Crickhowell is a small town in southeastern Powys, Wales. It lies on the A40 between Abergavenny and Brecon. The name Crickhowell is taken from that of the nearby Iron Age hill fort of Crug Hywel above the town, the Welsh language name being anglicised by map-makers and local English-speaking people. The town lies on the River Usk, on the southern edge of the Black Mountains and in the eastern part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Significant parts of the surrounding countryside, over 20,000 acres (80 km²) form part of the Glanusk Park estate. The town has a population of around 2,800 people.
Many public services in Crickhowell are provided by Powys County Council and to a lesser extent by Crickhowell Town Council. Planning matters fall to the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. There are two schools – primary and secondary – which act as a central point for a large catchment area. There is some light industry on the outskirts of Crickhowell at the Elvicta Industrial Estate. The town centre includes a variety of traditional businesses, many of which are family owned. Other facilities in Crickhowell include a library, two play areas, public toilets and the CRiC building, which houses a tourist information centre, an internet cafe, an art gallery and a local history archive. There are a number of pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels.
There are also several churches in Crickhowell including St Edmund’s Church which holds a service every Sunday, a baptist church, an evangelical church and a Catholic church.
Crickhowell & Penmyarth Golf Club (now defunct) was founded in 1897 and played on a course at Glanusk Park. The club and course disappeared in the late 1960s.
Today, Crickhowell is a popular tourist destination. In 2005 a Tourist Information centre was built in the centre of town and during summer the town is notably busier. Most people visit Crickhowell to see the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, and maybe enjoy some mountain-biking, camping, hillwalking, rock climbing, fly-fishing, hang-gliding, caravanning or simply tour the area by car staying at Bed-and-breakfasts. The Green Man Festival takes place annually in mid-August at nearby Glanusk Park.
Notable features in Crickhowell include the seventeenth-century stone bridge over the River Usk with its odd arches (twelve on one side, thirteen on the other) and its seat built into the walls, the 14th-century parish church of St Edmund, and the ruins of Crickhowell Castle on the green “tump” beside the A40 Brecon to Abergavenny road.
Crickhowell Castle was initially a motte and bailey castle built from 1121, probably by Robert Turberville of the family of Norman Lords, at this time a tenant of Bernard de Neufmarche, Hugh Turberville holding the castle from 1273 not as tenant-in-chief but as mesne lord. Hugh Turberville was Seneschal of Gascony whose services were called upon by King Edward I to train Welsh men-at-arms and transform the royal levy into a disciplined medieval army capable of conquering Wales. Hugh led both cavalry and 6,000 infantry recruited in the Welsh Marches for King Edward’s forces. He was later a Deputy Constable and later Constable of Castell y Bere in Merionethshire. He fought against Rhys ap Maredudd during his rising from 1287 to 1291. He died in 1293 the last of the family in the direct line.
The castle was refortified in stone from 1242 when Sybil Turberville a Turberville heiress married Sir Grimbold Pauncefote or Paunceforte. It was walled with substantial stone towers and a large bailey, a home castle befitting an important Royal ally in Wales. The castle was in the hands of the powerful Mortimer family dynasty of Marcher Lords and in the 14th century and declined as a smaller holding within a large portfolio of lands, titles and larger castles.
On the Royal command of new King King Henry IV in 1400, it was again refortified, this time by Sir John Pauncefote, great grandson of Sir Grimbold, in advance of the uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr to 1412. The castle was largely destroyed in the early 15th century by Owain Glyndŵr’s forces who also attacked and burned Abergavenny town and other settlements in the area. The ruined stone double tower still stands on the Castle Green.
Crickhowell’s most famous son was the surveyor Sir George Everest (1798–1866) who was born at Gwernvale Manor near Crickhowell (this is now a hotel, known simply as ‘The Manor He was a Surveyor-General of India, after whom Mount Everest was named. There is also a street in Crickhowell named after him (Everest Drive).The current Lord and Lady of the Manor of Gwernvale are Stephen and Ruth Berrow who still reside in the town of Crickhowell, Admiral John Gell died here in 1806 after over thirty years at sea in the British fleets. The Glanusk Park estate was the childhood home of the former royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, who still lives near the town as proprietor of Ty’r Chanter bed and breakfast lodgings.