To Radnorshire now as once was known we ride
And up beyond Clyro’s motte to mounds magnificent in the hills:
Painscastle now we see, peeping proudly from its fields
Surveying every scene of hereabouts, a silent bearer of old news.
What a place this was when I well knew its prime!
Built on Roman roots, we think, but rounded now by Norman spades
And cast in scarps scoured from the hill by sweat of men long dead.
Pain Fitz John its founder piled these heaps of earth
Upon this hill to stake his claim in marcher hinterlands;
Then lord Rhys did wrestle it in war from Maud whose name it also bears
In memory of her proud defence, defiant in the land against the Welsh.
Yet where are the walls that well I knew and halls and houses here?
All gone? All gone! Like barley blown away by autumn winds
And now not one stone stands upon another which once with king I saw!
Yet Henry did this place shore up when Welshmen rose again
And so Pain’s castle proud it stood against the warring spears
Built on the labour of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and loyal shires!
But now up here silence only sings Paincastle’s siren call to tourists in
Pain and Maud have gone save for their name
With what’s left just ditches deep.
Is this what becomes of Norman fame;
Great mounds slow munched by sheep?
Painscastle in Radnorshire (Powys) is one of the finest motte and bailey castles in the Welsh marches and well repays a visit. Founded in the early 12th Century by Pain Fitz John, Lord of Ewyas, it was re-fortified during the reign of Richard I by William de Braose III whose wife, Maud, defended it against the Welsh (and by whose name the castle is also known). Simple in plan, Painscastle comprises a large bailey, a small hornwork/barbican earthwork and an enormous motte. The earthworks themselves are of great proportion; the site itself may once have had Roman origins.
Under threat from a new Welsh uprising, the castle was considerably rebuilt by Henry III and, between July and September 1230, his army remained there while the castle was “splendidly rebuilt in stone and lime”. It appears that much, if not all, of this work was robbed out in later centuries; the Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Radnorshire laconically laments this fact, stating accurately that the surface of the earthworks is “broken here and there by mounds, as though masses of overturned masonry were buried beneath the soil”. And thus it seems, even today.
Note to the visitor: located in a remote hamlet, the castle hides behind a farmhouse and it is only correct that permission must be sought from the farmer to see the remains.