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Walwyns Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castell Gwalchmai; Castle Gawayn

In the community of Walwyn's Castle.
In the historic county of Pembrokeshire.
Modern authority of Pembrokeshire.
Preserved county of Dyfed.

OS Map Grid Reference: SM87281105
Latitude 51.75743° Longitude -5.08368°

Walwyns Castle 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.


There can be little doubt that the mound at this place, a few yards south of the parish church, was originally set up as a sepulchral barrow. Owing to the popularity of the Arthurian romances amongst the Norman and Poitevin knights, who hastened to accept the invitation of William Rufus to carve out estates for themselves in South Wales (see Miss J. L. Weston's From Ritual to Romance, ch. xiv), some imaginative genius seems to have connected the tumulus which a Norse or Norman chieftain named Walwyn had transformed into the usual mound-castle of the period, with the favourite medieval character Gawain. Fired probably by the discovery of the bones of Arthur at Glastonbury, Roger of Wendover chronicles the finding of a tomb " which was that of Walwyn, who was the son of the sister of the great British king Arthur, who reigned in the part of Britain which is called Walreith." The story points to the belief that the mound was regarded as the burial place of a hero, and the earthwork should be compared with the very similar mound castle of Rug in Merionethshire (Inventory, No. 38). The early spelling is Wallwyn or -win. The mound occupies the end of a spur of land having a sharp fall to the head waters of Sandyhaven Pill which run round two sides of the hill; it is about 20 feet in height and 50 feet of summit diameter. The bailey is on the north of the mound, and is now divided into two spaces by a low bank drawn across it from north to south; this may be of later date. (RCAHMW, 1925)

The earthworks of the medieval castle occupy the southern end of a steep-sided inland promontory and are thought, though not proven, to have utilised an earlier prehistoric inland promontory fort; one of a number situated along the river to Sandyhaven Pill. Tradition also associates the site to the grave of King Arthur’s nephew, Gawain. The medieval castle was situated in the Cantref of Rhos, an area settled by the Anglo-Normans from 1093, brought under control by Roger de Montgomery’s son Arnulf from his base at Pembroke. This area was subsequently reorganised as the Lordship of Haverford, initially subject to the Earls of Pembroke. From 1247 onwards, the Lordship also contained the large barony or sublordship of Walwyn’s Castle, commonly independent of Haverford and for which the castle here was the main stronghold and administrative centre. By the mid thirteenth century the castle had been acquired by the de Bryan (de Brian) family, whose main seat was at Laugharne and thus the castle never further developed and remained a predominantly earthwork castle throughout its existence. The earthwork remains comprise a 5m high curving bank that crosses the neck of the promontory on its north side, cut by a 4m wide entrance. Slight traces of an external ditch survive, as does an outwork surrounding the entrance that defines a circular area 56m in diameter. Traces of stone and the outline of a probable curving structure survive here. The interior area of the castle is an irregular roughly tear drop shape, 1.3ha in extent. On its east, south and west sides it is predominantly defended by steep natural slopes with the exception of a 75m stretch along the west side which has been artificially enhanced. It is unclear whether a similar although much slighter enhancement along the east side also relates to the castle or is of a later date. The castles interior is divided in two by a straight section of bank and ditch running across the promontory's narrowest point. This stops short of the western edge of the promontory and thus provided an entrance into the lower bailey. At its eastern end the dividing bank curves outwards to create a roughly square motte nearly 6m high by 13m wide. A depression on top of the motte is likely to mark the site of a circular tower and here there are also traces of stonework, which may indicate both a stone tower as well as a wall along the top of the bank. The only other extant remain within the interior is an earthwork running southwards and dividing the upper bailey, most likely representing a later field division. A detailed survey of the castle was carried out by RCAHMW and the Walwyn’s Castle Historical Society in 2009. (Coflein)

The scheduling description of 1979 classifies this feature as a Rath and records it as a well preserved and complex monument. The feature is described in Vol 126 of Archaeologia Cambrensis as an earthwork castle with a large round motte that may occupy the site of an Iron Age promontory fort. The promontory is cut off to the north by a massive bank and ditch with an entrance. At its southern end the feature has an inner ward defended by a transverse bank and ditch containing a motte. A double outer ward is divided longitudinally by a central bank and ditch. The Ordnance Survey record states that a mound located within the interior may originally have been a barrow which later became a motte. The scheduled area was extended in 1995 to include an oval shaped terrace that extends to the northeast of the main feature, and a large flat field located to the south. It is considered that this southern field may have been a further bailey to the medieval castle, or a secure infield to the prehistoric site. Walwyn's castle is known in Welsh as Castell Gwalchmai. In the late 11th century William of Malmesbury said that the tomb of Gwalchmai, nephew to King Arthur, had been found there. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust HER)

The monument comprises a small defended enclosure or rath, which probably dates to the Iron Age period (800 BC - 43 AD). Usually enclosed by a bank and ditch, raths often contsin evidence of intensive occupation. Extending to the north-east of the main bank is an oval-shaped terrace 75m by 60m, whose outer bank rises to 2m at its north-east corner where stone work is visible. There are linear earthworks visible on top of the terrace. To the south of the square motte or stronghold is a large flat field with very steeply scarped sides which may have acted as a second bailey to the medieval castle or been a secure infield to the earlier prehistoric site. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 07/07/2016 09:36:46