Brampton Bryan

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Brampton Bryan
Cottages, Brampton Bryan - - 590226.jpg
Cottages in Brampton Bryan
Grid reference: SO375725
Location: 52°20’49"N, 2°55’8"W
Population: 0
Post town: Bucknell
Postcode: SY7
Dialling code: 01547
Local Government
Council: Herefordshire
North Herefordshire

Brampton Bryan is a small village and parish in northern Herefordshire, on the bounds of Shropshire and Radnorshire. The ancient parish comprises three townships, one of which (Stanage) is in Radnorshire. The other two (Brampton Bryan, and Boresford and Pedwardine) together form the civil parish of Brampton Bryan. The village is built around a small triangular village green.

The village lies mid-way between Leintwardine and Knighton on the A4113 road.

The village

In addition to its church, the village possesses a tearoom and a large bookshop (as is not uncommon in the county), which sells over 50,000 titles, and a remarkable and ancient yew hedge.

The Herefordshire Trail long-distance trail|long distance footpath passes through the village.

The village has had a complex history and its buildings reflect this, spanning several ages and styles. The area, at the feet of the mountains, has been important since Roman times a few miles to the east is Leintwardine, which was an important Roman site. Buildings in the village include a number of fine Georgian houses and some earlier timber-framed buildings standing around the green.

Much of Brampton Bryan is owned by the Harley Estate who have controlled the area since the early fourteenth century. They succeeded the powerful Mortimer family.

Name of the village

The name Brampton means "Broom farmstead" ("broom" being the shrub, planta genista). The element "Bryan" refers to former manorial ownership, and it is believed that it refers to Brian Unspac, Lord of Kinlet.[1][2]

Brampton Castle

The ruins of Brampton Bryan Castle are on a floodplain south of the River Teme, 60 yards north of the church. From this site the castle guarded an important route from Ludlow along the Teme Valley to Knighton and on into the Cambrian Mountains.

The current buildings include the ruined earthwork and buried remains of the quadrangular castle. The mediæval layout consisted of four ranges built around a courtyard, with a gatehouse contained within the southern curtain wall, to which a large outer gatehouse was added. The whole was constructed on a motte and surrounded by a moat, with the approach to the castle being from the south across a bridge to the gatehouse.

The north range contained the hall and service bay, both at first floor level, with the kitchen to the east. Private accommodation was found in the other ranges, with further chambers above the gate passage of the inner gatehouse and on the first floor of the outer gatehouse.

The current house was built following the English Civil War and is largely eighteenth century.

Parish church

The Church of St Barnabas was built in 1656, during the Commonwealth period. It replaced an earlier building that was destroyed during the siege of Brampton Bryan castle in 1643.

Whilst from the outside the church has a considerable appeal, once entered the effect is unnerving due to its breadth being entirely out of proportion to its length. Its nave and chancel are one and covered by a very fine double hammerbeam roof. The roof may well have been built from the ruins of the castle.

The church contains an early 14th-century monument to Lady Margaret de Brampton, who is shown holding her heart in her hands.


The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, when it formed part of the estate of Ralph de Mortimer although evidence of occupation extends back to at least Roman times; as the remains of a temporary marching camp lie near the village.[3]

Brampton Bryan is perhaps more famous as the site of an action in the Civil War, which caused the destruction of the castle. Robert Harley (who died in 1656) was the lord of the manor and a prominent magnate. He was a dedicated Puritan and served as a Member of Parliament, but his estate was in a predominantly Royalist area of the country, and so the estate and castle were vulnerable to attack. This notwithstanding, Robert Harley left the defence of the castle in the hands of his remarkable wife, Lady Brilliana Harley, his third wife whom he married in March 1624. Brilliana was the daughter of Sir Edward and Dorothy Conway, of Ragley in Warwickshire.

Perhaps due to her reputation in the area the castle was not attacked until 26 July 1643 over a year after Parliament had first looked to raise an army to oppose the King. Before this, Fitzwilliam Coningsby the Royalist Sheriff of Hereford had restricted himself to ordering the Harley tenants to pay their rents directly to him and those that refused were imprisoned. Subsequently attacks were made on the property and livestock stolen. At the end of July 1643 events came to a head and Sir William Vavasour, the newly appointed governor of Hereford, surrounded Brampton Bryan with a mixed force of cavalry and infantrymen of about 700 soldiers.

Brilliana and three of her children together with 100 of her tenants (many of them armed) held the castle. Conditions inside rapidly deteriorated. Cattle, sheep and horses were plundered, all the buildings in the village were burnt to the ground and the castle was attacked with cannon and shot. Fortunately however inside the castle casualties were low and only one death and a few injuries are recorded. By contrast the attackers fared less well and nearly a tenth of the company were either killed or injured. After some weeks the siege was lifted and in October Vavasour left the area to join the Royalist attack on Gloucester. For some months afterwards an uneasy truce prevailed (although this did not stop Brilliana sending her men on a successful military raid into Wales against the Royalist forces). However Brilliana's health worsened and she died before the end of the year.

After her death the command of the garrison was put in the hands of the family doctor, Nathaniel Wright, and the Royalist forces began a second siege of the castle in the spring of the following year. This second siege lasted only three weeks and the Royalists reinforced by additional weaponry inflicted much more substantial damage upon the castle with mines and powerful artillery. The siege ended when Dr Wright surrendered to the attacking forces led by Sir Michael Woodhouse, Sir William Vavasour and Sir William Croft. The building was sacked and burnt and the prisoners, including the three young Harley children, were taken to Shrewsbury.

Despite the loss of his castle Robert Harley's support of the Roundhead cause proved to be a wise one, and following Cromwell's victory he was well rewarded; his compensation for losses suffered amounted to some £13,000 (over £1 million by today's values).[4]

Film location

Brampton Bryan castle was the location for the film Howards End.[5]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Brampton Bryan)