Usk Castle

Visiting Usk Castle

Usk Castle stands in the town of Usk, in central Monmouthshire in South East Wales. Over the centuries, Usk Castle played a pivotal role in the Anglo-Welsh conflicts and stood near the site of the Battle of Pwll Melyn. The castle is now a privately owned monument after abandonment in the 1550s.

Parking

There is a small parking area just outside the castle. One may access the castle via a narrow lane opposite the fire station on Castle Parade. One must look quite carefully, as it is easy to drive past without noticing.

Price

The Price to enter the site is a membership to become a Friend of Usk Castle which is £10 or £18 for a family membership. 

Opening

A few days a year, the castle is closed due to private events that fund the castle’s conservation.  Only open 3 days a week to Usk Castle Friends ONLY.

Location & Access

Castle House

Usk

Monmouthshire

Wales,

NP15 1SD

Website: Usk Castle

Email: info@uskcastle.co.uk

Location map

Usk Castle stands to the north of the present-day town on a hill overlooking the main Twyn Square. Visitors can find Usk Castle directly off the A472 Monmouth road, where there is a dedicated car park for castle visitors and a public right of way to access the Pwll Melyn Battlefield. Usk Castle is available for event and wedding hire and offers 'Castle Knights' where one may camp or use the unique medieval-themed tents. 

Know Before You Go

  • Well-mannered dogs are welcome but ensure you keep them on the leash and bring mess bags. There are resident chickens on-site, so visitors must keep their pets under control. 
  • The Castle House and garden are a privately owned family home, and the owners ask that visitors respect the areas marked 'private.'
  • Visitors view the ruins at their own risk. The castle has steep steps and narrow walkways, and low doorways. The floor may be slippery and uneven when wet. 

History of Usk Castle (Time Line)

Usk Castle has a rich history, starting in the 1100s and spanning hundreds of years of Anglo-Welsh conflicts. The original castle was modified and fortified over the years and has withstood sieges and attacks during frequent Welsh uprisings. The castle fell into a state of ruin in the 1550s. 


-54 AD

Usk Castle is likely the site of a Roman Legionary fortress that housed the Twentieth Legion named Barrius before the Romans relocated south to Caerleon.

-1120 (First Castle)

Historical records suggest that the castle was founded by Walter Fitz Richard somewhere around this time. Henry I had granted him the Lordship of Chepstow, which made it likely that he was responsible for building the first Usk Castle. The exact date of construction is a matter of debate, but historical records first mention the castle in 1138.

-1138 (Welsh Attack)

Records first make mention of Usk Castle in reference to the Welsh capture of the castle. The Norman Gilbert Fitz Gilbert de Clare regained the castle, which his son, Richard de Clare, later strengthened. Unfortunately, the fortification fell once again to the Welsh once more in 1174 in the Welsh Marches.

-1176

Richard de Clare died without a male heir and left the castle and estates to his daughter Isabella de Clare. As she was still a minor, the crown assumed guardianship of the castle and spent a modest amount on the castle's repair and upkeep.

-1189

Isabella de Clare married William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, who conducted extensive repairs and rebuilding the castle. He constructed the garrison tower, round tower and replaced the timber palisade with a stone wall. 

-The Late 1200s/Early 1300s (Upgrades)

Gilbert de Clare, the Earl of Gloucester and then his son Gilbert occupied the castle. Gilbert, the son, lost his life, fighting in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, leaving the castle and estates to his widow, Countess Matilda. Matilda made several upgrades to the residential areas of the castle. 

-1320

Elizabeth de Burgh inherited the castle from her sister in law Matilda at her death. She set about fortifying the castle, including a new gatehouse. This fortification was likely due to her husband, Roger Dammory's participation in a rebellion against Edward II. Edward II prevailed and imprisoned Elizabeth while the hated Hugh Despenser occupied the castle until 1327.

-1327

Elizabeth de Burgh reclaims Usk Castle after Edward II's defeat. 

-1368 (Fortification)

Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, inherited Usk Castle, and between him and his son Roger, they fortified the outer bailey with stone walls.

-1402 (Siege)

At the tumultuous Welsh uprising of Owain Glyndŵr, Usk Castle was placed under siege but managed to withstand the attack. However, the town itself was burned and ransacked by Owain's forces. 

-1405 (Bloody Battle)

Lord Richard Gray of Condor and Dafydd Gam repulsed another Welsh attack led by Owain and joined the fray at the Battle of Pwll Melyn, a short distance from the castle and defeated the Welsh. 

-1461

The ascension of Edward IV and political stability limited the military necessity of Usk Castle's function, and Usk became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Prince Richard granted the castle to Sir William ap Thomas and later his son Sir William Herbert. Sir William Herbert set about transforming the castle into a comfortable residence when he visited Usk. The castle suffered the start of its decline shortly after this period. 

-1556

Historical documents refer to Roger Williams, who demolished the castle barn and the Hall building.

-1642-46 (Slighted)

The castle suffered some minor slighting during the English Civil War and was finally rebuilt in 1680 when the owners transformed the gatehouse into an early modern residence. 

-1921

The Humphreys family purchased the Usk Castle, which has remained in the family to the present day. 

-1953

In February, the castle became a Grade I listed building along with Castle House, a grade I listed building in its own right. 

-Today

Rosie and Henry Humphreys are the current owners of Usk Castle who open the castle ruins and gardens to the public. 

Usk Castle Occupants

 

  • 1120: Walter Fitz Richard is the first to build and occupy Usk Castle. 
  • 1138: Gilbert de Clare captures the castle, and later his son settles and strengthens Usk Castle fortifications.
  • 1189: Isabella de Clare, daughter of Gilbert, marries William Marshal, and they occupy the castle.
  • Late 1200s-Early 1300s: Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, occupies the castle, and later his son also Gilbert occupies Usk Castle.
  • 1320: Elizabeth de Burgh takes occupancy of the castle, fortifying the castle against potential attack from Edward II. 
  • 1322-1327: Hugh Despenser, a favourite of Edward II, occupies Usk Castle.
  • 1327: Elizabeth reclaims the Usk Castle.
  • 1368: Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, inherits Usk Castle and his son, in turn, occupies the castle until he died in 1398.
  • 1460: Sir William ap Thomas takes residence of the castle on his visits to Usk, and later his son, William Herbert, occupies the castle on his visits.
  • 1921: The Humphreys family purchases the castle in 1908, while the castle ruins remained D E Thorn's property until 1933.
  • Today: Rosie and Henry Humphreys own Usk Castle currently, and the Castle House is their primary residence

Images of Usk Castle

Usk Castle Usk Castle Usk Castle
Usk Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Usk Castle Q&A

How Large Was Usk Castle?

Today, the gatehouse is incorporated into a later residence, and the residents have incorporated a barn into parts of the curtain wall. The main enclosure with a 13th-century tower forms a sub-rectangular shape 80 by 54 m (262.47 by 177.17 ft); however, evidence suggests that the castle may have spanned 210 by 150 m (688.98 by 492.13 ft) when integrated with the town defences

Was Usk Castle the Scene of a Bloody Battle?

In 1405, Welsh troops under Owain Glyndŵr attempted to attack the Northern side of Usk Castle in the Battle of Pwll Melyn but were repulsed by a heavy garrison under the command of Lord Richard Grey of Codnor. The garrison under Lord Grey gave pursuit and attacked the welsh in the vicinity of the modern Castle Farm. 

The Castle Oak Pond or ‘Pwll’ has offered up numerous skeletons showing the Welsh line of retreat. Some record the Welsh casualties as being as high as 1,500 dead, including Owain’s brother. Other records refer to 300 prisoners beheaded outside the walls of Usk castle. 

Location of Usk Castle

Usk Castle ruins stand atop a spur on a low hill, a short distance north from the town centre of Usk in central Monmouthshire, South East Wales. The ruins overlook the River Usk, and wooded slopes surround the site on all sides. 

The castle ruins overlay the northmost sector of an Early Roman fort, and historians first make mention of the Usk Castle in 1138. The Bailey and masonry walls were later added to the earlier structure in the early 13th century. Historians believe that Gilbert de Clare added the northeast tower in 1260.