Carmarthen Castle, Carmarthenshire
Old Castle House
Camarthen Castle sits on its rocky hilltop overlooking the River Twyi, dominating the town, a little way east to the Roman fort that precedes it.
Today the castle is surrounded by town buildings along its high street that have developed over the centuries along with the building of the Council offices and car park that sadly dominate the castle's interior.
Access to the castle can be made either from the High Street through the gatehouse, or from the car park at the rear of the castle. Whilst there is not much of the castle that has survived, what you can see is a good example of a Norman frontier castle.
~ History ~
1094 ~ The Norman William fitz Baldwin builds a castle at Camarthen to consolidate gains made from the native Welsh princes.
1196 ~ The elderly Lord Rhys, self aclaimed prince of South Wales, having been imprisoned by his troublesom illegitimate son Malegwn in Nevern Castle, eventually secures his release by his other son Hwel Sais.
Determined to control his unruly sons, he decides to focus their warring behaviour against a common enemy, the Anglo-Norman Marcher lords.
The sixty-four year old prince leads his last major campaign, in which he burns Carmarthen and defeats one of the most powerful Marcher lords in mid-Wales, Roger Mortimer. The Lord Rhys dies the following year.
1215 ~ Llywelyn the Great destroys the castle.
1223 ~ The castle is recaptrured from the Welsh by William Marshall the younger, Earl of Pembroke. Within three years it's defences are rebuilt with massive stone walls erected on the site of the original motte.
1275 ~ A survey of the castle lists to a dungeon, a great tower, a gatehouse, hall, kitchen and chapel, all of which are in need of repair.
1288 ~ Rebuilding at the castle takes place, including the construction of the stone curtain wall.
1403 ~ Carmarthen castle is captured by Owain Glyndwr's 8,000 strong Welsh forces, along with the castles of Carreg Cennen, Drylswyn and Newcastle Emlyn.
1405 ~ The castle is sacked by Owain Glyndwr's Welsh forces as part of a large scale uprising across Wales. The Welsh this time supported by their French allies with siege engines, pound the castle whilst their expert sappers undermine and breach the walls. The English garrison choose to surrender to the French commander rather than to Glyndwr's Welsh forces. Glyndwr agrees to this, allowing the English to return freely to any English-held town, on condition they leave behind their arms and goods.
1456 ~ Edmund Tewdwr, father of the future King Henry VII, gains possession of the castle as the king's representative in Wales. He later dies in the same year.
1869 ~ The castle begins a new role as the town gaol, effectively destroying the open space of the outer ward.