ONE of the central landmarks in Newport is the remains of Newport Castle – but what is known about the castle’s owners during its long history?

It is not known exactly when Newport Castle was built in its present location, but it is believed to be sometime around 1327 when the lordship of Newport was established.

Prior to this, there was another castle around the Stow Hill area – although in 1172, King Henry II summoned Iorweth ap Owain to Castell Newydd ar Uysc (build a new castle on the Usk).

According to Jeremy Knight in the book Newport Castle, in May 1321 the Earl of Hereford and the Mortimers led the marcher lords and 1,300 horses and 10,000 foot soldiers to march on Newport after Hugh Despenser – husband of Eleanor de Clare who had inherited the lordship of Glamorgan from her father Gilbert in 1314 – took a disliking to Hugh d’Audele and his wife Margaret (the sister of Eleanor) being given the initial castle and refused to allow them possession. They were successful after a four-day siege of Newport when they took the castle and the town and gave them to d’Audele.

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The leaders of the march were executed the following year and Despenser reclaimed his lands, but after the fall of the Despensers in 1326, d’Audele was given his freedom and the land back. He then decided that there was a need for something more suitable for a castle.

d’Audele held the lordship and the castle in its location on the banks of the River Usk until his death in 1347 when his daughter inherited the land. She married Ralph, the Earl of Stafford, who commanded the British Army in Ireland and died at his lordship at Tonbridge in Kent in 1372.

In 1377, Hugh, Earl of Stafford, took a great interest in Newport and he founded a house of Augustinian Friars, which stood near to the present Newport Bus Station. It is believed that he also walled the town as the West Gate bore the Stafford’s crest.

The lordship and therefore the castle fell back into the hands of the crown in 1386 after Hugh died while on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His eldest son had been killed a year earlier by King Richard II’s half-brother. His second eldest son died in 1392 at Westminster where he was being brought up in the royal household, just after coming of age.

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Hugh’s third son died as a minor and his youngest son, Edmund, came of age in 1397. Edmund led an English army to counter the rising of Owain Glyndwr. He was made a constable of England in July 1403, but died less than a month later in the battle of Shrewsbury. The castle was in the crown’s hands once again as the Owain Glyndwr uprising hit Gwent that August.

Sir Gilbert Denys was then captain at the castle and oversaw emergency repair works. In 1424, Edmund’s son Humphrey came of age and was named Duke of Buckingham and warden of the cinque ports. He set about turning Newport Castle into a nobleman’s residence worthy of his rank. Humphrey – a follower of Henry VI - was killed during the War of the Roses at the battle of Northampton in 1460, just three years after his renovations were said to have been completed.

His grandson Henry inherited his title of Duke of Buckingham and the castle but he was executed in 1483 after rebelling against Richard III – who he had previously been a supporter of. The lands were confiscated and placed into the hands of the crown once more, with Thomas Bawdrif becoming constable. When Henry VII succeeded to the throne, he reversed this decision and gave the lordship to Katherine, widow of Henry – who was now married to the King’s uncle Jasper Tudor.

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The lordship went to Katherine’s son Edward after her 1513 death. Edward was a courtier to Henry VIII but was beheaded in 1521 after being accused of disloyalty, meaning the lordship – and therefore the castle – was back into the crown’s hands until Henry VIII died in 1547. The first earl of Pembroke – William Herbert – was given the lands and leased the castle to his kinsman - also called Sir William Herbert of St Julians.

In 1710, Thomas Morgan of Ruperra leased the castle from the Herberts. There was some dispute over land in the lease and in 1949, when Colonel Morgan of Tredegar held the lease – although John Williams, a landlord of the Heathcock Inn, held the key – the castle was in a ruinous state.

A brewery was established in the castle’s buildings by Mr Allfrey around 1820, this was taken over by a Mr Blake and then in 1880 by Serle and Herring, but in 1890 it was taken over by Lloyd and Yorath, who kept it as a bottling store until 1905 after moving the brewery away from the castle in 1899.

Newport Corporation acquired the South Tower in 1891 and the rest of the castle was bought by Lord Tredegar in 1899. The ruins were placed in the care of the office of works by the Tredegar estate in 1930, with the South Tower being added to this in 1935.

The remaining east side of the castle – which was given Grade II listed status in 1951 – is now managed by Cadw.

More information can be found in Jeremy Knight’s book Newport Castle.