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Cardigan Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Aberteifi; Aberteivi; Kardigan

In the community of Cardigan.
In the historic county of Cardiganshire.
Modern authority of Ceredigion.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SN17794591
Latitude 52.08132° Longitude -4.66074°

Cardigan Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


There are substantial remains of the the castle known to have been rebuilt in 1240 and ordered to be demolished in 1645. These include a rather irregular enclosure, about 90m NE-SW by 44m, resting on steep slopes on the south-east, with the south-western end clothing natural crags above the Teifi. Portions of the curtain wall survive and in the tall embankment overlooking the bridge it is surmounted by a World War II pill-box.There are remains of three semi-circular towers, the largest & most elaborate incorporated into the early nineteenth century Castle Green House (NPRN 5249), as well as one, possibly two rectilinear 'bastions', at the north-east and south angles. Survey and excavation in 1984 suggested that early nineteenth century garden landscaping radically altered the area of the castle, destroying much of its surviving fabric. However, it appears that large parts of the current walled circuit follow the line of the medieval encience. (Coflein–ref. Murphy and O'Mahony)

The Castle that can be seen today was erected in Cardigan itself in the 1100, by Gilbert de Clare and if he had have realised what trouble this was to cause, he may not have bothered. Over the next 100 years the castle frequently changed hands between the Norman’s and the Welsh. De Clare’s son gained control of the castle in 1136, the same year that Rhys ap Gruffydd, the prince of Deheubarth, or Lord Rhys, led the defeat of the Norman’s in the town at the bloody battle of Crug Mawr. His prize was the castle which he set about transforming from its original wooden structure into stone. Rhys was the proud owner of the castle, up until his death in 1197, which marked the beginning of another period of conflict. His sons, Maelgwyn and Gruffyd, disputed their inheritance resulting in Maelgwyn surrendering Gruffydd to the Norman’s and selling the Castle to King John. A variety of Norman owners called Cardigan Castle home until Llywellyn the Great attacked and destroyed the castle in a show of strength. In what now looks like a historical tug-of-war the Norman William Marshal was next to take control, followed by the Welsh and then yet another Norman. After this final Norman conquest, during the 1240s, the castle was reconstructed. Two towers, a new keep and the town wall were all built to create the stronghold, the ruins of which are visible to visitors today.
By the end of the 13th century it was King Edward 1st who had laid claim to the castle. Peace the reigned for almost four centuries, 1645 and the English Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell took it upon himself to storm the battlements. Such was the damage that the castle lay uninhabited until the early 1800s when a private mansion was built on the property marking the end to the turmoil that has given Cardigan Castle the unique heritage it boasts today. (Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust, nd)

C13 castle remains, probably mostly dating from a rebuilding of c1244-54 under Robert Waleran, though the castle was in existence in 1136, was rebuilt in stone under the Lord Rhys in 1171 and repaired c1204 and in 1220s. Waleran became constable in 1248 and a new keep and town wall were built. In 1261 further sums were given to Waleran to complete the keep, but repairs were still needed in 1275, in 1321 a tower was hurriedly completed but by 1343 the curtain walls were partly in ruins. After the Glyndwr revolt a new hall and tower were built. The castle was slighted during the Civil War, and Castle Green House was built within 1827 incorporating the largest tower.
The principal remnants are the curved SE and E towers and NE bastion with portions of the curtain wall surviving between and to W of SE tower, in the tall embankment overlooking the bridge, surmounted by a c1940 pill-box. The Great Tower is listed as part of Castle Green House. (Listed Building Report)

The monument comprises the remains of a Medieval castle built by the Norman lord, Gilbert de Clare around 1110. The castle is located at the southern end of the town of Cardigan, on a rocky spur overlooking the river Teifi. Below the castle, the ground drops precipitously to the east and south. Lord Rhys captured the castle for the Welsh in 1164 and rebuilt it in stone in 1171, although nothing remains of this earlier phase. By 1240 Walter Marshal, brother of the earl of Pembroke captured and rebuilt the castle, however a major phase of rebuilding took place in about 1244-54 under Robert Waleran, who became constable in 1248. Most of the medieval fabric that remains probably dates to this period. A keep on the north curtain wall was built in 1246-52 (completed in about 1261) and three towers were built in the south-east, east and north of the site. The outer ward is roughly oval in plan enclosing approximately 3 acres. In 1279 Edward III made the castle the administrative centre for the new shire of Cardigan. Further repairs and building works continued into the fourteenth century, but after this the castle appears to have been neglected. By 1343 the curtain wall was in ruins and by 1610 the Great Tower (north tower), was partially ruined. Excavations in 1984 revealed that there had been a ditch, 7m wide, north of the tower, with a counterscarp bank about 7m wide and 1.5m high. In the Civil War the castle was damaged further during a siege of Cardigan by Parliamentarian forces in December 1644; the curtain wall between the east and south-east towers was partially destroyed. (Scheduling Report)

A castle was erected in c. 1110, by Gilbert de Clare, who also founded the adjacent town. David King believed this first castle to have been the ringwork at Old Castle Farm (SN164464), but later authors seem to accept the site in the town was used for the start, which seems reasonable.
The stone castle built Rhys ap Gruffydd may have been in parts clay bonded, rather than mortar set. Some thick clay bonder wall footings have been found in the recent excavations and investigations of the castle. However, The Brut records him as building the castle in stone and lime (apparently the first mention of lime in a welsh castle) in 1171. Some footings of a poor quality lime mortared wall may lie beneath the C13 tower incorporated into Castle Green House. The grand festival, sometimes called the first eisteddfod, organised by Lord Rhys in 1176 may have included a 'topping out' ceremony for this masonry building. The later tower, at the back of Castle Green House, usually dated as c. 1240s, may well have been a D shaped tower-keep, although such keeps are usually considered to be evidence of a welsh builder. This tower seems to lie on a slightly different alignment to the earlier structure but may have deliberately echoed its form.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 12/07/2017 06:16:51