Summary Description and Reason for Designation
The following provides a general description of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period situated on a prominent ridge at the upper limit of tidal water on the west bank of the River Gwendraeth. First built as an earth and timber ringwork in about 1106 by Bishop Roger of Salisbury justicar of Henry 1 this early castle took the form of a palisaded crescent shaped earth bank and ditch using the natural scarp of the river as a defence on the east and these earthworks still define the extent of the castle today. The lordship of Cydweli and the castle had by 1139 passed to the de Londres family and then early in the thirteenth century by marriage to Walter de Braose and eventually in 1244 to the de Chaworth family. During this, the period of the Welsh wars of independence the castle was repeatedly attacked and changed hands several times. Possibly first captured and burnt in 1159 by Rhys ap Gruffyd, the Lord Rhys, prince of Deheubarth, it was he who was later recorded as making repairs to it in 1190. Having returned to norman control in 1201 it was captured and burnt again in 1215 by Rhys Grug, son of the Lord Rhys during Llwelyn ab Iorwerth’s campaigns but handed back to the English in 1220 at the behest of Llywelyn himself. A ttacked again in 1231 this time by Llywelyn it was held by Maerdudd son of Rhys Grug until regained by Patrick de Chaworth in 1244, a strengthened castle held out against welsh attack in 1257-58. Pain de Chatworth (d1279) after returning from crusade and in his role as Edward I’s commander in chief in south wales began the transformation of the castle in the mid 1270’s into a masonry structure. The masonry castle comprises a square inner ward with four large corner round towers and simple portcullis gates to north south set within an outer ward, originally defended by the timber palisade, later by a stone curtain wall with a series of mural towers and two gates; a small defended north gate and a Great Gatehouse on the south.
The Inner Ward was constructed by Pain de Chaworth conceived to convert the castle into a strong ‘concentric’ castle with an inner and outer ring of defences. Later Henry, earl of Lancaster acquired the castle through marriage and sometime after 1298 a large first-floor hall was built on the on the east side of the ward of which little remains at the present day though the chapel which was reached from it stands as a projecting tower overlooking the river. This is built with white Sutton-stone mouldings around the doors and windows and has a small cruciform roofed building attached on the south which housed the sacristy set above the priest’s bedchamber. After 1300 these works were followed by the construction of the massive outer curtain, or possibly the raising of a small existing one, with wall walk and mural towers and the commencement of work on the Great Gatehouse. In turn this necessitated the raising of the inner curtain towers to maintain an effective field of fire. In 1361 Henry’s son and successor died without a male heir and by 1399 the castle had passed into the hands of the Crown. The Great Gatehouse took at least a century to build, suffering several setbacks including a Welsh siege in 1403 during the Glyndwr uprising before being finally completed in 1422. Central to the defence of the castle it comprises two projecting round towers set either side of a gate passage defended by inner and out gates and portcullises and spanned by the main living accommodation of the castle. The towers have blocks to the rear east and west; basements functioned as store rooms or prisons and ground floor rooms probably housed porters or guards, the east tower also has a beehive- shaped dungeon. The living space above comprises a large hall on the first floor with a side kitchen in the east tower and a chamber in the west with above the constable or lord’s accommodation; solar, chambers, latrines and other rooms. A small room at the front allowed for the raising of the outer portcullis as well as having a series of murder holes, it will also have housed the mechanism for raising the drawbridge. Above this and accessible from the battlements are three arched ‘machiolations’ for the dropping of missiles. The inner portcullis and corresponding series of murder holes were accommodated in the first floor hall. The castle was granted to Sir Rhys ap Thomas later in the fifteenth century as part of his reward for helping Henry VII secure the throne at Bosworth and possibly as a result the accommodation in the castle was improved. A hall was built in the outer ward served by a kitchen added to the south west corner of the inner ward along with a small lodging against the inside of the outer curtain and a bakehouse near the north gate . Another rectangular building near the north gate may have been intended for further accommodation .In 1630 the castle was acquired by the Vaughan family of Golden Grove near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, already ruinous it took no part in the Civil War later that century, passing by descent to the earls of Cawdor, in 1927 was taken into State care.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive and domestic practices. The monument is well-preserved and an important relic of the medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of both structural evidence and intact associated deposits.
The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.