Estate Map of Powis Castle and Welshpool, Powys, 1629
(by permission of the National Library of Wales)
Known as ‘Humphrey Bleaze’s Plan’, this seventeenth-century colour map identifies Powis Castle and its surrounding lands as Welshe towne, or Welshpool. First known as the location of a Welsh lordship in the twelfth century, and developed as a planned borough town by Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, lord of Powys, in the thirteenth century, Welshpool was one of the most significant of the Marcher towns throughout the Middle Ages.
The map includes a number of important features. The position of Domine Castle (Domen Castell) on the map between Welshpool and the river Severn indicates that this early motte-and-bailey castle pre-dated the construction of Powis Castle in the late thirteenth century. The depiction on the map of the parish church on the opposite side of the river to the town settlement indicates that the church was likely to have been in place before the planned borough town of Welshpool was laid out in the mid-thirteenth century.
While many border towns were badly affected by the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1400–15, the map suggests that Welshpool was comparatively untouched. This may have been because it was regarded as a predominantly Welsh town, and the rebel troops directed their anger mainly at the English town foundations in Wales.The map also includes an illustration of Welshpool’s town cross, an interesting detail present in a number of early pre-Reformation town maps such as those made by John Speed but rarely found in later maps.
Little is known of Humfrey Bleaze himself. According to the registers of St Mary’s Church, the capacity in which Humfrey worked is unknown but he is thought to have been a steward to the Powis estates. He died on 26 July 1634.
Arnold, C. J., ‘Powis Castle: The Development of the Structure’, Montgomeryshire Collections, 81 (1993), 97–109.
Barton, P. G., ‘Welshpool Motte and Bailey’, Montgomeryshire Collections, 101 (2013), 151–54.
Owen, Mary Newill, ‘Welshpool Registers: Some Extracts from the Old Registers of St Mary’s Church’, Montgomeryshire Collections, 36 (1912).
Silvester, R. J., C. H. R. Martin and S. Watson, Historic Settlements in Montgomeryshire, Clywd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) Report no. 1134 (March 2012).