History of Brecon

Brecon Through the Ages

The lovely old market town of Brecon nestles in the shadow of the majestic Beacons at the confluence of the Rivers Usk and Honddu, the latter providing the town’s Welsh name, which is Aberhonddu. Breconshire is generally regarded as one of the most historic locations of settlements in Wales: on the perimeter of the present town, Slwch Tump and Pen-y-Crug are believed to be the sites of Iron Age forts, where Celtic immigrants left evidence of their settlement, and further west, at Y Gaer, are the remains of an 8-acre Roman fort

Brecon developed gradually after victory by the Norman Bernard de Neufmarche at the end of the 11th century and the town was dominated by the Castle, the outline of which can still be traced on the current town map.

By the middle of the 16th century, Brecon had become one of the most important towns in Wales, because of its position on the main route across Southern Wales from London to the coast and the commercial life of the borough. Reminders of the developments during Tudor, Elizabethan and subsequent periods can be seen in Buckingham House and Havard House (1556) in Glamorgan Street, at Newtown (1582), and in the date 1589 above a shop in the Bulwark. The Guildhall site signified the movement of power away from the castle to the Town.

Brecon’s strategic position was important in the turbulent years before the Civil War, and King Charles visited the town in quest of support in 1645 : the cobbled “King’s Steps” on the Struet mark his route of exit to Gwernyfed. By the early 18th century, Brecon was developing into one of the leading towns in Wales, ranking with Carmarthen and Caernarvon. Together with its long ecclesiastical and military influence, it was now an important administrative centre.

Fine Georgian-style houses in the High Street, Glamorgan Street, Lion Street and the Bulwark, Struet and Watton are evidence of prosperity to which a military presence and commercial interests contributed. A covered market building and a busy canal encouraged trade. Both of these remain as visitor attractions today, but little trace remains now of the network of railway development. Some evidence for the 19th century phase of fine Chapel buildings is still clear today, particularly in Lion Street and Kensington, though Bethel Chapel and the Dr Coke Methodist Chapel in Lion Street have been converted for commercial purposes.

Brecon is a garrison town and the Brecon Barracks currently houses the Administrative Headquarters for the Army in Wales, called 160 (Wales) Brigade. The Brigade was originally formed in 1915 as part of the 53rd Welsh Division.

Dering Lines is now the Infantry Battle School and it is here that the British Army trains its junior officers and non-commissioned officers in battlefield tactics. Many foreign armies have been invited to use these world-class facilities. Just a few miles further West is the Sennybridge Army Camp and Training Area, one of the largest range and training centres in the UK. Many thousands of service personnel use these facilities each year to train on the rugged Welsh hills of Breconshire.

For further information on the history of Brecon, please see Breconshire Local & Family History Society website: www.blfhs.co.uk 

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