Llansteffan Castle, Dyfed
8 miles Southwest of Carmarthen
Church Road / B4312
Llansteffan's ruins stand majestically on the west bank of the Tywi estuary, on a site of great antiquity. Long before the castle was built, the headland was site to an iron age hill fort dating back to the 6th century BC. It was refortified as an Anglo-Norman stronghold in the early 12th century, when the Iron Age ditches were recut and a 'ringwork' castle of earth and timber constructed within.
With Llansteffan on the west and Kidwelly on the east, the important road to Carmarthen, which the Normans saw, as the Romans before them had seen, as the crucial centre point of south-west Wales, was well protected.
Later in its history the gatehouse was converted into a comfortable residence before gradually sinking into obscurity, being occupied by farm buildings including a stone barn.
~ History ~
600 BC - An Iron Age hill fort is built on the rocky bluff overlooking the sandy Tywi estuary.
1112 - Gilbert de Clare, first Earl of Pembroke, builds a wooden castle at Llansteffan.
1137 - Welsh forces attack and burn the castle.
1146 - The Welsh, under the leadership of the forteen year old Lord Rhys and his brothers, young princes of the royal house of Deheubarth, return and this time capture the castle by scaling the walls.
Shortly afterwards, prince Maredudd succeeds in repelling a much larger Norman force sent to recapture the castle, throwing them off their scaling ladders and into the ditches.
1158 - The district is now under the rule of the Norman lords so the castle is given up to King Henry II.
1180's - King Henry gives the castle to the de Camvilles.
1189 - The castle is recaptured by the Lord Rhys whose forces attack several castles in south-west Wales.
1192 - The castle is recaptured for William de Camville, who borrows money to refortify the defences.
1215 - Seeing his English opponents embroiled in disagreement over the Magna Carta, Llywellyn the Great, prince of Gwynedd, prompty overruns large areas of south Wales and captures many of its castles, including Llansteffan.
1223 - William Marshall the younger retakes the castles from Llywellyn, restoring Llansteffan to the de Camvilles.
1257 - In June of this year the Welsh inflict a devastating defeat on an English army attempting to march from Carmarthen to Dinefwr castle. The English army being made up of from garrisons of English castles in the region, also means these castles are left defenceless as the Welsh make good their victory. Llansteffan is one of the first to be retaken.
1260's - On returning to his castle William de Camville II begins a program of modernization, rebuilding the timber defences of the lower ward in stone. By 1300's the rebuilding in stone is fully complete.
1280 - The castle's most imposing feature, the massive twin-towered gatehouse is completed and becomes the principle living quarters at the castle. It copies many of the features found at the powerful Caerphilly castle.
1338 - The male line of the de Camvilles ends with the death of William III. Llansteffan passes through marriage to the Penres family.
1403 - Llansteffan castle falls to Owain Glyndwr's army as the Welsh rebels move across South Wales, capturing almost every English held castle and town in their way. The castle's owner John de Penrees is captured and held hostage for the next 5 years. The castle is surrendered by Thomas Rede resulting in him forfeiting his lands to the English Crown.
On its recovery back into English hands, King Henry IV grants it back to 'Sir Thomas Penrees', 'for his service in capturing Llanstephan Castle from the Welsh rebels'. He is made constable for life.
1410 ~ Upon Sir Thomas's death, the ownership of the castle reverts to the Crown the following year.
1416 ~ King Henry V grants the castle to his brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester,calling it 'the castle and lordship of Llanstephan in Wales, in the king's hands on account of the rebellion and forfeiture of William Gwyn, Welshman, and the forfeiture of Henry Gwyn, his son, who was killed'.
1490's - King Henry VII grants the castle to his uncle, Jesper Tudor, who makes further modifications to the castle's entrance.
1550's - The military importance of Llansteffan declines and its obscurity is complete as the site is used for farm buildings for the next 400 years.