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Pembroke Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Penfro; Penbroch

In the community of Pembroke.
In the historic county of Pembrokeshire.
Modern authority of Pembrokeshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SM98160160
Latitude 51.67717° Longitude -4.92093°

Pembroke 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*.


Pembroke Castle is a vast medieval fortress occupying the point of a cliff-girt promontory between two tidal inlets reaching in from Milford Haven. The castle was established by the marauding Normans in about 1094. Finds of Roman coins may signal an earlier settlement. The castle remained largely an earthwork structure until the beginning of the thirteenth century when the titanic circular great tower was built. Over the next century the castle's two wards or courts were enclosed by strong walls and towers. The town walls were also built in this period (see NPRN 300446). The castle was slighted following the Civil War siege of 1648 and was restored to its present condition in the later nineteenth-earlier twentieth century. At the heart of the castle is the great tower, largely intact save for its floors and unrestored. It rears up to 24.6m high culminating in a vaulted roof and two tier battlements. The tower was much imitated in south-west Wales, for example at Benton, Manobier, Tenby and Llawhaden. The ruins of palatial apartments stand in the small inner ward in the shaddow of the great tower. Below these is the Wogan, a natural cavern fortified with the castle. The walls of the small inner ward are mostly reduced to footings, but the great outer wall with its five towers and great gatehouse, has been largely restored and rebuilt and presents a brave face to the visitor.
In the medieval period mill dams held back the waters of the inlets either side of the castle and walled town. This arrangement seems to have been copied at Manobier Castle. (Coflein)

Situated prominently at the high W end of the ridge on which the old town of Pembroke is built.
Major Anglo-Norman castle, mostly late C12 to early C13. Pembroke was taken by Roger de Montgomery in 1094, and the first castle is said to have have been first built by his son Arnulph in the reign of Henry I, i.e. after 1100, but the site was besieged in 1094 and 1096 which suggests that the castle was begun at once. Arnulph was removed in 1102, and in 1105 Gerald de Windsor was appointed Royal Steward. The Earldom and County Palatine of Pembroke was created in 1138 with Gilbert de Clare as first Earl, succeeded in 1148 by his son Richard Strongbow, conqueror of Ireland. Henry II stopped at Pembroke on his way to and from Ireland, 1171-2. Strongbow's heiress married William Marshal, and he and his sons held the earldom 1189-1245, during which time the greater part of the castle was built. William Marshal is said not to have visited the county until 1204, but to have built a large part of the castle before his death in 1219. It is not certain how much had been built already in stone by the de Clares, possibly the Norman Hall, probably nothing of the structure that survives now. William Marshal was followed successively by his sons William II (died 1231), Richard (murdered 1234), Gilbert (died 1241) and Walter (died 1245) before passing to his daughter Joan, married to Warine de Munchensy. Much of the inner castle was built during this period: the Great Keep and walls of the inner ward in William Marshal's time, the rest of the Inner Ward under his sons, the Northern Hall perhaps in Joan's time. Joan, daughter of Joan and Warine, married William de Valence, half-brother of Henry III, who took over his wife's estates in 1265, and was earl to his death in 1296. From his time probably dates the walling of the outer ward, and the Great Gatehouse. Joan died in 1307, her son Aylmer de Valence died in 1324 and the earldom then passed to his nephew Laurence Hastings. During the C14 the earls were largely absent and the castle declined, though repaired when attack was feared from France in 1377 and 1405. Passed in 1335 to John Hastings, died 1375, and to John's son John , an infant. When John II died in 1389 aged 18 the earldom reverted to the crown: held by John son of Henry IV and from 1414 by Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, died in prison 1447. In 1453 Jasper Tudor, half-brother of Henry VI was made earl. Jasper's nephew, the future Henry VII, was born at Pembroke in 1456 and brought up there to 1471. During the Yorkist period William Herbert was made earl in 1461, beheaded 1469. Jasper Tudor recovered his earldom in 1485 and it reverted to Henry VII on Jasper's death. The castle was unroofed by 1600 but repaired and played a prominent role in the Civil Wars 1642-9. Held for Parliament in the first Civil War 1642-6, the Parliamentary commanders, Laugharne and Poyer, declared for the king in 1648. The castle was besieged by Oliver Cromwell and surrendered 11/7/1648. Then partly dismantled, it remained ruinous until a partial restoration for J R Cobb in 1880-83. The full restoration began in 1928 when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps of Cosheston Hall bought the ruins.
Outer and inner wards with curtain walls with towers of coursed rubble, though most of the inner ward landward curtain wall and horseshoe gate have gone. The outer ward is entered by the Barbican Gate, recreated in the 1880s, the Great Gatehouse, mid C13, was also restored in the 1880s. Flanking round towers, the Bygate Tower to left, the front wall rebuilt in 1934 and the Barbican Tower to the right, blown up in 1648-9 and restored in 1930. The outer ward walls running W are the most rebuilt in the earlier C20: the first stretch was thickened in the C17 and all the towers slighted after 1648. The Henry VII Tower rebuilt 1929 is the supposed birthplace of Henry VII, where Leland in the C16 saw a commemorative fireplace with the Tudor arms. Steps in front rebuilt 1929. The Westgate Tower was rebuilt 1929-31. The next stretch is much less rebuilt, with the Monkton Tower and a postern gate, the wall then running N to the W corner of the inner ward. On the other side of the Gatehouse the wall runs N to the Northgate Tower, restored in 1934, turns W over the Mill Pond to St. Anne's Bastion. This projection is probably late C13, comprises a long narrow platform with turret each end and postern gate to the S. A building here in ruins was restored in 1929, and turned to a small residence in 1933. The inner ward has mostly lost its wall to the outer ward, footings remain of the D-plan early C13 Inner Gate, to left, the Dungeon Tower to right is a mid to later C13 addition, with a latrine turret added on the right. The Great Keep is a massive circular tower built c. 1204, the finest in Britain, with domed vault. Restored in 1928-30. The Norman Hall to the NE may be late C12, restored 1933. Walls of a first-floor hall over an unvaulted basement. Solar block off to one side, C13 altered C15. Great Hall of c. 1300 parallel on the other, from which a rock-cut stair descends to the Wogan Cavern below. The great hall was on the first floor, the basement not vaulted and has fine traceried windows, similar to Monkton Priory. At the end a small chamber and latrine turret. Between the Keep and Norman Hall, remains of a single-storey building, the Chancery, possibly C14. Against the W corner of the inner ward, narrow vaulted chamber, C13 or C14, called the Western Hall, the parallel remains have been identified without clear evidence as the chapel. The cliff edge curtain wall is early C13 with square N turret. The Wogan Cavern below has a front wall with some herringbone masonry, uncertain date. (Listed Building Report)

The unsurpassed strength of this mighty Norman Castle, sited on a high ridge between two tidal inlets, gave it the distinction of never haven fallen to the Welsh. The strategic position, on a major routeway, was chosen early in the first Norman incursions into south-west Wales, when the castle was founded by Roger of Montgomery in 1093, and it stood firm against Welsh counter-attacks in subsequent years. In 1189 the castle came into the hands of William Marshal, who, over the next 30 years transformed the earth-and-timber castle into a mighty stone fortification. First to be built was the inner ward with its magnificent round keep, deservedly famous for its early date, height of over 22m and remarkable domed roof. (Derived from King)

The massive domed vault of the great tower, when richly decorated, must have produced an upper room of near Byzantine form and splendour. The lost timber floors of the great tower where of a unique radial pattern of timber joists which may have had great central bosses which one could imagine as being magnificently carved and richly painted to produce chambers of great magnificence. The tower may well have been surmounted by a fire to make a light house.

Need to make sure only to visit when big events not taking place - marquees etc getting in the way, and the large chapel (Western Hall) sometimes/often closed for weddings (& decked out accordingly inside). (noted from Neil Guy. May 2015)
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This record last updated 20/04/2017 04:12:48