret, took the castle and mesne-barony* to the Harley family. Lying next to the castle in the rebuilt church is the fourteenth century tomb effigy of the Lady Margaret Harley, nee Brampton.

One of the quirks of fate is that the initial Harley collection, which later went on to form the basis of the British library in London, was stored within Brampton Bryan castle. In 1644 the castle was twice attacked and finally forced to surrender after its walls had 'been battered level with the ground' and the library destroyed. The castellan, the redoubtable Lady Brilliana Harley, had earlier died at her post 'of a bad cold'. By their surrender the garrison secured their lives, rather than meeting the horrible fate of the defenders of nearby Hopton castle some little while before. In the church is the wooden roof which appears to have come from the castle hall so extensively damaged in 1644.

The ruins today consist of a twin-towered barbican backing onto a rectangular gatehouse. Behind this is a hall-block hiding intricate secrets.

* A mesne lord was a lord in the feudal system who had vassals who held land from him, but who was himself the vassal of a higher lord

Photo: Paul Remfry

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