Llawhaden Castle

Llawhaden Castle, Pembrokeshire

~ History ~

1115 - On the death of the last Welsh bishop, Wilfred, the new Norman incumbent, Bernard, erects a timber castle. The earth and timber stronghold being one of a line of castles on the frontier between Norman and Flemish settlers to the south and west, and the Welsh princely chieftains to the north and the east.

1175 - Gerald of Wales visits his uncle, Bishop David Fitz Gerald, at Llawhaden castle.

1192 - Gerald's cousin, the powerful Lord Rhys, captures the castle. The following year "the Welsh gathered together, and they razed the castle to the ground at their pleasure". It would be decades before Norman rule recovered.

1280 - The influential and wealthy Bishop Thomas Bek is created bishop of St Davids.

1281 - Thomas Bek is granted a royal licence to hold a weekly market and two annual three-day fares. The grant forms the basis of the borough's economy.

1326 - Records show that the flourishing borough boasts 126 burgesses (freeman) renting plots - the vast majority being Englishmen, a busy market, watermill and fishery, making Llawhaden the richest estate held by the bishops of St Davids. Bek himself spending much of his wealth converting the castle into a spacious manor house.

1327 - Within a year a survey describes Llawhaden as a stone castle worth nothing per annum beyond the outlay.

1383 - John Fawle is constable of the castle and the bishops "master of our works" during a major construction program at the castle under Bishop Adam de Houghton.

1402 - King Henry IV oders the garrisoning of the castle in fear of the Owain Glyndwr rebellion. The new gatehouse is soon added to its defences. Within decades the bishops of St Davids abandon the castle and let it to commoners.

1486 - Bishop Hugh Pavy favours Llawhaden and celebrates mass in the castle chapel. Two years later he officiates the trial of William ap Hugyn, a parish clerk, who is accused  of "ravishing and violating Gwenllian, daughter of David de Trefwalter, and carrying away her goods and chattels". The wretched William pleads innocence, and eventually gets away with only having to pay expenses to the keeper of the castle dungeon.

1503 - Thomas Wyiott storms the castle with a troop of horsemen to free a woman named Tanglwys, who is incarcerated within its walls.

1520's - Bishop Edward Vaughan makes repairs to the castle.

1536 - On the death of Bishop Rawlings the only contents being recorded with the building are a feather bed and a few small items worth 13s. 4d.

1540's - The infamous Bishop William Barlow strips the lead from the roofs of the castle as part of his scheme to move the centre of power in the dioceses to Carmarthen. Llawhaden gradually falls into decay.

1616 - Bishop Richard Milbourne is given a licence to demolish the castle. Before this work can be carried out he is transferred to the diocese of Carlisle.


8 miles East of Haverfordwest


off A40


SA67 8HL

Llawhaden was a fortified palace built by the bishops of St Davids. It was originally an earthwork enclosure of the twelfth century, about 150 feet in diameter and surrounded by a dry moat, 70 feet wide, and a bank. This palace was destroyed by the Welsh and later demolished. Soon afterwards, stonework was raised.

By the 13th century Bishop Thmas Bek converted the castle into a palace. During the last quarter of the 14th century major rebuilding work was undertaken including a courtyard surrounded by strong walls, towers and an impressive gatehouse.

Despite the fact that these new towers and gatehouse gave the castle a more formidable outward appearance, the work was intended for more show than any serious form of defence.