(19) Builth Wells

Distance from Craig-y-Nos Castle 38 Miles

 

 

The name Builth, in Welsh Buallt or perhaps Buellt, is older than the town to which it now refers. Buallt/Buellt originally applied to the Cantref or Hundred, an area within the old Welsh administrative system. The Cantref of Buallt/Buellt was an area of land between the rivers Wye and Tywi and north of a line drawn roughly between Erwood and Llanwrtyd, covering an area of some 174 miles. It has long been thought the name of the Cantref, and later the town, came from the Welsh words 'Bu' and 'Allt', and could be translated as 'The Wild Ox of the Wooded Slope'. Roman remains have been found in the surrounding area (the Roman fort at Beulah, 8 miles to the west no evidence has yet been found in Builth Wells itself to prove Roman habitation. The origin of the town dates with certainty from Norman times with the construction of the timber Motte and Bailey castle by Philip de Braose.
The castle commanded the ancient crossing of the Wye, and as a result controlled the route to the south which ran over the Eppynt Mountains towards Brecon; it also guarded the entrance to the valley of the Irfon which gave access to the west.

As the castle occupied such a strategic position it had a somewhat turbulent history and in 1277, Edward I had the castle rebuilt in stone. Please note that Unfortunately the fabric of the castle no longer exists but it is possible to visit the site

Under the shadows of the castle a town grew up that took its name from the church which had been built outside the castle walls. The church was dedicated to St. Mary, as was the case wherever a Norman castle had been built (compare Brecon and Hay for example). The town consequently became known as Llanfair ym Muellt - St. Mary's in the Cantref of Builth. Gradually the embryonic town grew in importance and size, so much so that in 1277 it became a Borough Town and was granted a Royal Charter by Edward I. As time passed, the town, like so many other towns dropped its former name and took on the name of the territory it controlled. Thus Llanfair ym Muellt became Buellt, then Buallt which in turn became anglicized into Bealt and finally Builth, with the name in Welsh being Llanfair ym Muallt.

The following four centuries saw the sporadic growth of a small market town which by 1800 had a population close to 700. This development however, did not occur without its fair share of dramas. In the 1350's, it is almost certain that the town experienced the Great Plague - The Black Death.

Local tradition tells us that when the Plague ravaged Builth the people living in the countryside surrounding the town left food and provisions for the townspeople on the banks of a brook to the west of the town. In return, Builth's inhabitants threw money to pay for the goods into the brook in an attempt to prevent the spread of the Plague. As a result the brook became known as 'Nant Yr Arian' or 'The Money Brook' a name which remains today.

Possibly the most important drama occurred in 1690 (or perhaps 1691?) when the houses of some forty families were destroyed by fire. The fire is thought to have raged for about five hours resulting in more than 12,000 damage. Letters Patent were granted by the Crown enabling the sufferers to collect alms from those charitably disposed. Unfortunately, only a few hundred pounds were collected and so much misapplied that only one house was rebuilt from this fund - this is possibly the modern-day White Horse Hotel. It has also been suggested that materials taken from the redundant and decaying castle were used to rebuild the fire ravaged town. In 1779, a new bridge was erected, on the present site, and during the 1820's a new road was constructed linking north and south Wales.

These improvements led to the quickening growth of the town. However, the basic fabric of modern Builth dates largely from Victorian and Edwardian times. This growth, without doubt, resulted from the discovery of the health springs. The first recorded mention of the mineral waters at Builth was as far back as 1740. It was not until the 1830's that the Park Wells with its Saline, and the Glanne Wells with its Sulphur were well known. During the second half of the nineteenth century large numbers of visitors came to Builth to 'take the Waters' and a myriad of hotels, guest houses and shops were built to accommodate them. This process was helped during the 1860's by the arrival of the railways, allowing visitors to travel to Builth with ease, from all over Wales and England. It is from this time that the word 'Wells' was added to Builth.

Builth Wells is known by many people as the permanent home of the Royal Welsh Show. This annual event stretches back over one hundred years and attracts visitors from all over the World for three days of demonstrations and exhibitions of agricultural, farming, field and cultural events.

The showground is also used throughout the year for many other functions and is ideally located in the very heart of Wales.

The Royal Welsh Show is held in Mid July.

The lovely river Wye runs through water meadows in the town and provides excellent fishing for salmon and trout.

A majestic stone bridge spans the river and carries the road through Mid-Wales to Brecon and Llandrindod Wells.