Roch Castle, Pembrokeshire
West of Haverfordwest
Roch Castle is a very unusual, almost romantic fortress, the likes we have not come across in all of Wales and is more akin to a Tower House in the Scottish or Irish Highlands.
It was built on the only stone outcropping for miles around and affords an outstanding platform for viewing the countryside. From this point, one can see at least ten miles in all directions, including all of St Bride's Bay.
The immediate grounds were referred to as "the moat", even though this was dry ground.
Apparently the original plan was to eventually enclose the second rock outcropping to the north with a curtain wall to create a courtyard. Protruding rocks jut out from the northeast corner evidently for this purpose. However, the plan was never carried through. Even so, the tower was relatively invulnerable. No opening were near ground level. The walls are six feet thick, and the structure is built entirely on solid rock which could not be mined or sapped. The walls would also have been difficult to scale because of their height.
There was, however, one problem - water. The well was, and still is, in the northwest corner of the grounds, cut off from the defenders in time of siege.
The interior of the castle is small. It was entered through the guardroom or barracks, where the few men at arms must have cooked and slept. The stairway to the small hall above was built right in the thickness of the wall with arrow slits frequently spaced.
Today the castle is a hotel, set within plush gardens surrounded by a low wall and extravigant gates.
The castle can however be seen from the roadside for photo's.
~ History ~
1250's ~ Roch Castle is built to protect the division of English and Welsh speaking Wales, known, as the "landsker". The castle serves as one of a group of border strongholds that fortify Anglicised Wales from the independent Welsh to the North, guarding the Flemish settlers and it serving as a lookout for the bay of St Brides to ward off invasions from the sea.
Adam de Rupe, a Norman knight is constable to the castle. His name later changes to "de la Roche", of the rock, after the castle.
Adam de Rupe's family also own Benton Castle which mark the extremity of their domain. However, the Castle of Roche is to become the family seat, and a member of the family is visited with the hereditary title of "Comes Littoris", or "Count of the Shore".
A legend recounts that Adam de Rupe erects his abode on a rock as a result of a prophesy that he would die from the bite of a viper. His precaution is to be in vain, as he meets his fate when a viper, carried into the castle in a bundle of firewood, bites and kills him.
1300 ~ Part of the de la Roche family accompany English forces to Ireland on an expedition, eventually taking up residence there, and later to became known as Viscounts Fermay.
1397 ~ Roche is leased to Henry Bart, esquire. Henry is "to guard the castle and prisoners and undertake necessary carpentry and masonry repairs to the castle as needed".
1420 ~ Thomas de la Roche of Roche dies, leaving no male heir.
He does however, leave two daughters who inherit the castle. Daughter Ellen marries Edmund de Ferrars, fifth lord of Chartley, and daughter Elizabeth marries Sir George Longueville.
1520 ~ Lord Ferrars and a Sir John Longueville are confirmed as the owners of the property.
1560 ~ The Earl of Essex and the Earl of Longueville are the possessors of Roche.
1601 ~ The castle and manor of Roche is sold to the Walter family of Rosmarket, an important family of Pembrokeshire.
1630 ~ William and Elizabeth Walter have a daughter, Lucy, who is later recorded in history due to her connections with King Charles II.
1642 ~ Parliament becomes extremely restive under King Charles I, and soon openly rebel under Cromwell's leadership.
1644 ~ King Charles garrisons many of the castles in South Wales and supplies a garrison for Roche Castle under the command of Captain Francis Edwards of Summerhill.
1644 ~ The castle is attacked by Cromwell's troops under the command of Colonel Roland Laugharne. After a fierce siege, the castle is surrendered, having been badly damaged by cannon and also by fire.
During the attack by Cromwell's troops, Colonel Laugharne is hit by a javelin thrown from an eyelet window by Captain Edwards, striking his helmet and knocking it off which resulted in him having to retire from the battlefield temporarily. The castle is by now already on fire. The Walter family take refuge in London.
The castle is later recaptured from Cromwell's troops by a fresh Royalist force commanded by Sir Charles Gerard. Included in the capture that day are three hundred head of cattle and fifteen hundred sheep, which had been gathered in the castle grounds to provision Cromwell's troops in the area.
1645 ~ The castle is once again in the hands of Parliamentarian forces and remain so until the Restoration of the Monachy.
In the meantime, Lucy Walter, still in Hague, meets King Charles II there, and becames his mistress three years later.
1650 ~ Lucy's father dies, and the property of Roche Castle and Manor passes to her brother, Richard Walter.
1656 ~ Richard Walter becomes High Sheriff of Pembrokeshire.
1658 ~ Lucy dies in Paris at the age of 28 leaving a child who is acknowledged by King Charles II as his son, and whom the King creates Duke of Monmouth. The Duke later becomes the doomed leader of the rebellion against King James II.
For the next two hundred years, the castle is unoccupied and slowly falls into ruin, the roofs and interior crumbling away but the walls remaining intact.