Builth Wells is a town with a population 2,352 (2001 census) on the banks of the river Wye in the modern county of Powys in Wales which formerly lay in the historic county of Breconshire. Builth is derived from the name of the old Welsh cantref of Buellt or Buallt denoted the land between the rivers Wye and Tywi and north of Erwood and Llanwrtyd; from "Allt" the Welsh word for a wooded hillside and "Buwch" for cow.
The cantref of Buellt was invaded by a Norman named Philip de Braose in the late eleventh century who built a castle on the river Wye that commanded an important crossing place on the river Wye as well as the the route south across the Eppynt Mountains to Brecon. Around this castle a town grew up, with a church dedicated to saint Mary and so the town became known as Llanfair-ym-Muallt to the Welsh or "St. Mary's in Builth" and simply Builth to the English.
The original castle was demolished by the last Welsh prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd but was rebuilt soon afterwards in the concentric style by Edward I although only the earthworks of Edward's great castle now remain. In 1277 the town was granted a charter by Edward I and became a borough, most of the town was burnt down in 1691 and by 1800 it had a population of around 700 people.
During the nineteenth century, particularly after the railway arrived in the 1860's Builth developed into a spa resort when visitors came to saple the delights of the saline spring at the Park Wells and a sulphur spring at the Glanne Wells. So the town became known as Builth Wells and much of the modern town retains the Victorian character of the building boom generated in this period.
The popularity of spas has long since disappeared and Builth has now reverted to being a simple market town, best known as the home of the Royal Welsh Show which has been held since 1963 at a permanent showground at Llanelwedd.
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