Carreg Cennan, Dyfed
~ History ~
1100's - In the Middle Ages, Carreg Cennen is the administrative centre of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth, with the royal seat being located at nearby Dinefwr castle.
1176 - The death of the Lord Rhys sees primacy among Welsh princedoms pass to Gwynedd, under Llywelyn the Great.
1216 - The descendants of the Lord Rhys are plagued by family feuds. The enforced partition of lands between his heirs by Llywelyn sees Carreg Cennen pass to his son Rhys Gryg (Rhys the Hoarse).
1233 - Upon Rhys Gryg's death the castle passes to one of his sons, Rhys Mechyll, and the kingdom to another, Maredudd ap Rhys, who also holds nearby Dryslwyn castle.
1248 - Rhys Fychan, the son of Rhys Mechyll, seizes Carreg Cennen back from the English. Indeed, it is his mother, Maud de Braose of the powerful Anglo-Norman family, who had delivered it into English hands out of hatred towards him. Rhys is fined £200 for this seizure by King Henry III, but he seems to have retained the castle anyway.
1250 - The feuding princes of south Wales become engulfed in the struggle between Llywelyn the Great and the English crown, siding with whoever appears to be getting the upper hand at the time. During these restless years the castle changes hands several times.
1277 - King Edward I, provoked by the growing power of Llywelyn the Last, goes to war against him. In the south-west, Pain de Caworth, lord of Kidwelly and commander of the royal forces, moves rapidly up the Tywi valley and accepts the surrender of the local Welsh lords. He is ordered to keep the castles of Dinefwr, Llandovery and Carreg Cennen in his own hands until the King has cause to ordain otherwise. Later the same year the King pays a comparatively large sum of £285 for the repair of these castles.
1282 - As part of the final bid by Llywelyn against the English Crown, Carreg Cennen is captured by Llywelyn's brother and the local Welsh lords. But their success is short-lived, for Llywelyn is soon to face utter defeat.
1283 - After the war the King grants the castle to one of his barons, John Giffard, who was one of his commanders in the skirmish near Builth, where Llywelyn the Last met his death.
1287 - Carreg Cennen is again recaptured in the same day as Dinefwr castle, during a widespread Welsh uprising. Perhaps as a result of this, the castle is put under the charge of the great Earl of Hereford, Humphrey de Bohun.
1289 - The castle is back in Giffard's hands and it is probably from this period that the castle we see today is built.
1322 - The castle is forfeited to King Edward II following the execution of John the second Baron Giffard, who is one of the leaders in the civil war against Edward and his favourite Hugh le Despenser. After the battle of Boroughbridge the castle is granted to Hugh le Despenser the younger.
1326 - King Edward II is deposed by his Queen, and Hugh le Despenser is tried and executed. The castle passes through several hands until it passes to John of Gaunt through his wife, and on his death to his heir, the future King Henry IV, and so again becomes crown property.
1400 - During the Welsh uprising under Owain Glyndwr over 8,000 men sweep down from the Tywi valley, by-passing Carreg Cennen.
1403 - Owain Glynwr besieges and takes Llandovery Castle before moving westward towards Dinefwr castle, near to Carreg Cennan. He is accompanied by his commanders Rhys the Fierce and Rhys Ddu the Black. They camp near Llandeilo where their forces join and march on Dryslwyn Castle the following morning, recruiting more men as they march. Eight thousand two hundred and forty men follow Owain's golden dragon banner. Following the fall of Dryslwyn Castle by the constable who throws open the gates to Glyndwr, Newcastle Emlyn Castle is next to fall, followed by Carmarthen and Llansteffan castles. The mighty fortress of Carreg Cennan will be next.
The castles constable Sir John Scudamore rides out to meet Glyndwr and his commander Rhys ab Gruffydd at Dryslwyn Castle. He pleas for safe conduct for his wife, her mother and the terrified women trapped in the castle, but Owain refuses. The start of a year long siege commences.
During the siege Sir John's wife dies and he remarries Alys, the daughter of Owain Glyndwr and in doing so, joins his brothers who are already supporters of Glyndwr.
The Welsh army, now swelled in number following the surrender of Carreg Cennan march on Laugharne Castle where Owain tries to persuade Thomas, Lord Carew to surrender the castle. Meanwhile Dinefwr castle, held by its constable Jenkyn Havard, is still under siege and its situation now desperate for relief and so starts to parley for its surrender.
Meanwhile Henry Hotspur, the Percie Earls of Northumberland march against the Kings army led by Prince Henry, are welcomed at Chester by the citizen's loyal to the deposed King Richard II. Glyndwr heads east through Glamorgan to join with his ally Henry Hotspur to take on the uspurper King , but is held up by Lord Carew. This enables the King to march on Shrewsbury Castle to effectively prevent Glyndwr joining up with the Percie army, now swelled with Scottish forces of the Earl of Douglas. The delay proves decisive in the Battle of Shrewsbury and the Kings victory secures the throne of England.
1412 - Following a decade of fighting the King, Glyndwr vanishes from all records and despite efforts throughout Wales to find their man, Glyndwr is never found or betrayed. Of the many rumours of his whereabouts, one is that Sir John Scudamore and Alys are the harbourers of the Welsh rebel.
1413 - King Henry IV dies never having captured the man loyal to the murdered King Richard II, and who almost revenged his liege in defeating the usurper King.
1415 - Glyndwr outlives his King, dying aged 61 in peace, the final remnants of his army 600 strong who refuse to give up the fight when all was lost, finally surrender at Bala in Snowdonia. Many of soldiers later rebel against the repressive laws and taxes enforced by the victorious English, as bandits and rebels, continuing their fight against the King's men from castle and mountain strongholds, including Carreg Cennen. Many of Glyndwr's supporters go into exile angry at the loss of lands and titles enforced on them.
1431 - Records of the castle's law enforcement notes a fine of £7 against David Madog for allowing a known felon to escape 'voluntarily'. He is committed to prison himself in 1433 and having 'no good chattels' or means to pay the fine is hanged in 1435.
1432 - News of Sir John's Scudamore's marriage to a Welsh woman and daughter of the rebel Owain Glyndwr finally reaches the King. Sir John is summarily stripped of his remaining honours as steward of the castles Monmouth, Grosmont and White Castle.
1455 - During the Wars of the Roses Carreg Cennen is repaired and garrisoned by the Lancastrian Gruffudd ap Nicholas.
1461 - After the battle of Mortimer's Cross, in which the Yorkists are finally successful, the Lancastrian sons of Gruffudd ap Nicholas take refuge 'with a great number of rebels' in Carreg Cennen. The following April a Yorkist force of seventy men are sent to accept surrender of the castle. By May of the same year 500 men are gathered, and labour for almost four months to dismantle the castle forever.
Trapp, 4 miles from Llandeilo
Perched on a 300 foot high limestone crag, Carreg Cennen overlooks miles of rolling Welsh countryside in the heart of the Black Mountains. Human remains, possibly dating from the prehistoric period, have been found in the caves underlying the castle. The castle is one of the most spectacularly sited in all of Wales with spell-binding views and rich history and legends to match. Much of the castle we see today is of King Edward I's period and was a formidable fortress until it was dismantled following the War of the Roses
When visiting Carreg Cennan it is well worth having a drive around the mountain roads to get a good look back at the castle and the stunning scenary, to get a good feel of how impressive the site is and how awe inspiring it would have been back in its day looking out across the Welsh countryside.
Access to the castle is relatively easy from the car park that is well sign-posted, albeit being placed on top of a mountain, expect a bit of a steep walk up to the summit.
When exploring the site don't forget to take a torch so as you can explore the small cave that sits beneath the castle, as well as a waterproof coat, as even in summer there is always a risk of rain or drizzle due to its location.
If you love castle~finding, Carreg Cennan is an absolute must.