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Pen y Castell, Llanilar

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Garth Grugyn; Castell Pant-Mawr; Coed y Castell

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SN62997454
Latitude 52.35180° Longitude -4.01331°

Pen y Castell, Llanilar has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A rather curving L-plan bank, or rampart defines the north & west sides of an enclosure, about 28-30m across, resting elsewhere on steep natural scarps, towards the tip of a south-facing promontory above the Ystwyth valley; to the north a ditch seperates the rampart from an oval mound, some 30m east-west by 16m. J.Wiles 29.01.02. 2.
A field visit to this site on 4th April 2003 examined the earthworks and could not reconcile them with those of an Iron Age fort. They appeared to represent a low motte or ringwork on the upslope side, separated by a very deep rock-cut ditch to the south, and then a further defensive bank or modified outcrop beyond. The earthworks appear to represent those of a medieval earthwork castle. T Driver, RCAHMW. 5th May 2004. (Coflein)

A small univallate Iron Age hillfort. It appears to have two phases of construction. A field visit to this site on 4th April 2003 examined the earthworks and could not reconcile them with those of an Iron Age fort. They appeared to represent a low motte or ringwork on the upslope side, separated by a very deep rock-cut ditch to the south, and then a further defensive bank or modified outcrop beyond. The earthworks appear to represent those of a medieval earthwork castle. T Driver 2004. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust HER)

The monument comprises the remains of two earthwork enclosures. Item A is located on the summit of a rounded hill in a prominent position on the S side of the Afon Ystwyth. The enclosure is sub-oval in shape and measures 115m N-S by 55m transversely. A substantial bank defends the site. The date or precise nature of the enclosure is unknown. Some authorities consider it to be the remains of a small medieval motte and bailey, but an interpretation as a prehistoric defended enclosure is more likely. Item B is located 100m N of Item A on a gentle N-facing slope. The enclosure is trapezoidal in shape and probably dates to the Iron Age period (c. 800 BC - AD 74, the Roman invasion of Wales). It measures 60m E-W by 55m transversely. The bank measures 0.2m in height and 4m in width. A simple gap in the NW corner marks the location of the entrance. The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of later prehistoric defensive organisation and settlement. The site forms an important element within the wider later prehistoric context and within the surrounding landscape. The site is well preserved and retains considerable archaeological potential. There is a strong probability of the presence of evidence relating to chronology, building techniques and functional detail. The importance of the monument is further enhanced by the group value of the defended enclosures. (Scheduling Report)

Shovel shaped court divided by rock gut ditch from second court (King accepts as castle as probably rightly identified as Garth Grugyn (recorded as built 1242). Hogg regards as a small fort divided by open-cast cut, and rejects identification as Garth Grugyn since site lies far outside Crugyn township (now Craigwen)). The site is scheduled as a Prehistoric hillfort. Garth Grugyn is a site recorded as being fortified by Maelgwn Fychan in 1242.

The earthworks at Pen-y-Castell, Llanilar, occupy the summit of a rounded hill in a very prominent, if low-lying, position on the south side of the Afon Ystwyth. They appear to represent an oval earthwork enclosure measuring c.113m x 55m, defended by a substantial bank, which encloses 0.4 ha. The enclosure is mutilated by a central cut which appears to be an old quarry. Opinion about the date or precise nature of the enclosure has been divided in the past; A H A Hogg writing in the Cardiganshire County History (1994, 261) considered it to be a prehistoric defended enclosure, but previous authors have interpreted it as the remains of a small medieval motte and bailey arrangement. One factor in favour of a prehistoric date for the enclosure is the existence of two enclosures close by, which also appear to be prehistoric. The first is a trapezoidal earthwork enclosure to the north (NPRN 400287), and the second is the incomplete cropmark of an oval enclosure to the east (NPRN 400288). (Coflein–ref. Driver, T. (2005) The Hillforts of North Ceredigion: Architecture, Landscape Setting and Cultural Contexts, PhD thesis, The University of Wales, Lampeter, unpublished.)

Despite the fairly recently expressed opion of Toby Driver the site is categorised as a hillfort in the archaeological databases with not hint of medieval features (but the online versions of these records can be old). It seems the site was recorded by Rees but, although known to Hogg was not recorded by him in the joint paper with King (1963), suggesting the site is not as obviously medieval as Driver seems to be suggesting. However, it is only 850m from LLanilar church and village, although there is no road or footpath link to suggest and medieval connection betwen the two.
Welsh princes did reuse the prehistoric site of their ancestors, many of which maintained a cultural significance, so it may well be this could be such a reused site.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Coflein   County HER   Scheduling        
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 02/07/2016 18:59:57