Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

again mentioned. In the outskirts of the town of Lampeter is—or was—a lofty moated tumulus (not shown on O.M.), and traces of a quadrangular court.? As it is also called Castell Ystuffan, it was probably built by Stephen, the Norman constable of Cardigan. There appears to be another castle mound at Lampeter itself, near the church. Lampeter was an important post on the Roman road up the valley of the Teifi.

*Nant yr ARIAN.—This castle is only mentioned once, in the partition of Cardigan and Pembroke which took place in 1216, during the most disastrous part of John's reign. There are two “castellau” marked at

“ Nant yr Arian in the N. of Cardiganshire in the O.M.; neither of them look like mottes. This castle, as well as that of Ystrad Peithyll, seems to have been placed to defend the road from Aberystwyth to Llanidloes, which would be the chief highway between Shropshire and Ceredigion.

[ocr errors]

CASTLES OF CARMARTHENSHIRE.

Rhyd y Gors, or Rhyd Cors.—We have no hesitation in adopting the opinion of the late Mr Floyd, that this is another name for the castle of Carmarthen. As it and Pembroke were the only castles which held out during the great Welsh revolt of 1096," it is evident that they were the two strongest and best defended places, therefore the most important. Carmarthen also was a Roman city, and its walls were still standing in Giraldus' time; it was therefore the place where one

1 In the Rol's edition of the Brut this castle is called Llanstephan, but the context makes it probable that Lampeter is meant; the Annales

say “the castle of Stephen." 2 Beauties of England and Wales, p. 492.

3 Brut, 1216. 4 Arch. Journ., xxviii., 293.

6 Brut, 1094.

Desc. Camb., i., 10.

»

CASTLES OF CARMARTHENSHIRE

285

would expect to find a Norman castle. Now Carmarthen, along with Cardiff and Pembroke, continued up till the final conquest of all Wales to be the most important seat of English power in South Wales. Moreover, Rhyd y Gors

Gors was

a royal castle; we are expressly told that it was built by William Fitz Baldwin, by the command of the king of England. Carmarthen also was a royal castle, and the only one in South Wales at that date which belonged directly to the king. It was temporarily abandoned after William Fitz Baldwin's death in 1096, and afterwards Henry I. gave it into the custody of a Welshman, who also had charge of Strath Towy; a passage which proves that Rhyd y Gors was in that district. It was restored by Richard Fitz Baldwin in 1104, and is mentioned for the last time in 1105. After that the castle of Carmarthen, which has not been mentioned before, begins to appear, and its importance is clear from the continual references to it. Placed as it is on a navigable river, at the entrance of the narrower part of the vale of Towy, and on the Roman road from Brecon to St David's, its natural position must have marked it as a fit site for a royal castle. The castle is now converted into a gaol, and disfigured in the usual way; yet the ancient motte of William Fitz Baldwin still remains, partly inside and partly outside the walls. It is crowned with a stone revetment which Colonel Morgan believes to have been erected at the time of the Civil War, to form a platform

2

2

1 Brut, 1094.

Ibid., p. 110. There is a farmhouse called Rhyd y Gors about a mile lower down than Carmarthen, and on the opposite side are some embankments ; but I am assured by Mr Spurrell of Carmarthen that these are only river-embankments. Rhyd y Gors means the ford of the bog; there is no ford at this spot, but there was one at Carmarthen.

1

acres.

for guns. The bailey is rectangular and covers about 2

The motte is placed at one corner of it, on the line of the walls. On the outside it is now built over with poor cottages; but the site of the ditch can still be traced.

*LLANDOVERY, or Llanymdyfri, or the castle of Cantrebohhan.--It is referred to in the Pipe Rolls of 1159-1160 by the latter name, which is only a Norman way of spelling Cantref Bychan, the little cantref or hundred, of which this castle was the head. It was then in royal custody, and Henry II. spent nearly £60 on its works. But it had originally belonged to Richard Fitz Pons, one of the barons of Bernard de Neufmarché, and the fact that he held the key of this cantref goes to prove that it was from Brecknock that the Normans advanced into northern Carmarthenshire. The castle is first mentioned in the Brut in 1115, when Griffith ap

, Rhys burnt the bailey, but could not take the keep on the motte. It does not appear to have been long in English hands after 1159, but its alternations were many.

The 25-inch O.M. shows an oval motte, carrying some fragments of masonry, to which is attached a roughly quadrangular bailey. This was one of the many castles by which the Normans held Strath Towy.

LLANSTEPHAN. —This castle stands in a splendid situation at the mouth of the Towy, and was doubtless built to secure a maritime base for Carmarthen. The motte is of unusual size, semicircular in shape, one side

[ocr errors]

i See Arch. Camb., 1907, pp. 237-8.
3 See Round's Ancient Charters, p. 9, Pipe Roll Series, vol. x.
3 Brut, 1113.

4 The first mention of the castle of Llanstephan is in the Brut, 1147, if, as has been assumed above, the mention in 1136 refers to Stephen's castle at Lampeter, as the Annales Cambriæ say.

CASTLES OF CARMARTHENSHIRE

287

4

being on the edge of the cliff; it measures 300 feet by 200 in the centre of the arc. Such a size allowed all the important parts of the castle to be built on the motte; but there was a rectangular bailey attached, which is only imperfectly shown on the O.M.; the scarp is in reality well marked on all sides, and the ditch separating it from the motte is a very deep one. [H. W.] The towers that now crown the motte are not earlier than the year 1256, when the castle was destroyed by Llywelyn.

DINEVOR, or Dinweiler.-Most Welsh writers associate Dinevor with the ancient residence of the kings of South Wales, but there appears to be some doubt about this, as the place is not mentioned before the 12th century. Anyhow the castle was certainly the work of Earl Gilbert, as the Brut itself tells us so. In 1162 it was taken by Rhys ap Griffith, the able prince who attempted the consolidation of South Wales, and who was made Justiciar of that province by Henry II. It continued in Welsh hands, sometimes hostile, sometimes allied, till it was finally taken by the English in 1277. The existing ruins are entirely of the 13th century, but the plan certainly suggests a previous motte and bailey, the motte having probably been lowered to form the present smaller ward, whose walls and towers appear to be of Edward I.'s reign. The small bailey attached to this ward is separated from it by a ditch cut through the headland on which the castle stands.

1 The motte of Conisburgh in Yorkshire is a very similar case known to the writer ; it measures 280 x 150 feet. Such very large mottes could rarely be artificial, but were formed by entrenching and scarping a natural hill,

? Brut, 1256. See Arch. Camb., 1907, p. 214, for Col. Morgan's remarks on this castle.

3 The name Gueith tineuur is found in the Book of Llandaf, p. 78 (Life of St Dubricius), but it seems doubtful whether this should be taken to prove the existence of some “work” at Dinevor in the 6th century. See Wade-Evans, Welsh Medieval Law, p. 337-8.

4 Brut, 1145. “Cadell ap Griffith took the castle of Dinweiler, which had been erected by Earl Gilbert.”

KIDWELLY (Cydweli).—This castle, though in Carmarthen, was not founded by the conquerors from Brecknock, but by Normans from Glamorgan or Gower. Kidwelly was first built by William de Londres, in 1094. The present castle shows no trace of this early origin, but is a fine specimen of the keepless pattern introduced into England in the 13th century. There is no motte.

LAUGHARNE, or Talycharne.—Also called Abercorran, being at the point where the little river Corran flows into the estuary of the Taff. In 1113 this castle belonged to a Norman named Robert Courtmain. The ancient features of the plan have been obliterated by transformation first into an Edwardian castle, then into a modern house. There is of course no motte. [H. W.]

*YSTRAD CYNGEN.—This must, we think, be the same as St CLEARS, which stands in the Cynen valley, near its junction with the Taff. Welsh writers identify St Clears with the castle of Mabudrud, the name of the commot in which it stands. First mentioned in 1154.* There is no notice of its origin, but the fact that a Cluniac priory existed in the village, which was a cell of St Martin des Champs at Paris, points to a Norman founder, and renders an 11th century date probable. It

I Gwentian Chronicle.

2 The statement of Donovan (Excursions Through South Wales), that the castle stands on an artificial mount is quite incorrect.

3 The Rolls edition of the Brut gives the corrupt reading Aber Cavwy for the castle of "Robert the Crook-handed,” but a variant MS. gives Aber Korram, and it is clear from the Gwentian Chronicle and Powell (p. 145) that Abercorran is meant.

4 Brut, 1152.

« PreviousContinue »