Hay Castle is one of the great medieval defense structures on the border of England and Wales still standing. Built in the late 12th century by the powerful Norman Lord William de Braose, its history is long and turbulent. The castle was sacked by Llewelyn II, the last prince of Wales, in 1233, and rebuilt under the custody of Henry III. Centuries of turmoil followed until the 15th century, when the castle passed into the hands of the Beaufort Estates.
Relative peace in the Marches meant that the site could transform into a more domestic setting. The addition of the Jacobean mansion appears to have happened in two distinct phases. Dating the first phase is as yet unclear and current archaeological investigations hope to draw a clearer picture of this period of the site's history. Dendrochronolgy has however dated the main double pile house as being built before the civil war from timber felled in 1636.
(image by courtesy of Hergest Trust)
The remains of the castle include a four-storey keep and a beautiful arched gateway. The multi-gabled Jacobean manor was severely damaged by fire in 1939, and again in 1977. Remnants of the 18th century formal gardens and 19th century terraced gardens can still be seen.
For a large portion of the 19th century the castle was lived in by the Bevan family as William Latham Bevan was the vicar in Hay and later became an Archdeacon. He and his daughters were highly involved in daily life in the town and are mentioned in Kilvert's diaries from the 1870s as Kilvert was a regular guest at the Castle.
(Archdeacon Bevan outside the Castle during his jubilee celebrations in 1895 - image courtesy of Julian Scott, great great grandson)
During the early 20th century the Castle was lived in by Lady Dowager Glanusk. After her death in 1938 the property was in the hands of Benjamin Guinness when the 1939 fire broke out. WWII probably contributed to the dereliction of the eastern section and at some point in the 1940s or 1950s the property was purchased by Edward Vernon Tuson. Tuson had married into the Studt fairground family and it was he who sold it to bibliophile and King of Hay, Richard Booth in the 1960’s. The site was purchased in 2011 by the Hay Castle Trust when Booth decided to put the Castle up for sale.
(All other photographs courtesy of Eric Pugh)