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 the highest ground between the upper reaches of Milford Haven and the Preselli Hills in a commanding position above the steep west side of the Eastern Cleddau valley. The site of an early motte and bailey timber castle on the frontier Landsker line between Norman and Flemish settlers and the Welsh it was probably established after 1115 by Bishop Bernard on lands forming part of the estates of the bishops of St Davids. Taken and destroyed by the Lord Rhys in 1192 it was not recovered until the early 13th century when it was then re-fortified in stone. In the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries the castle was transformed into a fortified mansion as a residence for the bishops of St David’s, possibly during the episcopate of Bishop Thomas Bek (1280-93). Later in the in the third quarter of the fourteenth century the castle underwent a major new programme of construction under Bishop Adam de Houghton (1362-89) designed by master mason John Fawle who became the castle constable, the castle remains today largely date from this period. The Bishops of St Davids involvement with the castle continued until Bishop William Barlow (1536-48) stripped the lead from the roofs from which point it fell into decay.
The castle consists of an entrance gatehouse on the south west, an encircling curtain wall on the south with two projecting towers east of the gatehouse, the north side of the castle being formed by a great hall that has cross wings attached at either side. The courtyard created by these buildings has on the south side against the curtain a chapel and series of accommodation apartments and on the west a later bakehouse.
The early castle earthworks, ringwork and rock cut ditch survive as the moat and in a truncated form the foundation earthwork of the castle walls. Visible remains of the early thirteenth century stone castle are limited to the footing of a round tower measuring 8.5m in diameter on the west side behind the gatehouse which formed the heart of the early castle together with the footings of another small circular tower north east of this, partial sections of the original encircling curtain wall, built in short straight sections, also survive incorporated into later structures. Immediately behind the eastern half of the gatehouse is a square tower containing four latrine shafts that is slightly later 13th century work.
The gatehouse has two D-shaped towers set on deeply spurred bases with arrow slits. These are joined above the gate passage by a segmental arch. The upper half of the gatehouse is decorated with band of purple Caerbwdy stone and has three large trefoil headed windows with mullions and transoms. Located above the drawbridge below and above the central window was a defensive machicolation gallery. Three arched openings supported on central lion’s head corbels and springer’s to either side serving as ‘murder holes’. The gatehouse has a single portcullis slot and to either side of the entrance are vaulted cellar guardhouses above which were a number of spacious and well lit stone vaulted rooms some with fireplaces and window seats. The gatehouse will have formed the constable’s apartments.
The hall block of freestanding construction had its principle rooms on the first floor built above a vaulted undercroft containing store rooms. Cross wings flanked either side of a central range measuring 24m long by 7m, each one projecting over the edge of the moat ditch. On the courtyard side a large triple chamfered door arch at the centre of the range led to the main undercroft lit by three cusped single light windows. In the western corner of the undercroft is a doorway giving access to a spiral stair to the hall above. The doorway was above and to the left of the undercroft door approached by stone steps rising from the left; the step line was later re-orientated to accommodate the bakehouse. There is evidence for a wooden porch structure to both doors. The hall cross wings each had an independent vaulted undercroft, the one to the left may have been a kitchen linked through service rooms to the hall, a spiral staircase connected the two storeys. The upper floor of the one to the right served as the bishop’s solar or private chamber and has a broad window overlooking what would have been the castle gardens. The window is flanked by two small antechambers with latrines set within the thickness of the walls.
On the east of the courtyard set against the curtain are the remains of the castle chapel distinguished from the outside by a line of three windows with dressings of Caerbwdy stone. The entrance was by a first floor doorway fronted by a slender porch and stair; the outer doorway has deeply moulded jambs and a rectangular projecting hood, the label stops of which are a crowned male head and a female head with wimple head-dress considered possibly to be Bishop Adam de Houghton’s patrons John of Gaunt and his wife Blanche. A curving stairway led to the pointed arch doorway of the chapel. From there a spiral stair leads to small isolated rooms above the porch that probably housed the bishop’s exchequer. The porch as a whole rises above the roof tops and curtain wall and was probably intended to facilitate views over the entire estate. The chapel is connected to the easternmost projecting polygonal tower, built out over the ditch which along with its companion had a primary purpose to provide service rooms and latrines rather than to have a defensive role. The ground floor is reached down a flight of stone steps and is lit by two rectangular slit windows set high up in deep embrasures. In the centre of the floor is a hole, the only access to a deep rock cut dungeon as the room served as a prison. In the floor above the octagonal room has a domed roof and access from the rear of the chapel, it may have acted as a vestry or chaplains chamber. A stairway and passage within the walls led to the uppermost chamber, independent of the chapel, the room has an octagonal groined vault and may have served as a treasury or for keeping court records. A continuation of the stair provided access to the wall walk and a continuation of the passage may have led across the curtain to the bishop’s chamber in the hall block.
On either side of the main gatehouse are large rooms over vaulted basements. The eastern rooms are on two floors built in two sections each over an undercroft and probably served as apartments for guests. There were four upper chambers in all, one to each storey in both of the sections. The rooms had a fireplace and the main windows faced out into the courtyard. There are two small windows high in the curtain all, set in deep embrasures with window seats. Access to the rooms was via a stone spiral stair from the centre of the northern wall. The apartments were connected to the western or closet tower built out over the ditch. Internally the tower is divided down the middle by a spine wall and on either side of this on both levels are identical vaulted rooms lit by cross-loops, probably closets or small bed chambers. A passage leads from each room to a latrine whose shaft runs down the middle of the spine wall. The western rooms above the undercroft had two windows opening into the courtyard and may have provided accommodation for the garrison.
Within the courtyard is the castle well, cut down to a depth of over 30 metres and on the western side projecting from the north west end of the hall range is the late medieval addition of a bakehouse, the base of one of the ovens visible towards the south end.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval of high status settlement organisation, domestic and defensive 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 associated archaeological features and deposits. The structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information concerning chronology and building techniques.
The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.