Very little is actually known of the history of Tomen y Faerdre. There is strong circumstantial evidence to connect the raising of a motte and bailey castle here by Owain Gwynedd in 1149, during his expansion at the expense of the English, in which he took full advantage of the ‘Anarchy’ to move east, while also seizing the lands of Powys from Madog ap Maredudd. In consolidating these new possessions, castles at Llandegla and possibly Llanarmon-yn-Ial were built. Tomen y Rhodwydd at Llandegla was burnt to the ground by Iorwerth Goch ap Mareudd, brother of Madog, and it is likely that the same fate befell Tomen y Faerdre, since a motte and bailey at Llanarmon-yn-Ial would have continued to be a thorn in the side of a resurgent Powys. This, however, remains speculation, since records are surprisingly sparse.
On its western side, the motte looked down over the natural crag to the River Alyn
As at Llandegla, we know that King John of England re-occupied the site in 1212 since a Pipe Roll of 1212-13 records, ‘iron mallets for breaking the rocks in the ditch of the castle of Yale’, referring to Tomen y Faerdre.
There has been much discussion as to the possibility of a llys, a court of the maerdrf centred on the Church of St Garmon, while the manor would have been located at the motte and bailey site of Tomen y Faerdre. While this requires further investigation, the suggestion led by the late Professor Glanville Jones is intriguing.
The remains of the ditch surrounding the impressive motte are still visible
The motte of Tomen y Faerdre is impressive, some 6 metres high on the its east side and some 24 metres across the summit. It rests on a dramatic rocky outcrop above the River Alyn, while a ditch would have protected the other three sides.