infobox UK place
country = Wales
welsh_name= Y Gelli Gandryll
official_name= Hay-on-Wye
latitude= 52.08
longitude= -3.13
unitary_wales= Powys
lieutenancy_wales= Powys
constituency_westminster= Brecon & Radnorshire
post_town= HEREFORD
postcode_district = HR3
postcode_area= HR
dial_code= 01497
os_grid_reference= SO225425
population= 1,846

static_image_caption=A second-hand bookshop at Hay-on-Wye
Hay-on-Wye ( _cy. Y Gelli Gandryll or "Y Gelli"), often described as "the town of books", is a small market town in Powys, Wales.


The town lies on the east bank of the River Wye and is within the Brecon Beacons National Park, just north of the Black Mountains. The town is situated just within the Welsh side of the border with Herefordshire, England, which is defined by the Dulas Brook at this stretch. Where the brook joins the River Wye just to the north of the town, the border continues north along the river. Hay has approximately 1,900 inhabitants. The village of Cusop lies on the other side of the Dulas Brook and is in England. The nearest city is Hereford, county town of Herefordshire, some 22 miles (35 km) to the east.

The town was formerly served by Hay-on-Wye railway station, which closed in 1963 under the infamous Beeching Axe.

Book town

Hay-on-Wye is a destination for bibliophiles in the United Kingdom, with over thirty bookshops, many selling specialist and second-hand books. [ [http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/bookshops/frameset.htm Hay-on-Wye booksellers] . Retrieved on 2008-05-04.]


Hay-on-Wye, like Builth Wells, has two Norman castles within a short distance of each other. It seems likely that Hay was fortified by William Fitz Osbern during his penetration of south-east Wales in the summer of 1070 when he defeated three Welsh kings. The history of the site then continues through the lordships of the de Neufmarchés, which was confirmed at the Battle of Brecon in 1093, and also the Gloucester/Hereford families until 1165, when the district of Brycheiniog passed into the hands of the de Braose dynasty of Marcher Lords. In 1230 Hay Castle passed to the de Bohuns and the local history, including the battle near Hay in 1231, is continued through the Mortimer Wars of the 1260s and the battle near Brecon in 1266 down to the death of Earl Humphrey de Bohun in 1298.

The first castle

Lying close to St.Mary’s Church on the western edge of Hay-on-Wye is a small but well-preserved motte. The site overlooks a gorge and small stream leading to the River Wye, which was undoubtedly one reason for the construction of a motte and bailey castle here. A recently levelled platform under the car park to the north east may have once have housed the castle's bailey. This little fortress was probably the work of William Revel, a knight of Bernard de Neufmarché, and may later have been the seat for the manor or commote of Melinog. Other than this the motte has no further recorded history.

The stone castle

The main fortress within Hay-on-Wye was situated on the great site commanding the town and river under the current ruins of the castle and mansion. This was undoubtedly the 'castello de haia' handed to Miles de Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford in 1121 with the daughter of Bernard de Neufmarché. It is most likely that the keep stood by this time. It is therefore possible that this is the oldest Norman tower in Wales, dating to the onslaught of William Fitz Osbern in 1070. During the anarchy (1136-54) in the reign of King Stephen a series of charters were passed by the Gloucesters concerning the castle. In 1165 the last of Miles de Gloucester's male descendants was killed at nearby Bronllys Castle and Hay-on-Wye Castle passed into the hands of William de Braose, 3rd Lord of Bramber and of New Radnor and Buellt. The de Braose dynasty were energetic lords and probably built the core of the gatehouse which now stands besides the keep. In the summer of 1198 a major English army formed here before marching off to victory at the Battle of Painscastle some four miles to the north.

In 1230 the last de Braose of Brecon, William de Braose, 10th Baron Abergavenny was hanged by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth and Brecon lordship with Hay-on-Wye passed into the hands of the de Bohuns. Taking advantage of this in 1231, Prince Llywelyn ravaged the lands of his de Bohun in-laws during which Hay-on-Wye town was burnt, although the castle survived the onslaught. The castle saw service in the Barons' War of 1263 to 1266, changing hands three times, once being surrendered to the great Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester. With the conquest of Wales by King Edward I ("Longshanks") life became more peaceful in this Marcher town.

Around 1401 both town and castle suffered damage by the forces of Owain Glyndwr, although the castle was listed as defensible against the Welsh in 1403. The fortress later passed to the earls of Stafford, who were to become the unlucky dukes of Buckingham during the Wars of the Roses. The castle was repaired during the conflicts of the 1460s, although its military use would have been somewhat dubious against cannon.

In the 1660s, James Boyle of Hereford built a new mansion on the north side of the castle, while most of the curtain wall was demolished to improve the views. The mansion is now used for second-hand bookselling.

Remains of Castle

The keep is roughly thirty feet square and was once of four storeys. The corners of the tower have been much rebuilt, probably due to insecure foundations. The entire south east corner of the tower has been replaced and it is possible that when first constructed there was a spiral stair here to allow access to the upper floors. This tower is similar to the keep found at Goodrich Castle.

Some time in the 12th century the powerful curtain wall or shell keep with gate was added to the rampart around the site. This gateway is one of the finest carved castle gateways in Wales and is comparable with the much more ornate work at Newcastle near Bridgend. The two gates hanging within the gateway, although of different ages, would appear to be very old - the gates at Chepstow Castle have been dendrochronologically dated to the reign of King Henry II (1154-89).

Probably during the troubles of the Barons' War a small gatehouse was added in front of the gateway to make a proper gatehouse complete with portcullis. The portcullis mechanism mounted on the wall walk was reached via a flight of steps up over the back of the gate passageway which also allowed access to the wall walks.


Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Redu, a village in the Belgian municipality of Libin, and with Timbuktu, the ancient city in Mali, West Africa. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/mid/6337935.stm Hay-on-Wye is twinned with Timbuktu] , BBC News, 7 February 2007, 15:53 GMT, accessed 8 February 2007.]

"Guardian" Hay Festival

Since 1988, Hay-on-Wye has been the venue for a literary festival, now sponsored by "The Guardian" newspaper, which draws a claimed 80,000 visitors over ten days at the beginning of June to see and hear big literary names from all over the world.

King of Hay-on-Wye

On 1 April 1977, bibliophile Richard George William Pitt Booth conceived a publicity stunt in which he declared Hay-on-Wye to be an 'independent kingdom' with himself as its monarch. The tongue-in-cheek micronation of Hay-on-Wye has subsequently developed a healthy tourism industry based on literary interests for which some credit Booth [cite news
title=Richard Booth
] . He recently announced plans to sell his bookshop and move to Germany; on this occasion local MP Roger Williams was quoted as saying "His legacy will be that Hay changed from a small market town into a Mecca for second-hand book lovers and this transformed the local economy" [cite news
title=Self-styled king of Hay sells up
] .

See also

* Wigtown - Scotland's book town
* Sedbergh - A book town for England
* Blaenavon - an attempt to create a second "book town" in Wales
* Montolieu - book village in South-West France
* Bredevoort - The Dutch book village
* Redu - A Belgian book village, one of the first ones


* Remfry, P.M., "Hay on Wye Castle, 1066 to 1298" (ISBN 1-899376-07-0)

External links

* [http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk/ Official website]
* [http://www.hayfestival.com/ The Guardian Hay Festival]
* [http://www.hayfringe.co.uk/ Hay Fringe Festival]
* [http://www.castles99.ukprint.com/Essays/hay.html Anglo-Norman Castles]
* [http://www.richardbooth.demon.co.uk/haypeerage/ Richard Booth's "Hay Peerage"]

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