In our July Session BBYAC visited Hay Castle. We learned all about its a long and colourful history – built as a Norman stronghold in the late 12th century; sacked by Llewelyn II, the last prince of Wales, in 1233, and rebuilt by Henry III; being extended to become a rather swanky Jacobean mansion in 1660; added to by the Victorians; and being twice ravaged by fire in the 20th century to become the partial ruin that it is today. The remains of the castle are layered in history with a four-storey Norman keep and a beautiful arched gateway, a multi-gabled Jacobean house, remnants of the 18th century formal gardens and a 19th century terraced garden.
We learned that this site is vulnerable and under-threat, that its needs to be carefully conserved and looked after, and the Hay Castle Trust are working to safeguard the site for the future and bring it to life again. BBYAC assisted in this by road-testing the educational activities being developed to help future visitors, particularly children and young people, to engage with the site and understand its history and development.
We started with a Treasure Hunt, around the areas of the buildings and the site that are currently safe to access, looking for historical features – windows, blocked up doorways, fire places etc. and the clues that they can give us the to history of the buildings and how they have changed and developed over time.
We also looked at some historic maps, photographs and artistic impressions of the buildings and the site through time to see what clues these could give us.
We then had a tour of the site, and saw how the different features of the buildings could help us to read the building and understand which sections dated to which period. We also had a talk from a local artist who helped us understand the different stones that have been used in the building, where they came from and the tools that were used to work them, he also explained how the history of the site was helping him to create a piece of public art for the site.
We finished off with some Buildings Archaeology, by recording and drawing the building. Carefully looking at the doorways, the windows, the roof, the walls, and thinking about what they can tell us about the date of the different parts of the building, helping us understand its development.
A big thank you to Hay Castle Trust for inviting us to the castle and for the tour and activities which brought the site to life for us on the day. We all had a great time and can’t wait to see how the site changes as the restoration project progresses.