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Carmarthen Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Caermarthen; Caerfyrddin; Caermarddin; Rhyd y Gors; Rhyd Cors

In the community of Carmarthen.
In the historic county of Carmarthenshire.
Modern authority of Carmarthenshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SN413199
Latitude 51.85567° Longitude -4.30597°

Carmarthen 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*.


The castle is first mentioned in 1094, when the name Rhyd y Gors is used. The earliest castle, built by the Norman William fitz Baldwin, may have been sited elsewhere perhaps further down the river. After 1105 the annals refer to Carmarthen by name, so by then certainly, the Norman castle was on its present site. The castle evidently became important early on, and passed into the hands of the crown. Carmarthen quickly became the administrative center of south-west Wales, and inevitably underwent a series of attacks and rebuilding episodes during the turbulent struggles between Welsh and English in C12 and C13. Among these episodes was the capture and destruction of the castle by Llywelyn the Great in 1215, after which extensive rebuilding work was undertaken by William Marshal the younger earl of Pembroke, who had re-captured the castle in 1223. It may have been at this period that the massive stone defences were built on the site of the original motte. (James)

Carmarthen Castle is a large and important castle but it has a disputed foundation, originating in 1109 or the late 13th century; remains of the high medieval castle, including a shell keep, gatehouse and two towers, are obscured by modern buildings, notably County Hall. The site was used as the county gaol from the eighteenth century (nprn 100074). See Ludlow 2003 (Carm. Ant. 39), 147-151. J.Wiles, RCAHMW, 15.09.2004. 2. Repairs and additions to castle made throughout the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. The gaol, designed by John Nash, was located on the east side, within the curtain wall. Extant remains include the motte, donjon with towers, gatehouse, and southwest drum tower. (Source: Cadw listed buildings database) J.Hill, RCAHMW, 04.09.2003. 3. The castle was the site of a siege in 1233-4: In 1233, Richard Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, laid siege to the castle of Carmarthen, which successfully resisted his assaults for three months, when the arrival of succours by sea compelled the earl to abandon his enterprise. Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, 1833. 1233: Maelgwn Fychan ap Maelgwn ap Rhys and Owain ap Gruffudd and Rhys Gryg and their sons and the host of Llywelyn ap lorwerth and the host of the earl of Pembroke gathered together against Carmarthen. And they laid siege to it for three months, and they made a bridge upon the Tywi. And then the sailors came armed, with the tide, to break down the bridge. And when the Welsh saw that their expedition would be fruitless, they returned to their lands. Source: Thomas Jones, The Chronicle of the Princes, 1955, p.233. "towards the end of this year (1233) . . . earl Richard (Richard MarshalI, earl of Pembroke), Rhys Gryg, Maelgwn Fyhan, and Owain ap Gruffydd beseiged the fortress (of Carmarthen) for three months and by building a temporary bridge across the river Towy, shut off all hope of relief from . . . the Bristol Channel. . . in March 1234, Henry de Turberville sailed with a fleet from Bristol and . . . broke up the improvised bridge, with great slaughter of its defenders." Source: J.E.Lloyd, A History of Carmathenshire, vol I, 1935, p.180. B.A.Malaws, RCAHMW, 10 August 2006. (Coflein)
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Sources of information, references and further reading

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The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of the described site.

This record last updated on Thursday, November 21, 2013