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Coordinates: 51°56′53″N 3°23′28″W / 51.948°N 3.391°W / 51.948; -3.391
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Brecon is located in Powys
Location within Powys
Population8,250 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceSO045285
Principal area
Preserved county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBRECON
Postcode districtLD3
Dialling code01874
FireMid and West Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
51°56′53″N 3°23′28″W / 51.948°N 3.391°W / 51.948; -3.391
Front page of the earliest surviving copy on The Brecon County Times, 5 May 1866

Brecon (/ˈbrɛkən/;[3] Welsh: Aberhonddu; pronounced [ˌabɛrˈhɔnði]),[citation needed] archaically known as Brecknock, is a market town in Powys, mid Wales. In 1841, it had a population of 5,701.[4] The population in 2001 was 7,901,[5] increasing to 8,250 at the 2011 census. Historically it was the county town of Brecknockshire (Breconshire); although its role as such was eclipsed with the formation of the County of Powys, it remains an important local centre. Brecon is the third-largest town in Powys, after Newtown and Ystradgynlais. It lies north of the Brecon Beacons mountain range, but is just within the Brecon Beacons National Park.


Early history[edit]

The Welsh name, Aberhonddu, means "mouth of the Honddu". It is derived from the River Honddu, which meets the River Usk near the town centre, a short distance away from the River Tarell which enters the Usk a few hundred metres upstream. After the Dark Ages the original Welsh name of the kingdom in whose territory Brecon stands was (in modern orthography) "Brycheiniog", which was later anglicised to Brecknock or Brecon, and probably derives from Brychan, the eponymous founder of the kingdom.[6]

Before the building of the bridge over the Usk, Brecon was one of the few places where the river could be forded. In Roman Britain Y Gaer (Cicucium) was established as a Roman cavalry base for the conquest of Roman Wales and Brecon was first established as a military base.[7]

Norman control[edit]

The confluence of the River Honddu and the River Usk made for a valuable defensive position for the Norman castle which overlooks the town, built by Bernard de Neufmarche in the late 11th century.[8]: 80  Gerald of Wales came and made some speeches in 1188 to recruit men to go to the Crusades.[9]

Town walls[edit]

Brecon's town walls were constructed by Humphrey de Bohun after 1240.[10]: 8  The walls were built of cobble, with four gatehouses and was protected by ten semi-circular bastions.[10]: 9  In 1400 the Welsh prince Owain Glyndŵr rose in rebellion against English rule, and in response in 1404, 100 marks was spent by the royal government improving the fortifications to protect Brecon in the event of a Welsh attack. Brecon's walls were largely destroyed during the English Civil War. Today only fragments survive, including some earthworks and parts of one of the gatehouses; these are protected as scheduled monuments.[11]

In Shakespeare's play King Richard III, the Duke of Buckingham is suspected of supporting the Welsh pretender Richmond (the future Henry VII), and declares:

O, let me think on Hastings and be gone
To Brecknock, while my fearful head is on!

Priory and cathedral[edit]

Brecon Cathedral

A priory was dissolved in 1538, and Brecon's Dominican Friary of St Nicholas was suppressed in August of the same year.[13] About 250 m (270 yd) north of the castle stands Brecon Cathedral, a fairly modest building compared to many cathedrals. The role of cathedral is a fairly recent one, and was bestowed upon the church in 1923 with the formation of the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon from what was previously the archdeaconry of Brecon — a part of the Diocese of St Davids.[14]

St Mary's Church[edit]

Saint Mary's Church began as a chapel of ease to the priory but most of the building is dated to later medieval times. The West Tower, some 27 m (90 ft) high, was built in 1510 by Edward, Duke of Buckingham at a cost of £2,000. The tower has eight bells which have been rung since 1750, the heaviest of which weighs 810 kg (16 long hundredweight). They were cast by Rudhall of Gloucester. In March 2007 the bells were removed from the church tower for refurbishment. When the priory was elevated to the status of a cathedral, St Mary's became the parish church.[15][16] It is a Grade II* listed building.[17]

St David's Church, Llanfaes[edit]

St David's Church

The Church of St David, referred to locally as Llanfaes Church, was probably founded in the early sixteenth century. The first parish priest, Maurice Thomas, was installed there by John Blaxton, Archdeacon of Brecon in 1555. The name is derived from the Welsh – Llandewi yn y Maes – which translates as 'St David's in the field'.[18]

Plough Lane Chapel, Lion Street[edit]

Plough Lane Chapel, also known as Plough United Reformed Church, is a Grade II* listed building. The present building dates back to 1841 and was re-modelled by Owen Morris Roberts.[19]

St Michael's Church[edit]

After the Reformation, some Breconshire families such as the Havards, the Gunters and the Powells persisted with Catholicism despite its suppression. In the 18th Century a Catholic Mass house in Watergate was active, and Rev John Williams was the local Catholic priest from 1788 to 1815. The present parish priest is Rev Father Jimmy Sebastian Pulickakunnel MCBS since 2012. The Watergate house was sold in 1805, becoming the current Watergate Baptist Chapel, and property purchased as the priest's residence and a chapel between Wheat Street and the current St Michael Street, including the "Three Cocks Inn"; about this time Catholic parish records began again. The normal round of bishop's visitations and confirmations resumed in the 1830s. In 1832 most civil liberties were restored to Catholics and they became able to practise their faith more openly. A simple Gothic church, dedicated to St Michael and designed by Charles Hansom, was built in 1851 at a cost of £1,000.[13]

Military town[edit]

The east end of town has two military establishments:

Approximately 9 miles (14 km) to the west of Brecon is Sennybridge Training Area, an important training facility for the British Army.[22]


The town sits within the Usk valley at the point where the Honddu and Tarell rivers join it from north and south respectively. Two low hills overlook the town, the 331m high Pen-y-crug to its northwest and 231m high Slwch Tump to the east. Both are crowned by Iron Age hillforts. The modern administrative community includes the town of Brecon on the north bank of the Usk together with the smaller settlement of Llanfaes on its southern bank. Llanfaes is built largely on the floodplain of the Usk and the Tarell; embankments and walls protect parts of both Brecon and Llanfaes from this risk.[23]


Brecon Guildhall

Brecon Town Council, based at Brecon Guildhall, represents the town at the local level, with up to fifteen councillors elected from four wards: St David's, St Mary's, St John's East and St John's West.[24] The town elects a mayor annually. In May 2018 it elected its first mixed race mayor, local hotelier Emmanuel (Manny) Trailor, who is a town councillor for St John's West.[25]

Until 2022 there were three county council electoral wards in the town (St David Within, St John and St Mary) which each elected a county councillor to Powys County Council. All three are represented by Labour Party councillors, the St Mary ward being gained from the Conservatives in a November 2019 by-election.[26]

In 2018 a review of electoral arrangements proposed that all three Brecon county wards be merged into a single, three councillor ward.[27]


In 2010 the Town Council installed a plaque to the slave-trader Captain Thomas Phillips captain of the Hannibal slave ship.[28] During the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests the plaque was removed and thrown into the River Usk.[citation needed][29] Following the protests the Council passed two resolutions on 20 September 2020 to display the plaque in the local museum, Y Gaer, and to request that it is displayed as part of a suitable exhibit detailing the wider context, without being restored. It was also resolved unanimously that a working group is established to consider whether a new plaque, new work of art, or loaned artwork should be commissioned, and where any new piece should be located. [30]


Laboratory, Brecon County School for Girls

Brecon has primary schools, with a secondary school and further education college (Brecon Beacons College) on the northern edge of the town. The secondary school, known as Brecon High School, was formed from separate boys' and girls' grammar schools ('county schools') and Brecon Secondary Modern School, after comprehensive education was introduced into Breconshire in the early 1970s. The town is home to an independent school, Christ College, which was founded in 1541.[31]


The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal basin at Brecon, the northern starting point of the Taff Trail

The junction of the east–west A40 (London-Monmouth-Carmarthen-Fishguard) and the north–south A470 (Cardiff-Merthyr Tydfil-Llandudno) is on the east side of Brecon town centre. The nearest airport is Cardiff Airport.[32]

The town's primary public transport hub is the Brecon Interchange at the B4601 Heol Gouesnou, served mainly by the long-distance T4, T6 and T14 routes operated by TrawsCymru. Local services 40A and 40B, operated by Stagecoach South Wales, connect the town centre with the suburbs, operating at a roughly-hourly frequency.[33]

Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal[edit]

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal runs for 35 miles (56 km) between Brecon and Pontnewydd, Cwmbran. It then continues to Newport, the towpath being the line of communication and the canal being disjointed by obstructions and road crossings. The canal was built between 1797 and 1812 to link Brecon with Newport and the Severn Estuary. The canalside in Brecon was redeveloped in the 1990s and is now the site of two mooring basins and Theatr Brycheiniog.[34]

Usk bridge[edit]

Usk Bridge plaque

The bridge carries the B4601 across the River Usk. A plaque on a house wall adjacent to the eastern end of the bridge records that the present bridge was built in 1563 to replace a medieval bridge destroyed by floods in 1535. It was repaired in 1772 and widened in 1794 by Thomas Edwards, the son of William Edwards of Eglwysilan. It had stone parapets until the 1970s when the present deck was superimposed on the old structure. The bridge was painted by J. M. W. Turner c.1769.[35]

Former railways[edit]

The Neath and Brecon Railway reached Brecon in 1867, terminating at Free Street. By this point, Brecon already had two other railway stations:

Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway[edit]

A train arriving at Brecon station on 6 October 1962, the last day of service. The steam locomotive is a GWR 5700 Class

The Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway was opened gradually from Hereford towards Brecon. The first section opened in 1862, with passenger services on the complete line starting on 21 September 1864.[39] The Midland Railway Company (MR) took over the HH&BR from 1 October 1869, leasing the line by an Act of 30 July 1874 and absorbing the HH&BR in 1876.[40] The MR was absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) on 1 January 1923.[41]

Passenger services to Merthyr ended in 1958, Neath in October 1962 and Newport in December 1962. In 1962 the important line to Hereford closed. Therefore, Brecon lost all its train services before the 1963 Reshaping of British Railways report (often referred to as the Beeching Axe) was implemented.[42]


Brecon hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1889.[43]

August sees the annual Brecon Jazz Festival. Concerts are held in both open air and indoor venues, including the town's market hall and the 400-seat Theatr Brycheiniog, which opened in 1997.[34]

October sees the annual 4-day weekend Brecon Baroque Music Festival, organised by leading violinist Rachel Podger.[44]

Idris Davies put "the pink bells of Brecon" in his poem published as XV in Gwalia Deserta (by T. S. Eliot). This was copied in "Quite Early One Morning" by Dylan Thomas, put to music by Pete Seeger as the song "The Bells of Rhymney", then recorded by the Byrds where it became known to millions although by then the Brecon line had gone missing.[45]

Points of interest[edit]

Brecon Castle

Notable people[edit]

Gerald of Wales at St.David's Cathedral
See Category:People from Brecon
Sarah Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785
Nia Roberts, 2015


Town twinning[edit]


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  2. ^ "Brecon Town Council". Brecon Town Council. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
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External links[edit]