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Tan y Castell

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Aberrheidol; Rhyd y Felin; Llanychaiarn; Tyn y Castell; Tan y Bwlch; Old Aberystwyth; Aberstuyth; Llanbadarn

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SN58517900
Latitude 52.39081° Longitude -4.08058°

Tan y Castell has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The original castle at Aberystwyth was built in 1110 by the Earl of Clare and occupied by the Normans until 1136. The Welsh controlled it from from 1136 to 1143. The site comprises a large oval ringwork castle on the back of a ridge, with a bailey 120ft long running along the ridge and protected by a scarp up to 13ft high; the ringwork measures 90ft by 70ft. The site was excavated in 1956-7, revealing that the castle was extensively damaged circa 1143 or later and that another period of occupation commenced about 1200AD, when the ruins were levelled and the gateway strengthened. (Coflein)

This is what the forerunner of Aberystwyth Castle is usually called, owing to a single documentary reference. However, there has been a curious transposition of names, because its grassy ramparts look down from a ridge above the Afon Ystwyth, not the Rheidol which paradoxically runs through Aberystwyth. It is a ringwork-and-bailey site. The castle is one of several raised by Gilbert de Clare when he invaded Ceredigion in 1110. His dynasty would play a leading part in the invasions of Wales and Ireland. Excavations have shown that the ramparts, originally lined with timber, were later cased in stone. The history of the castle is a stormy one, reflecting the tenuous existence of this Norman enclave in a resolutely Welsh part of Wales. Owain Gwynedd destroyed the castle in 1136 after defeating the Normans at Crug Mawr. Roger de Clare re-occupied the site in 1158, only to lose it to the Lord Rhys six years later. The castle changed hands at least five times in the early 13th century, in struggles between Deheubarth, Gwynedd and the English. It was finally captured by Llywelyn the Great in 1221. He probably destroyed it, since the record is then silent until Edward I commenced the new Aberystwyth Castle a mile to the north. (Adrian Pettifer - )

The monument comprises the remains of a well preserved castle-ringwork and bailey, which dates to the medieval period (c. AD 1066 - 1485). Castell Tan-y-Castell is reputed to be the site of the first Norman Castle at Aberystwyth. The monument stands at the point of a ridge, with a high defensive bank formed by scarping, an outer ditch at the bottom of the scarp and a slight counterscarp bank. The main bank stands c.6.8m high above the bottom of the ditch, though it is quite low on its inner side. The counterscarp bank is only c.1.6m high. There is a simple entrance on the south side. Lying to the south of the ringwork is a sub-rectangular bailey c.50m long with a bank but no ditch visible. Structures of some form may have stood within both enclosures to provide accommodation, but the earthworks were the main defence. (Scheduling Report)

Ramparts lined in stone at some point.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Coflein   County HER   Scheduling        
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 28/06/2017 18:13:03