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Thursday, 22 May 2014

The Royal Commission returns to Hay Castle for Hay Festival 2014

Hay Castle, with the thirteenth-century castle (left) and adjoining seventeenth-century mansion (right)
Hay Castle (NPRN: 25593) sits at the heart of Hay-on-Wye, home to the annual Hay Literary Festival. The 10-day festival, now in its 27th year, attracts writers, artists and performers from all over the world. This year it runs from 22 May─1 June.

In 2011, Hay Castle, a Grade I listed building, passed into the ownership of a registered charity, the Hay Castle Trust. The Trust, working with Cadw and the Brecon Beacons National Park, aims to ensure the permanent preservation of the site. The community-based project involves a process of rediscovery, conservation and restoration, with the aim of regenerating the castle into a centre for culture, arts,crafts and education. The Hay Castle Trust will be running tours of the castle throughout this year’s festival. Royal Commission Senior Investigator, Richard Suggett, will be leading tours (now fully booked) on Friday 23 May and Saturday 31 May.

Situated on the Welsh/English border, Hay Castle is unusual in that it has been continuously occupied for the last 800 years. Constructed in the twelfth century and occupied into the twentieth century, the castle is considered to be potentially the most important multi-period site on the Welsh side of the border. The medieval castle survives, with its thirteenth-century gateway and early timber gates still intact. The timber gates, with their original cross-bracing, are one of only three to four surviving examples in Britain.

Hay Castle’s thirteenth-century gateway with early timber gates

 Castle House, a seventeenth-century Jacobean mansion, was built alongside the castle’s keep. Recent tree-ring dating by the Royal Commission has established the exact date of the three-storey house as 1636. Despite two twentieth-century fires, its basic structure has remained intact.

Castle House and the castle’s four-storey keep

As the process of rediscovery continues, it is becoming apparent that the castle contains many highly significant and possibly unique architectural components. The walls are to be consolidated, with the aim being to repair rather than to replace. It is heartening to see the castle’s important historical features cared for in this way, with the building and grounds well on the way to becoming a focal point for the local community once again.

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