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Laugharne Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Abercorran; Abercorram; Talacharn; Talcharn; Talachar

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SN30201073
Latitude 51.76959° Longitude -4.46219°

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

There are major building remains.

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


The castle of Laugharne was built by the Anglo-Normans in the early twelfth century and is probably mentioned in 1116. This early castle was a relatively small 'ringwork' enclosure resting on the river cliff above the estuary to the south. The castle was extensively rebuilt in the later twelfth century, but the existing ruins are thirteenth century and later, when a great towered masonry castle was built and remodelled, being recast as a magnificent renaissance mansion in the late sixteenth century. The thirteenth century castle consisted of a small inner court, ditched about and stoutly walled and with two great circular towers, great emblems of lordship. This court was set within a larger diamond plan outer court with a great gatehouse at its northern apex facing into the walled borough that had by now been established on the castle's landward side. The castle was beleaguered, battered, stormed and slighted, in the revolutionary wars of the mid seventeenth century, and was thereafter abandoned as a residence. In the early nineteenth century the castle grounds were landscaped as a picturesque garden attached to Castle House, an earlier eighteenth century mansion built on the site of the late sixteenth century castle gardens. The gazebo overlooking the estuary was a feature of this early nineteenth century garden. The castle has recently been excavated, consolidated and otherwise prepared for public view. There appears to have been an earlier settlement on the site as the excavations encountered gullies and postholes sealed by a ploughsoil containing abraded Romano-British pottery sherds. (Coflein–ref. Avent, 1995)

On an elevated coastal site near the town Hall, reached by path in front of Castle House. Late C18 Castle replaced probably C12 earthwork destroyed in 1215 by Llewelyn the Great; some late C15 reconstruction; referestration and reconstruction by Sir John Perrot 1587 to 1592. Partly destroyed in the Parliamentarian siege of 1644 under General Rowland Laugharne; subsequently pillaged for the building of town houses. 5-sided inner ward constructed of old red sandstone rubble with some freestone dressings; crenellated parapets (some ornamental), spur buttresses etc. Earliest part consists of 2 round towers to N, ruined to NE, former keep to NW with wide embrasures late C18 conversion of basement to wine cellar and 1920/30 repairs, retains original conical dome. Towers flank later C15 4-storey hall with late C16 Perrot alterations; main rooms to 2nd floor and stair tower to N. Forward projecting 4-storey gatehouse to W of medieval and late C16 builds; gable above fine 3-storey Tudor bay window over pointed entrance arch with hood mould. Curtain wall with massive fireplace at 1st floor level links gatehouse with 3-shoot garderobe at inner end, to SW 4-storey and basement, part vaulted tower. Stone pent garderobe to S wall; ruined oriel to former hall high end with medieval postern gate beyond. E wall demolished in C17 but C18 garden wall on top of late C13 curtain wall continues NE adjoining the Gazebo. Remains of Tudor cobbled courtyard, pitched stone kitchen floor and ground plans relating to all periods revealed through excavation. It is amongst the most substantial castle remain in Wales. (Listed Building Report)

Description taken from R. Avent, 1992, 'Laugharne Castle, St. Clears', in 'A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Dyfed', HMSO, pp152-155. "'The castle, brown as owls' - Dylan Thomas's description of Laugharne Castle in his 'Poem in October' - is apt, as much of the structure is of an old red sandstone which gives it a distinct and attractive mellowness. It stands on a low cliff by the side of the Coran stream, overlooking the estuary of the Taf. The castle may be the Abercorram mentioned in about 1116 as the castle of Robert Courtemain, but the first definite reference to the Norman castle is in 1189 when, after the death of King Henry II, it was seized by the Lord Rhys, prince of Deheubarth. It attracted further hostility from the Welsh in 1215 when it was destroyed by Llywelyn the Great and later, in 1257, when it was again taken and burnt. The early 12th-century castle was probably a ringwork, and traces of an important building with a large hearth have been found during excavations at the site. The castle was remodelled in the second half of the 12th century: the interior of the ringwork was partially filled in, new defences were constructed and a large rectangular hall was built on the north. By the time of the Welsh attack in 1257, the castle was in the ownership of the de Brian family and it was Guy de Brian IV who, evidently determined to create a much more defensible structure, started to build the strong masonry castle which we see today. The de Brians remained as the lords of Laugharne until the end of the 14th century and, during their long occupancy, carried out considerable additions and repairs. In 1349 the lordship was inherited by the distinguished Guy de Brian VII, who greatly improved the overall standard of accommodation within the castle. Guy de Brians's death in 1390 was followed by a long period of decline and in the late 15th and early 16th century only parts of the castle were occupied, and much was in ruins. However, a real change came about in the castle's fortunes when, in 1575, Elizabeth I granted it to Sir John Perrot, an important dignitary who converted the old medieval castle into a comfortable Tudor Mansion, rather as he did at his main residence at Carew. Unfortunately for the castle Perrot became too powerful for royal comfort, and in 1592 he was sentenced to death for high treason: he died, though from natural causes, in the same year. An inventory made in 1592 suggests that Perrot's building was of rather poor quality and that the castle 'is like within few yeares to run to utter ruin again'. The castle ruins are, therefore, the end result of a long development from earthwork castle to Tudor mansion. This complex history makes the castle, at first sight, difficult to understand. Little visible now remains of the ringwork bank, nor of the first stone hall: the bank was reduced in height when the hall was built, and the hall itself was demolished, probably in the late 12th century. The next phase in the castle's history, the rebuilding by the de Brians in the late 13th century, is far more evident within the standing remains. The two strong round towers on the north were built at this time along with the curtain wall, some of which still survives. The impressive north-western tower still retains its fine medieval domed roof, though the topmost sections of the wall with the battlements were reconstructed earlier this century. The tower acted as a keep and also as a guardian for the simple entrance through the curtain to its south. The other tower, a solid three-storey structure, has partly fallen, and the section through the tower exposed by the collapse gives a good view of the two extra storeys and the circular stair added in the Tudor period. A new hall was built in stone against the south curtain wall during this late 13th-century rebuilding, and the outer ward, if not already in existence, may also have been added then, but probably only with timber defences at this stage. At the end of the 13th century, the defences were further strengthened. A forward-projecting gatehouse was built against the earlier, simple entrance into the inner ward. As this was constructed over the earlier ditch, the opportunity was taken to incorporate a basement beneath the main entrance passage. This arrangement is made all the more unusual by the postern placed at the front of the basement to give access to the edge of the inner ward ditch. In addition, a new round tower with deep spurs was built at the south-west corner of the inner ward and the defences of the outer ward, including the outer gatehouse, were rebuilt in stone. The castle had so far been constructed entirely in red sandstone, but in the mid-14th century Guy de Brian VII used for his building a distinctive green stone, which is quite easy to detect. The whole south-western corner of the inner ward, including the round tower and the inner gatehouse, was considerably heightened. This building phase is particularly clear on the outside of the castle, where the green-stone heightening of the south-west tower and adjacent curtain wall with a well-preserved trefoil window can be easily distinguished from the older masonry. The south-east corner was remodelled at this period, and a postern door, giving access out to the estuary, was inserted. Finally, the outer gatehouse was also rebuilt, again using the green stone. Sir John Perrot drastically altered this medieval castle by converting it into a substantial Tudor Mansion. The old hall against the south curtain wall was completely remodelled and the curtain wall heightened with mock battlements. The scar of the roof-line of the mansion can be seen high on the wall, but the building has completely gone and its magnificence must be left to the imagination. Ranges of Tudor buildings extended around the south and east of the inner ward and, on the north, the curtain wall between the two round towers was demolished and replaced by the large rectangular accommodation block. Its upper floors were reached by a splendid projecting semicircular stair tower. The Tudor ranges looked over a central cobbled courtyard, on which, we are told by contemporary accounts, a fountain played. The inner gatehouse, too, was made more impressive by being considerably raised to its present height and gardens were laid out in the outer ward. Following its slighting in the Civil War, the castle was left as a romantic ruin during the 18th century and at the turn of the 19th century, the outer ward was laid with formal gardens. The gazebo overlooking the estuary was used in the 1930s and 40s by the author Richard Hughes, who leased Castle House during this period." Laugharne Castle is a guardianship monument. The site has been partially excavated and extensively re-consolidated. The castle is now maintained and presented to the public to an extremely high standard. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 28/06/2017 18:13:03