Haverfordwest Castle

Haverfordwest Castle, Pembrokeshire


Castle Street, Haverfordwest




SA61 2EF

The castle stands on a superb, naturally defensive position at the end of a strong, isolated ridge with a sheer cliff on the east. It was an English foundation, first established by Gilbert de Clare, earl of Pembroke in the mid-12th century, and remained an English stronghold throughout its history.

The castle can be found in the centre of the town overlooking the busy roads that surround the castle. You can park to the rear of the castle and walk through to the inner bailey, where sadly only a shell now remains of the buildings and walls.

~ History ~

1093 ~ Following the Norman conquest of West Wales the Danish settlement is gradually replaced with Flemish settlers over the next ten years.

1120 ~ A castle is built at Haverfordwest for Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Pembroke by Tancred the Fleming. The castle and town remains in the Tancred family for nearly a hundred years.

1135 ~ The castle is attacked by Gruffydd ap Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth.

1173 ~ King Henry II passes through the town and castle on his return from Ireland.

1188 ~ Giraldus Cambrensis visits the earth and timber castle with Archbishop Baldwin during his progress around Wales preaching for the 3rd Crusade by King Richard I to the Holy Land.

1200 ~ Many of the original timber buildings are replaced with the first stone buildings, including a rectangular north eastern tower to serve as the castle's keep.

1210 ~  King John takes the castle from the Tancred family and Robert Fitz Richard.

1213 ~ King John gives concessions for the extremely wealthy William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, to run the castle in return for an exorbitant sum of money. Marshal is responsible for replacing most of the original timber walls, towers and gatehouse with stone. 

1220 ~ Llywelyn the Great threatens the castle and burns the town of Haverfordwest, but fails to capture the newly completed stone castle.

Following the burning of the town, it is rebuilt greater than before and develops quickly as a commercial centre due to its position at the centre of Pembrokeshire and its naval links.

1248 ~ Humphrey II de Bohun acquires the castle.

1257 ~ Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Gwynedd, attacks the castle.

1265 ~ The castle is taken by William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, during the Second Barons' War.

1274 ~ The Crown intervenes and grants it back to the de Bohun family, to the next generation, Humphrey III de Bohun.

1284 ~ King Edward I and Queen Eleanor of Castile visit the castle for the first time during a royal pilgrimage to St Davids. Eleanor is said to be in love with the castle.

1288 ~ Queen Eleanor borrows £407 from the de Bohun family to purchase and fully rebuild the castle. A massive scale reconstruction takes place. It is completed a year later shortly before she dies.

The castle remains in Royal possession after Eleanor's death and is granted out to various wealthy tenants.

1360's ~ The castle is occupied by many owners, amongst them is Edward, the Black Prince.

1381 ~ The castle is owned by the crown, who pay for restoration works of the castle.

1404 ~ These works proved important as the castle is strong enough to fend off an attack during Owain Glyndŵr's War of Welsh independence. However, by the end of the summer the castle and its important port are finally captured by the rebels supported by their French allies.

1644 ~ The castle has become dilapidated and subsequently is re-fortified during the English Civil War by the Royalists, but they abandon it on misinterpreting the noises of cows for a Parliamentary army. Although it is recaptured and held for the king for a year, they finally surrender it after the Battle of Colby Moor nearby.

1648 ~ Oliver Cromwell sends letters to the castle ordering it to be destroyed. He threatens to imprison the townsfolk unless it is demolished.  One wall of the inner ward is slighted and it is abandoned soon after.

1779 ~ The derelict castle is converted to a prison.

1820 ~ A new prison building is erected within the castle grounds, mainly within the inner bailey. It has a capacity for 86 prisoners.

1878 ~ The last remaining inmates aree transferred to the gaol in Carmarthen.