Montgomery sits in the county of Powys, Mid Wales. The old town of Montgomery sits close to the Anglo Welsh border and the history of Montgomery could be said to exemplify the history of Wales in its relationship with England. The English built the castles and the Welsh knocked them down, and in between, they fought each other. The conflict continued for several hundred years and the Welsh countryside is littered with many examples of the failed attempts of the English to subjugate the Welsh.
The legacy of all this warring, the castles of Wales, are some of the finest examples of medieval military architecture in Europe. The small town of Montgomery is no exception. Albeit that the ruins of Montgomery Castle atop the hill above the town do not have the grandeur of a Harlech, Conwy, or Caernarfon Castle. However, you would be hard pressed to find a border town with a more dramatic history than that of Montgomery. For hundreds of years it was of the greatest strategic importance on the Welsh Marches and saw battles and sieges during the border struggle between Welsh and English.
Following the conquest of England in 1066, the Normans set their sights on Wales and it was the Marcher Lord, Roger de Montgomery, who built the original motte and bailey fort, known as Hendomen, close to the town some time between 1071 and 1074. After family disputes, the fort passed into the hands of Baldwin de Boulers and hence the Welsh name for the town Trefaldwyn (Baldwin's town). The de Boulers family held the fort until 1215 when it was destroyed by the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great). The motte and bailey was subsequently refortified as an outpost for the new stone castle that was to be built on the top of the hill. The English King Henry 111 placed Hubert de Burgh in possession and from 1223 until 1228 masons worked to construct the new Montgomery Castle on the rock above what was to become the town of Montgomery. The castle came under attack by Prince Llywelyn (ap Iorwerth) in 1228 and in 1231, which led to further fortifications and enlargement of the castle. In 1245 the Welsh again attacked this time under Dafydd ap Llywelyn ..You have to admire their tenacity!
In 1267 Montgomery was the meeting place for treaty negotiations, where King Henry III granted Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the grandson of Llywelyn the Great, the title of Prince of Wales. Fifteen years later in December 1282 an English army marched from Montgomery to Builth Wells to surprise and kill the Welsh Prince Llywelyn.
Unfortunately for the residents of Montgomery that was not the end of the Welsh Wars. In 1399, another Welsh rebellion took place under the leadership of Owain Glyndwr and the walled town was again attacked and burned. The stone castle however withstood the attack and though the garrison was not large, the design of the castle and the men inside did their job. The town walls were not rebuilt and the town remained a ruin for two whole centuries. Peace at last for the people of Montgomery Well not quite.
Come the 17th Century and with it came the English Civil War ...the town and castle saw action again. In September 1644, Montgomery became the site of a large battle between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists with as many as 9,000 troops involved. The castle fell to the Parliamentarians and in 1649 it was, as they say, “slighted”. A euphemism for being demolished.
With the loss of its fortress a quieter life began for the settlement of Montgomery and the town that once had its own walls, towers, four gates and sent its burgess to Parliament sank back into obscurity and is no longer even the county town. However, perhaps Montgomery is all the better for it. Today the small town with the ruined castle on the hill is a peaceful market town, and a pleasant place to explore with its mixture of timber-framed houses, cobbled streets, and Georgian and Victorian architecture. The view from the top of castle hill commands the vale of the river Severn and stretches far into England. A stroll to the eastern side of the town reveals the old Church of St Nicholas standing in a raised churchyard.
Church of St Nicholas: St Nicholas' Church is the parish church of Montgomery and is one of the best for miles around. It was originally built about 1225, and has a fine tower added in the early 19th Century. The church houses several impressive memorials including two medieval effigies. However, the most impressive memorial is that of Richard Herbert of Montgomery Castle. It is a canopied tomb with effigies of Richard and his wife, carvings of skulls, cross-bones, fruit, flowers, coats of arms, and their eight children.
Myths and Legends
The Robber's Grave: St Nicholas' Church is renowned as the home to the Robber's Grave. The robber was a young man by the name of John Davies who, although there are several versions of the story, they all agree was hanged in 1821 for a misdemeanour. Whether it was sheep stealing or robbery I cannot say, but John Davies went to the noose protesting his innocence of any crime and declared that no grass would grow on his grave for a hundred years. Strange to say it did not.
Montgomery High Street: Known as Broad Street, the High Street boasts fine Georgian housing that lead to the impressive Town Hall and clock tower (1748).
Town Square and Town Hall : Places of interest include the Georgian town square, timber-framed houses, the town pump and tethers, Montgomery Post Office and the Old Bell Museum.
Old Bell Museum: The museum displays scale models of local castles, excavated artifacts and the history of Montgomery.
Accommodation and Services
Visitors to Montgomery have a wide choice of accommodation with fine hotels and self catering accommodation available both within the town and close by in the surrounding countryside.