Cilgerran Castle, Pembrokeshire
Castle Square, Cilgerran, 3 miles South of Cardigan
Cilgerran Castle stands perched on a rocky crag, overlooking a steep gorge at the tidal limit of the River Teifi. Naturally protected by steep drops on two sides, its position is an obvious site for a fortress in an area hotly disputed by Welsh Princes and Norman barons. In the century and a half following the first coming of the Norman invaders to the Teifi valley, Cilgerran was lost and re-won many times over.
This castle is a lesser well known castle but well worth a visit to explore. It has a facinating history performing a key role as a frontier castle during turbulent times during the Welsh struggles against constant Normand and later English aggression.
To get to the castle park in the village centre by the green with a short walk. The castle sits behind the row of cottages which back onto its walls.
A lovely castle in a lovely location.
~ History ~
1081 - William the Conqueror claims overlordship of Wales, including Cilgerran which lies within the kingship of Deheubarth. William makes a 'pilgrimage' to St Davids to offer prayers, but which in reality is a show of strength. The Welsh ruler of South-West Wales Rhys ap Tewdwr meets with William and they come to an amicable agreement whereby Rhys pays the king £40 a year as a fee for his continued rule of the area.
1087 - The good relationship lasts until King William's death, after which pressure begins to build up. Soon Rhys is attacked both by fellow Welsh princes and by Norman freebooters.
1091 - Rhys defeats his rival Welsh prince Gruffudd ap Maredudd in battle at Llandudoch (St Dogmaels).
1093 - Rhys is killed near Brecon by the advancing Normans. Within a matter of months Earl Roger of Shewsbury moves from his base in the Severn valley and over-runs the area, reaching the mouth of the Teifi where he begins to build a castle at Cardigan, and moves on into Dyfed where he establishes the lordship of Pembroke. Other Norman castles begin to be built right across southern Wales.
1094 - The over-reached Norman's are in retreat as revolt brakes out and they are forced to give up their outposts in much of the south-west.
1098 - Further Welsh revolts push back the Norman's still further.
1102 - The custody of Pembroke is given to Gerald of Windsor, a Norman adventurer who soon sets about building a further castle at Carew on land which he acquired through marriage to Nest, the beautiful daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr.
1108 - Gerald builds a third castle in the western part of Emlyn, believed to be the site at Cilgerran.
1109 - Owain ap Cadwgan of Powys brakes Geralds stronghold and abducts - perhaps not unwillingly - Gerald's wife, Nest, while Gerald himself escapes down a latrine shaft.
1136 - A combined Norman and Flemish army is defeated at the battle of Crug Mawr, north of Teifi near Cardigan, and Gerald of Windsor's son is killed. Vikings raid the nearby Abbey of St Dogmaels. Gradually the Welsh princes reassert their rule.
1155 - Rhys ap Gruffudd, grandson to Rhys ap Tewdwr, becomes undisputed ruler of Cilgerren and Deheubarth. After an initial show of strength he submits to the English King Henry II overlordship.
1165 - King Henry tries to crush the Welsh, Rhys - along with Owain Gwynedd in the north - take up arms and the king returns to England empty handed. Upon Rhys capturing Cilgerran he finds and imprisons Robert fitz Stephen, the son of Nest.
1166 - Norman and Flemish armies lay siege to Cilgerran twice in the same year, suffering heavy losses and defeat.
1171 - King Henry and Rhys meet in the Forest of Dean, and again in Pembroke and Laugharne. At these meetings a new accord is struck. The king makes the Welsh prince 'justice on his behalf', and in return Rhys supports the king in his later campaigns.
1189 - Following King Henry's death the Lord Rhys captures and besieges many Norman castles as far afield as Wiston, Swansea and Painscastle. He builds a new castle at Rhayader, and rebuilds anew the Norman stronghold of Kidwelly.
1191 - The Lord Rhys captures Nevern Castle as his kingdom expands further into Norman held territory.
1197 - Rhys ap Gruffudd (the Lord Rhys) dies, his kingdom is thrown into a period marked by family feuds. Rhys is succeeded by his son Gruffudd who, in turn, is seized by another son, Maelgwn, and handed over to the English.
1198 - Gruffudd is released and regains Cilgerran. Maelgwyn sells Cardigan Castle to King John for 200 marks in return for royal protection.
1204 - The brilliant William Marshal the elder, earl of Pembroke, marches to Cilgerran with a large army and captures the castle even before the guards within the Welsh garrison can arm themselves.
1215 - Prince Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great) recovers much of south-west Wales, taking not only Marshal's Cilgerran, but also the castles of Cardigan and Newport. By 1218 all south-west Wales, except Pembroke, is under Llywelyn's rule or that of his allies.
1223 - Palm Sunday, William Marshal the younger lands at St Davids with an army brought over from Ireland. He captures both Cardigan and Cilgerran. Although Cardigan was taken once more by the Welsh, Cilgerren is never again to fall to the Welsh.
1231 - Earl William the younger dies and is succeeded by his four brothers, each in whom become earl of Pembroke in turn, but all die without direct heirs. The lordship passes to the de Braose family and in 1273 to the de Hastings family.
1258 - An alliance of Welsh princes led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last) defeat the English in a fierce fought battle near Cilgerran. The castle is attacked and suffers much damage but manages to survive the onslaught.
1270 - Maredudd ap Rhys, grandson of the Lord Rhys, and ally to the English is 'persuaded' to give his allegiance to Llywelyn. During this period the security of Cilgerran for the English is seriously tested.
1275 - Repairs to Cilgerran are estimated to cost some £66. Only limited repair to the curtain walls are carried out.
1326 - The castle is said to be 'worth nothing' (in rent) because it lay 'in ruins'.
1377 - A French landing in Pembrokeshire appear imminent, so Edward III orders Cilgerran and Pembroke - now in the hands of the last John de Hastings, to be repaired. The blow falls elsewhere and Cilgerran returns to its peaceful existence.