Description: Usk Castle and precincts
Date Listed: 16 February 1953
Cadw Building ID: 2127
OS Grid Coordinates: 337677, 201089
Latitude/Longitude: 51.7046, -2.9020
There is also a scheduled monument, Usk Castle (Unoccupied Parts), at the same location as this building or very close to it. This may be related in some way or possibly a different name for the same structure.
On a spur on the hillside a short distance NE of the town.
First record of castle at Usk in 1138 when it was temporarily seized by the Welsh from the de Clare family of Netherwent but first stone structure, the keep, probably built c 1174 by Richard 'Strongbow' de Clare. William Marshal 1189- c1212 who inherited the castle through marriage undertook extensive additional fortification, adding the towers and creating the rectangular walled inner ward below the mound. Keep was remodelled by one of Marshal's sons as a residence in mid C13. By 1289 Gilbert de Clare had built N tower to serve as treasury and a chamber at top of Garrison Tower. In early C14 Elizabeth de Burgh, sister of the last de Clare, built large hall and chapel against N curtain wall and chamber block outside and remodelled keep to provide 3 storeys of living accommodation. In late C14/early C15 when lordship passed to the Mortimers of Wigmore, Earls of March, the lower ward fortifications to S were strengthened by building a gatehouse, wall and circular mural tower at SW. In 1431 William ap Thomas of Raglan was steward of the lordship and his son Sir William Herbert remodelled the keep as a steward's lodging. By early C16 the steward was living in the gatehouse and the castle was beginning to decay, the process hastened by demolition of great hall and barn by Roger Williams of Usk in 1556. From mid C18- late C19 it was part of the Beaufort estate. Family of current owners have been in residence since 1920s and created a notable garden, whose development is closely recorded.
Ruined Norman and later castle. Constructed of sandstone rubble; putlogs visible throughout. Anti-clockwise description. The roughly rectangular C12 keep built into the hillside and facing E rises from the outcrop with deep battered buttresses; large later rectangular openings at 3 levels including one with hoodmould at upper level with small chamfered light adjacent; corbel table. A section of curtain wall links with main entrance gate to inner ward/bailey, the C13 Castle Gate, facing NE, a pointed arch, chamfered inside, with remains of portcullis groove. Foundations of added D-shaped stone guard tower adjacent. Length of curtain wall with arched recesses extends to North Tower, the C13 treasury, with very thick walls, round outer (not inner) wall. Wide shouldered ground floor doorway with chamfered jambs and imposts support a semi-circular thick stone overlight with grille; arrow loop to right in curtain wall and rectangular recess. Part reconstructed steps lead to wall top with remains of corbelling; upper round-arched doorway adjacent to stairs and 2-light square-headed window of leaded quarries under a relieving arch. Adjoining is the C14 Chapel retaining some plaster; the S wall footings show its original width.
Extending W along this range is the C14 Hall altered in 1500; it is divided into 3 bays by thick projecting buttresses. Chamfered-arched doorway in W bay with window above; window seats in the deep splays, later fireplace in E bay; screens passage was in W bay with doorway at W gable end into former service rooms. Chamber block of C14 is an almost square external projection outside the curtain wall at the junction between hall and chapel; mural stair on inner side gave access to upper end of the hall; fireplace in each chamber and vestigial window mouldings; doorways E and W to outer curtain wall; remains of a springing arch and joist holes for the former floors. At NW angle the foundations of the Solar Tower of 1330. From NW corner a stretch of wide curtain wall with wall-walk and recesses in inner face; part of the area was used as the Town Gaol with arched openings at 2 levels and inscription 1825. This leads to the massive almost intact circular C13 Garrison Tower; 4 storeys with openings at all levels; battered with corbelled battlements, blocked arrow slits, small lancets to top storey, slots for a timber gallery below; wallwalk doorways at 2nd floor, inward-facing arrow slit adjacent to first floor opening; the low-set doorway from inner ward has bull-nose jambs; inside a spiral mural stair with newel links all levels; wide round internal arches to the narrow external openings through the thick wall. Curtain wall extends from first floor level to remains of C13 South Tower, a round tower at S angle with adjacent building foundations, one area labelled blacksmith. There is a gap in the curtain wall here though footings and retaining wall survive, then a short length of curtain wall joins the inner face of the Keep; visible here are further square headed openings with hoodmoulds, a steeply gabled roofline, and a chamfered arched ground floor doorway. Extending downhill ie SE from the South Tower is a section of wall enclosing the later outer ward and terminating in the C14 lower south tower; this has two storeys and basement, now topped by the corbel table; facing inwards are round-headed chamfered doorways at both levels; slit windows facing outwards; later converted to columbarium. A length of curtain wall with another arched recess and corbel table above connects with the Castle Gate.
Reason for Listing
Graded I as important medieval castle with significant early fabric and historic interest.
Scheduled Ancient Monument - 13/2179 MM012 (Mon).
Bradney Sir J, A History of Monmouthshire, Vol 3 part I, 1921;
Mein AG, Norman Usk 1986;
Newman J, Gwent/Monmouthshire, Buildings of Wales series,2000, 588-93.
On a spur on the hillside a short distance NE of the town.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.