Cardiff Castle Shell Keep

Cardiff Castle Shell Keep


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Cardiff Castle Shell Keep - History

At the heart of motte and bailey castles is the motte, the mound of earth on which a keep was usually built. At the top of the motte around its edge a wooden palisade was constructed to protect the keep from attack. Sometimes the motte was large enough and strong enough for the wooden palisade to be replaced by stone. These stone structures are known as shell keeps. There are two forms of shell keep. The first type is where the structure is located on the top of the motte. The second type of shell keep is where the keep totally encloses the motte itself so its base extends down to the ditch surrounding the motte.

To view the virtual model just click the image. Use your mouse to spin and pan in and out of the model.

The model is based on the shell keep at Restormel Castle.

The plan below shows Restormel Castle in Cornwall which is an excellent example of a shell keep. The keep is just over 100 feet in diameter, almost perfectly circular in shape and sits on top of the motte. A gatehouse on one side and the chapel on the other extend out into the ditch that surrounds the motte. Inside the outer wall of the keep is a second circular inner wall and between these two walls are the chambers that form the two floors of rooms of the castle.

The inner courtyard was open to the elements but this is not the case with all shell keeps. The top of the outer wall had battlements and there would have been a wall-walk around the edge for guards to keep watch.

Rooms within the castle would have included a kitchen, a hall for entertainment and meetings, sleeping and living chambers for the owners and their attendants, a chapel and a room for the castle guard.

Click the image for a larger version.

Shell Keeps: Built on top of the motte

Unusually this castle has one motte and two baileys. The circular stone shell keep was possibly begun by Robert de Belleme and finished by Henry I when he took control of the castle in around 1102.

The original Norman wooden keep on top of the motte was replaced by a stone shell keep during the 12th century by Robert the Consul.

Carisbrooke Castle was originally a Roman fort and is located at the centre of the Isle of Wight. It was built soon after William the Conqueror came to England and the Earl of Hereford, William Fitz Osbern, may have been responsible for its construction. Roger, his son is likely to have rebuilt or refortified the castle in stone.

The main feature of the castle is the large motte with the keep at the top in the north-east corner of the bailey. The design of the keep on top of the motte is unusual as consists of a shell keep with a round tower inside it. The gap between the outer shell and the tower is quite narrow and is not much more than a passageway. It was not large enough for rooms for example.

Restormel castle has an excellent example of a shell keep. The height of the remains of the shell keep at Restormel are still to the battlements in places. The concentric inner wall formed the two-storey accomodation between it and the outer wall and enclosed a circular courtyard.

Totnes Castle has a very large and well preserved shell keep.

Henry I made improvements to Windsor Castle so that it could be used for the first time as a royal residence. He held court there in 1110 and married his second wife Adeliza of Louvain in its chapel. During his reign the wooden keep on the motte was replaced by stone. Between 1173 and 1179 Henry II spent time and money improving the keep again. The height of the keep was raised and the walls around the baileys were rebuilt.

Also known as Clifford's Tower, this shell keep is constructed from four semi-circular lobes and would have had a roof supported by a central column. The roof and interior have long since disappeared. The castle is located at the heart of the city of York.


Throughout the duration of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Cardiff Castle was given an addition. In honour of the competition, a giant rugby ball was installed into the exterior wall of the castle. In total about 25 people worked on its design and installation, while the foam bricks that appeared to be bursting from the wall were made from a cast of actual bricks from Cardiff Castle. The “Ball in the Wall” was of course a temporary fixture, however its placement accurately signified the love of the sport in Wales.


Norman Shell Keep of Cardiff Castle in Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Castle began with the Romans who built a fort here during the 1st century. Three more were constructed until they abandoned the ten-acre site in the late 4th century. The Normans arrived in the late 11th century. They initially constructed a wooden keep protected by a high wall and surrounded by a moat. In the 12th century, the Earl of Gloucester built this shell keep (tower) on top of a motte (man-made hill) in the center of an inner bailey (fortified courtyard). The twelve-sided citadel measures 77 feet wide and 30 feet tall. The Normans remained in control until 1216 AD. You can walk up the fifty steps to see the remnants of this medieval keep.

West St Cardiff CF10 1BT, UK

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Full list of Castles in Wales

Abergavenny Castle, Abergavenny, Gwent
Owned by: Monmouthshire County Council
One of the earliest Norman castles in Wales, Abergavenny dates from around 1087. Originally a motte and bailey structure, the first tower built atop the motte would have been wooden. On Christmas Day in 1175, the Norman Lord of Abergavenny, William de Braose, murdered his long-standing Welsh rival Seisyll ap Dyfnwal in the great hall of the castle: the Massacre of Abergavenny. During the turbulent years of the 12th century, the castle changed hands several times between the English and Welsh. The castle was significantly added to and strengthened during the 13th and 14th centuries, whilst it was in the hands of the Hastings family. Most of the buildings were badly damaged in the English Civil War, when the castle was slighted to prevent it becoming used as a stronghold again. In 1819 the present square keep type like building, now housing the Abergavenny Museum, was constructed on top of the motte. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Aberystwyth Castle, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Dyfed
Owned by: Aberystwyth Town Council.
Overlooking Aberystwyth harbour, the castle was built by Edward I in his endeavour to conquer Wales. Started in 1277, it was only partially completed when the Welsh rebelled, captured and burned it in 1282. Construction started again the following year under the supervision of the king's favourite architect, Master James of St George, who completed the castle in 1289. Briefly besieged in 1294, it was attacked again during the early 15th century by Owain Glyndwr, who eventually captured it in 1406. The English recaptured the castle in 1408, following a siege that involved the first known use of cannon in Britain. In 1649 during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell had the castle slighted to make sure that it could never be used again. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Barry Castle, Barry, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
The seat of the de Barry family, this fortified manor house was built in the 13th century to replace an earlier earthwork. Added to and strengthened in the early 14th century, the ruins of which can be seen today. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Beaumaris Castle, Beaumaris, Anglesey, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Guarding the approach to the Menai Strait, Beaumaris, or fair marsh, was started in 1295 under the supervision of the king's favourite architect, Master James of St George. The last and largest of the castles to be built by King Edward I in his Conquest of Wales, it was at the time one of the most sophisticated examples of medieval military architecture in Britain. Work on the castle was suspended during Edward's Scottish campaigns in the early 1300’s, and as a consequence it was never fully completed. Beaumaris was briefly held by the Welsh in the Owain Glyn Dŵr (Glyndŵr, Glendower) uprising of 1404-5. Left to decay for centuries, the castle was refortified for the king during the English Civil War, but was eventually taken by Parliament in 1648, and slighted in the 1650’s to make sure that it could never be used again. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Brecon Castle, Brecon, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Set at the confluence of the Honddu and the River Usk, at one of the few places where the river could be forded, Bernard de Neufmarch erected the first Norman motte and bailey fortress around 1093. Llewelyn ap Iortwerth destroyed that first wooden castle in 1231, and again two years later after it was rebuilt. Eventually rebuilt in stone by Humphrey de Bohun in the early 13th century, the castle gradually fell into disrepair and now stands in the grounds of a hotel. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Bronllys Castle, Bronllys, Powys
Owned by: Cadw
Late 11th, or early 12th century motte with 13th century round stone keep. Henry III briefly took control of Bronllys in 1233, and used it to conduct negotiations with Llewelyn the Great. In 1399 the castle was refortified against Owain Glyn Dŵr (Glyndŵr), but by the late 15th century it was in a state of ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Builth Castle, Builth, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The first castle at Builth was a timber motte and bailey fortification built around 1100 to guard a strategic crossing of the River Wye. In the century that followed the castle was attacked, destroyed and rebuilt, occupied in turn by English and Welsh forces. In 1277, King Edward I launched his first campaign in the Conquest of Wales and refortified Builth. Using his favourite architect, Master James of St George, Edward went on to rebuild in stone a great tower on top of the earlier motte, surrounded by a substantial curtain wall with several small towers. In 1282 Llewelyn ap Gruffydd fell into an ambush after leaving the castle and was killed at nearby Cilmeri. Besieged by Madog ap LLewelyn in 1294, it was heavily damaged in an attack by Owain Glyn Dŵr a century later. Most traces of Edward’s smallest Welsh castle has long since disappeared, recycled as building material by local landowners. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Caer Penrhos, Penrhos, Llanrhystud, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Well preserved ringwork fortification set within an earlier Iron Age earthwork which served as the bailey. Built around 1150, possibly by Cadwaladr, son of Gruffydd ap Cynan. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Caerau Castle Ringwork, Caerau, Cardiff, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
A Norman ringwork castle set within an older Iron Age hillfort. A timber palisade would have sat on top of the bank surrounding the living quarters. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Caergwrle Castle, Caergwrle, Clwyd
Owned by: Caergwrle Community Council
Started in 1277, by Dafydd ap Gruffudd, possibly using Norman masons, to construct a great circular keep overlooking the surrounding countryside. The castle was still unfinished when Dafydd revolted against the rule of King Edward I in 1282. Retreating from Caergwrle, Dafydd had the castle slighted to deny its use to the invading English. Although Edward began to rebuild it, a fire gutted the castle and it was left to ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Caerleon Castle, Caerleon, Newport, Gwent
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Although the Romans had fortified the site centuries before, today’s remains are mainly those of a Norman motte and bailey castle dating from around 1085. Seized by the famous William Marshal in 1217, the timber castle was rebuilt in stone. During the Welsh Revolt in 1402, forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr captured the castle, leaving it in ruins, the buildings collapsed over the centuries that followed. The castle site is now on private land, the view from the adjacent road is restricted. The tower can be seen from the Hanbury Arms pub car park.
Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Replacing a motte-and-bailey castle dating from the late 11th century, King Edward I of England began building his part castle, part royal palace in 1283. Intended as the administrative centre of north Wales, the defences were built on a grand scale. The work of the king's favourite architect, Master James of St George, the design is thought to be based on the Walls of Constantinople. Caernarfon was the birthplace of Edward II, the first English Prince of Wales. Sacked in 1294 when Madog ap Llywelyn led a rebellion against the English, the castle was recaptured the following year. Caernarfon’s importance declined when the Welsh Tudor dynasty ascended to the English throne in 1485. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
Surrounded by a series of moats and watery islands, this medieval architectural gem was created by Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, a redheaded Norman noble. Gilbert started work on the castle in 1268 following his occupation of northern Glamorgan, the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd signalled his objection to its building by burning the site in 1270. Unimpressed by this interruption, Gilbert persisted and completed his mammoth stronghold using the radical and unique concentric ‘walls within walls’ system of defence. A castle truly fit for a king, Gilbert added luxurious accommodation, built on a central island, surrounding by several artificial lakes. The concentric rings of walls design was adopted by Edward I, in his castles in North Wales. With the death of Llywelyn in 1282, the Welsh military threat all but disappeared and Caerphilly became the administrative centre for the considerable de Clare estate. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Caldicot Castle, Caldicot, Newport, Gwent
Owned by: Monmouthshire County Council
Standing on the site of an earlier Saxon fortress, a Norman timber motte and bailey structure was erected around 1086. In 1221, Henry de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, rebuilt the four storey high keep in stone and added a curtain wall with two corner towers. When the male Bohun line died out in 1373, the castle became home to Thomas Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward II, who transformed it from a defensive fortress into a luxurious royal residence. The castle was purchased by the antiquarian JR Cobb in 1855, who restored Caldicot back to its medieval best. The castle now stands in 55 acres of Country Park, with free an open access. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply to the castle.
Camrose Castle, Camrose, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Guarding a ford across a small river this early Norman motte and bailey fortification was built around 1080, during the first wave of Norman settlement in south Wales. William the Conqueror stayed overnight at Camrose whilst on a pilgrimage to St David’s. At a later date the castle was rebuilt with a stone perimeter wall enclosing the top of the motte, possibly with a shell keep.
Candleston Castle, Merthyr Mawr, Bridgend, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
This fortified manor house was built in the late 14th century at the eastern edge of what is now Europe's largest sand dune system. Unfortunately, the castle builders, the Cantilupe family, after whom the castle is named, did not take into account the possibility of coastal erosion. Shortly after its completion the surrounding area began to be covered by the shifting sands, the castle only survived complete immersion thanks to its elevated position. A ruined wall now surrounds a small courtyard, around which is a hall block and tower the south wing is a later addition.
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Glamorgan
Owned by: City of Cardiff
The original motte and bailey castle was built around 1081, shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, within the walls of a 3rd century Roman fort. From the 12th century the castle began to be rebuilt in stone, with a formidable shell keep and substantial defensive walls being added. These new defences don’t appear to have deterred the locals much, as in the years that followed the Welsh repeatedly attacked the castle and stormed it during the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion of 1404. Following the Wars of the Roses the military significance of the castle began to decline, and it was only in the mid-18th century when it passed into the hands of John Stuart, first Marquess of Bute, that things began to change. Employing Capability Brown and Henry Holland, he set about transforming the medieval fortress into the sumptuous stately home that remains today. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply to the castle.
Cardigan Castle, Cardigan, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadwgan Preservation Trust
The first motte and bailey castle was erected a mile away from the current site around 1093, by the Norman baron, Roger de Montgomery. The present castle was built by Gilbert Fitz Richard Lord of Clare, after the first was destroyed. Owain Gwynedd defeated the Normans at the Battle of Crug Mawr in 1136, and in the years that followed the castle changed hands several times as the Welsh and Normans battled for supremacy. In 1240 following the death of Llywelyn the Great, the castle fell back into Norman hands and just a few years later Earl Gilbert of Pembroke rebuilt it, adding the town walls for increased protection. It is these remains that still stand overlooking the river. Currently undergoing a major restoration project.
Carew Castle, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Owned by: Carew family
Set on a strategically important site commanding a ford crossing the river, Gerald of Windsor erected the first Norman timber motte and bailey castle around 1100, building on an earlier Iron Age fort. The present stone castle dates from the 13th century, started by Sir Nicholas de Carew, the family added to and refortified over the generations. Around 1480, Sir Rhys ap Thomas a supporter of King Henry VII, set about converting the medieval castle into a home worthy of an influential Tudor gentleman. Further remodelling was started in Tudor times by of Sir John Parrot, allegedly the illegitimate son of Henry VIII. Parrot however, did not have chance to enjoy his lovely new home, arrested on a charge of treason he was confined to the Tower of London, where he died in 1592, apparently of ‘natural causes’. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Carmarthen Castle, Carmarthen, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Although a Norman castle may have existed in Carmarthen from as early as 1094, the current castle site commanding a strategic position above the River Tywi, dates from around 1105. The original motte had massive stone defences added in the 13th century by the famous William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Sacked by Owain Glyn Dŵr (Glyndŵr) in 1405, the castle later passed to Edmund Tewdwr, father of the future Henry VII. Converted into a prison in 1789, it now stands next to the council offices, somewhat lost amidst the modern urban buildings.
Carndochan Castle, Llanuwchllyn, Gwynedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built high on a rocky crag by one of the three major princes of Wales who ruled in the 13th century, either Llywelyn Fawr, Dafydd ap Llywelyn, or Llywelyn the Last, the castle is constructed in typical Welsh style. The defensive outer towers and central keep guarded the southern borders of the kingdom of Gwynedd. It is not recorded when Carndochan was finally abandoned, there is however some limited archaeological evidence to suggest that the castle was either sacked or slighted, which could help explain its poor state of preservation. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Carreg Cennen Castle, Trapp, Llandeilo, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Using the natural environment to great effect, the first stone castle on the site was erected by Lord Rhys, Rhys of Deheubarth, in the late 12th century. Captured by King Edward I of England in his first Welsh campaign of 1277, the castle came under almost constant Welsh attack, first by Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, and then by Rhys ap Maredudd. As a reward for his support, Edward granted the castle to John Giffard of Brimpsfield who between 1283 and 1321, rebuilt and strengthened the fortresses defences. The castle changed between Welsh and English occupation several times during the troubled medieval period. A Lancastrian stronghold during the War of the Roses, in 1462 Carreg Cennen was slighted by 500 Yorkist troops to prevent it being fortified again. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Carreghoffa Castle, Llanyblodwel, Powys
Owned by: Cadw
Built around 1101 by Robert de Bellesme, this border fortification was to change hands several times between the English and Welsh over its relatively short life span. Just a year after it was built it was seized by the army of King Henry I. Around 1160 Henry II repaired and refortified the castle, only to lose control of it to the Welsh forces of Owain Cyfeiliog and Owain Fychan in 1163. The subject of many more border battles and skirmishes, it is thought that the castle met its end in the 1230’s when it was destroyed by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Aberlleiniog, Beaumaris, Anglesey, Gwynedd
Owned by: Menter Môn
Built around 1090 for Hugh d'Avranche, the powerful 1st Earl of Chester, the Norman castle apparently survived a siege in 1094 by the Welsh forces of Gruffydd ap Cynan. The only motte and bailey type fortification on Anglesey, the stone structures still visible on the castle mound are part of the English Civil War defences dating from the mid-17th century and not the original Norman buildings. The site is currently being restored, normally with free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Blaen Llynfi, Bwlch, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built around 1210 by the Fitz Herbert family, the castle was sacked by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in 1233. Rebuilt shortly afterwards, like many other border castles it changed hands between the Welsh and English several times before being declared ruinous in 1337. The remains of the large bailey, ditch and curtain wall are in a poor state of conservation. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Carn Fadryn, Llŷn Peninsula, Gwynedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Showing evidence of three phases of defensive structures, the first an Iron Age hillfort dating from the around 300BC that was extended and reinforced in 100BC. The third phase is one of the earliest medieval Welsh stone castles constructed, thought to have been ‘newly built’ by the sons of Owain Gwynedd in 1188. Unusual for that time, not built to keep the English out, but to impose individual authority in a power struggle between each of Gwynedd’s sons. The rudimentary stone buildings and drystone wall enclosure are set within the remains of the extensive ancient hillfort. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Coch, Tongwynlais, Cardiff, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
This Victorian fantasy (or folly) castle was built with the untold wealth of the Marquess of Bute and eccentric architectural genius of William Burges, owner and architect of Cardiff Castle. Built on the foundations of an original medieval fortress, Burges began work on Castle Coch in 1875. Although he died 6 years later, the work was completed by his craftsmen, and together they created the ultimate Victorian fantasy of what a medieval castle should look like, with just a twist of High Gothic. Never intended as a permanent residence the castle's use was limited, the Marquess never came after its completion and the family’s visits were infrequent. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Castell Crug Eryr, Llanfihangel-nant-Melan, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Crug Eryr, or Eagle’s Crag, was a relatively crude earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification. The origins of the castle are unclear, although it thought to have been constructed by the princes of Maelienydd, around 1150. Captured by the Normans in the late 12th century, the castle was retaken by the Welsh and remained in use into the 14th century. A later well-known bard, known as Llywelyn Crug Eryr, is thought to have lived at the castle at one time. On private property, the castle can be viewed from the nearby A44 road.
Castell Cynfael, Tywyn, Gwynedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
A traditional motte and bailey fortification, built not by the Normans however, but by the Welsh prince Cadwaladr ap Gruffudd in 1147. Cadwaladr was the son of Gruffudd ap Cynan, who after escaping imprisonment around 1094, had driven the Normans out of Gwynedd, with a little help from his Irish friends and relations. Built in true ‘Norman style’, the castle commanded a good view of the Dysynni river crossing, at the head of the strategically important junction of the Dysynni and Fathew valleys. In 1152 following a family feud, Cadwaladr was forced into exile and his brother Owain assumed control. Cynfael probably fell out of use after Llewelyn the Great built Castell y Bere in 1221. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen, Clwyd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The remains of 13th century castle stand on the site of an Iron Age hill fort. Probably built by Gruffudd II ap Madog, ruler of north Powys, in 1277 the castle was set to be besieged by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, when the Welsh defenders burned it to prevent the English using it. Sometime before 1282 the castle was again occupied by Welsh forces, but appears to have suffered badly in war that resulted in the death of Llewelyn Prince of Wales. The castle was never rebuilt and lapsed into ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Dinerth, Aberarth, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built by the de Clare family around 1110, this Norman motte and bailey castle had a short and violent history. Dinerth changed hands at least six times and was destroyed and rebuilt on two occasions, before finally meeting its end in 1102. Now overgrown, the castle mounds and the defensive ditches are still visible. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell Du, Sennybridge, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Also known as Sennybridge Castle and Castell Rhyd-y-Briw, this native Welsh castle built around 1260 is believed to be the work of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. Its history is vague, although it seems likely that it was captured by Edward I of England during the war of 1276-7 and was subsequently abandoned. The remains of a D-shaped tower favoured by Welsh military architects are still visible, but much of the site remains unexcavated. Located on private land.
Castell Gwallter, Llandre, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
This typical earth and timber motte and bailey castle was built sometime before 1136, by the distinguished Norman knight Walter de Bec, d'Espec. Like many similar castles it appears to have been destroyed shortly after this, possible by Welsh attacks. The last mention of it in any historical record dates from 1153. This site is now completely overgrown with only the earthworks are in evidence. On private property but can be viewed from the nearby right of way.
Castell Machen, Machen, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Also known as Castell Meredydd, this traditional Welsh stone castle is thought to have been built by Maeredydd Gethin, prince of Gwynllwg, around 1201. Used by Morgan ap Hywell after he was ousted from his main powerbase of Caerleon by the Normans, in 1236 Gilbert Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, captured the castle and added to its defences. Although it passed briefly to the powerful de Clare family, it is thought that the castle went out of use shortly after this. Set on a ledge on a south-facing hillside, only fragments of the keep and curtain walls remain.
Castell y Blaidd, Llanbadarn Fynydd, Powy
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Also known as Wolf's Castle, this D-shaped Norman ringwork defensive enclosure may never have been completed. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Castell-y-Bere, Llanfihangel-y-pennant, Abergynolwyn, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Started by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth ('the Great') around 1221, this great stone castle was built to defend the south-west princedom of Gwynedd. In the 1282 war with King Edward I, Llywelyn's grandson, Llywelyn the Last, was killed and Castell y Bere was taken by English forces. Edward I expanded the castle and established a small town beside it. In 1294 the Welsh leader Madoc ap Llywelyn mounted a major revolt against English rule, and the castle was besieged and burnt. Castell y Bere fell into disrepair and ruin after this. Free and open access within restricted opening times.
Castle Caereinion Castle, Castle Caereinion, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The first earth and timber motte and bailey castle was built by Madog ap Maredudd, prince of Powys, around 1156. After Madog's nephew, Owain Cyfeiliog, had sworn allegiance to the English, the castle was seized by Lord Rhys and Owain Gwynedd in 1166. A little later, and with the help of his Norman allies, Owain attacked the castle destroying its fortifications, after which it apparently fell into ruin. Only the raised mound, or motte, is visible in a corner of the churchyard.
Cefnllys Castle, Llandrindod Wells, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Two castles built one after the other at opposite ends of a high narrow ridge. The more imposing northern fortress was erected by the English lord Roger Mortimer around 1242, during his battles with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales. After suffering the wrath of Llywelyn the first castle was badly damaged in 1262, and as a result the second castle was started in 1267. This second castle was sacked by Cynan ap Maredudd during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294-5. Recorded as being in ruins by the late 16th century, little remains of Mortimer's first fortress. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Chepstow Castle, Chepstow, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
Set atop cliffs controlling the main crossing of the River Wye is the oldest stone fortification of its type in Britain. Started by the Norman Lord William fitzOsbern in 1067, it was one of a chain of castles built to secure the troubled border region between England and Wales. Most early Norman castles erected after the Conquest of England were simple earth and timber motte and bailey structures, Chepstow however was different it was built in stone from the very start, using re-cycled materials from nearby Caerwent Roman town to create a stone tower enclosed by wooden baileys. In 1189 Chepstow passed to the famous William Marshal, perhaps the greatest knight of the medieval period, who greatly extended and strengthened the fortress into what we see today. In the mid-17th century, during the English Civil War the castle twice changed hands between the king and Parliament. Used as a prison following the Restoration of the Monarchy, the castle eventually fell to ruin. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Chirk Castle, Wrexham, Clwyd
Owned by: National Trust
Built between 1295 and 1310 by Roger Mortimer de Chirk as part of King Edward I's chain of fortresses across the north of Wales, it guards the entrance to the Ceiriog Valley. The castle was extensively remodelled in the late 16th century by Sir Thomas Myddelton, who transformed Chirk from a military fortress into a comfortable country mansion. Seized by the crown during the English Civil War, the castle sustained serious damage and required major reconstruction work. Chirk’s interior was totally reworked in the Gothic style by the famous architect A.W. Pugin, in 1845. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Cilgerran Castle, Cardigan, Pembrokeshire, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Set on a rocky outcrop overlooking the River Teifi, the first earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was built around 1100, shortly after the Norman Invasion of England. The likely scene of a romantic abduction, when at Christmas 1109, Owain ap Cadwgan, prince of Powys, attacked the castle and stole away with Nest the wife of Gerald of Windsor. Some years later Gerald caught up with Owain and killed him in an ambush. Cilgerran was taken by Llywelyn the Great in 1215, but was recaptured in 1223 by William Marshal the younger, Earl of Pembroke, who rebuilt the castle in its present form. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Coity Castle, Bridgend, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
Although originally established soon after 1100 by Sir Payn "the Demon" de Turberville, one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan, much of the present day castle dates from the 14th century and later. Rebuilt following a siege by Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1404-05, a new west gate in the outer ward and a new gatehouse in the south tower were also added. The castle appears to have fallen out of use and into ruin after the 16th century. Free and open access within restricted opening times.
Conwy Castle, Conwy, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Built for the English King Edward I, by his favourite architect, Master James of St George, the castle is one of the finest surviving medieval fortifications in Britain. Perhaps the most magnificent of his Welsh fortresses, Conwy is one of Edward’s "iron ring" of castles, built to subdue the rebellious princes of north Wales. Offering extensive views across mountains and sea from the grandeur of its eight massive towers, two barbicans (fortified gateways) and surrounding curtain walls, Edward spent a staggering £15,000 building the fortress. The largest sum spent on any of his Welsh castles, Edward even had the town’s defensive walls constructed in order to protect his English builders and settlers from the local hostile Welsh population. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Criccieth Castle, Criccieth, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Originally built by Llywelyn the Great in the early 13th century, Criccieth stands high above Tremadog Bay. Several years later Llywelyn's grandson, Llywelyn the Last, added a curtain wall and a large rectangular tower. The castle fell in a siege to the English King Edward I in 1283, who further modified and improved its defences. This now mighty fortress withstood a Welsh siege led by Madog ap Llewelyn in 1295, however Owain Glyn Dŵr sealed Criccieth’s fate when he captured and burnt the castle in 1404. This was to be the last major Welsh rebellion against English rule and the castle remained in a ruined state until 1933, when it was passed to the government by Lord Harlech. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Crickhowell Castle, Crickhowell, Powys
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Originally built as a simple earth and timber motte and bailey fortification by the De Turberville family in the 12th century, the site provides commanding views along the Usk valley. The castle was remodelled in stone in 1272 by Sir Grimbald Pauncefote, who had married Sybil, a Turberville heiress. Refortified by the royal command of Henry IV, Owain Glyn Dŵr sealed Crickhowell’s fate when his forces sacked the castle in 1404, leaving it in ruins. Also known as Ailsby's Castle, there is free and open access at any reasonable time.
Cwn Camlais Castle, Sennybridge, Powys
Scheduled Ancient Monument
With views across to the Brecon Beacons, this Norman motte and bailey castle dates from the 12th century. Thought to have been destroyed around 1265, it was never rebuilt and the scant remains include the rubble footprint of a round tower atop the rocky mound. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Deganwy Castle, Deganwy, Gwynedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Set at the mouth of the River Conwy, the scant remains of a Dark Age fortress now amount to little more than ditches and mounds atop a massive rocky outcrop. Headquarters of Maelgwn Gwynedd, King of Gwynedd (520–547), it is likely that Deganwy was first occupied during Roman times. The castle was rebuilt in stone by the English King Henry III, but was abandoned and finally destroyed by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales in 1263. Edward I later built Conwy Castle just across the estuary it is said using recycled materials from Deganwy. Today’s stone remnants and footprint date mainly from Henry III's fortification and can be found within the suburbs of modern Llandudno. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Denbigh Castle, Denbigh, Clwyd
Owned by: Cadw
The current fortress was constructed by Edward I following his 13th century conquest of Wales. It was built on the site of a former Welsh stronghold held by Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the brother of Llywelyn the Last. Standing on a rocky promontory overlooking the Welsh town of Denbigh, the bastide, or planned settlement, was built at the same time as the castle, an attempt by Edward to pacify the Welsh. Started in 1282, Denbigh was attacked and captured during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn, work on the incomplete town and castle was halted until it was recaptured a year later by Henry de Lacy. In 1400, the castle resisted a siege by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr, and during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460’s, the Lancastrians under the command of Jasper Tudor, failed on two occasions to take Denbigh. The castle endured a six-month siege during the English Civil War before finally falling to Parliamentarian forces it was slighted to prevent further use. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Dinefwr Castle, Llandeilo, Dyfed
Owned by: National Trust
The first castle on the site was built by Rhodri the Great of Deheubarth, the present stone structure however dates from the 13th century and the times Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd. At that time Llywelyn was extending the boundaries of his princedom The English King Edward I captured Dinefwr in 1277, and in 1403 the castle survived a siege by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr. Following the Battle of Bosworth in 1483, Henry VII gifted Dinefwr to one of his most trusted generals, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who carried out extensive modifications and rebuilding of the castle. It was one of Thomas's descendants who built the nearby mock Gothic mansion of Newton House, the castle keep being modified to be used as a summer house. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Dolbadarn Castle, Llanberis, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
One of three castles built by the Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great during the early 13th century to defend the major military routes through Snowdonia. Traditionally the Welsh princes had not constructed castles, using undefended palaces called llysoedd, or courts instead, Dolbadarn however features a large stone round tower, described as being "the finest surviving example…” Dolbadarn was captured by the English King Edward I in 1284, who recycled much of its materials to build his new castle at Caernarfon. Used as a manor house for some years, the castle eventually fell into disrepair during the 18th century. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Dolforwyn Castle, Abermule, Powys
Owned by: Cadw
Started in 1273 by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd ‘the Last’, this Welsh stone fortress is sited on a high ridge with a planned new town alongside it. One of the first castles to fall in the English King Edward I’s Conquest of Wales, Dolforwyn was besieged and burnt in 1277, along with the settlement. The settlement was moved down the valley a little and appropriately renamed Newtown! By the late 14th century the castle had fallen into disrepair. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Dolwyddelan Castle, Dolwyddelan, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Built between 1210 and 1240 by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, the castle guarded a main route through north Wales. In January 1283, Dolwyddelan was captured by the English King Edward I during the final stages of his Conquest of Wales. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Dryslwyn Castle, Llandeilo, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Built around 1220 by the princes of Deheubarth, Dryslwyn was captured by the forces of English King Edward I in 1287. Captured by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in the summer of 1403, the castle appears to have been demolished in the early 15th century, perhaps to stop Welsh rebels using it again. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Dryslwyn Castle, Llandeilo, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Built around 1220 by the princes of Deheubarth, Dryslwyn was captured by the forces of English King Edward I in 1287. Captured by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in the summer of 1403, the castle appears to have been demolished in the early 15th century, perhaps to stop Welsh rebels using it again. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Ewloe Castle, Hawarden, Clwyd
Owned by: Cadw
With its D-shaped tower, this typical Welsh castle was probably built by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd 'the Last' sometime after 1257. Built from local stone, the construction work may not have not been completed before the castle was captured by the English King Edward I in 1277, during his Conquest of Wales. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Flint Castle, Flint, Clwyd
Owned by: Cadw
Built by the English King Edward I in his campaign to conquer Wales, Flint was the first of Edward's ‘Iron Ring’, a chain of fortresses encircling north Wales to subjugate the unruly Welsh princes. Its construction began in 1277, on a site chosen for its strategic position, just one day's march from Chester and close to a ford back to England. During the Welsh Wars the castle was besieged by the forces of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Llywelyn the Last, and later in 1294 Flint was attacked again during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn. During the English Civil War, Flint was held by the Royalists, but was captured by the Parliamentarians in 1647 following a three-month siege the castle was slighted to prevent its reuse. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Grosmont Castle, Grosmont, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
The first earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was rebuilt in local red sandstone during the 13th century and enclosed by a high curtain wall with three stone towers. In 1267 King Henry III granted the castle to his second son, Edmund Crouchback, who set about converting the fortress into a royal residence. Attacked in March 1405 by a Welsh army led by Rhys Gethin, the siege was eventually relieved by forces led by Prince Henry, the future English King Henry V. Grosmont appears to have fallen into disuse after this, as by the early 16th century records indicate that it was abandoned. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Harlech Castle, Harlech, Gwynedd
Owned by: Cadw
Translated as 'high rock', Harlech stands atop a rocky outcrop overlooking Cardigan Bay. Built between 1282 and 1289 by the English King Edward I during his invasion of Wales, the work was overseen by the king’s favourite architect, James of St George. The castle played an important role in several of the Welsh Wars, withstanding the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn between 1294–95, but falling to Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1404. During the Wars of the Roses, the castle was held by the Lancastrians for seven years, before Yorkist troops forced its surrender in 1468. The longest siege in British history is immortalised in the song Men of Harlech. Held for the king during the English Civil War, Harlech was the last castle to fall to Parliamentary forces in March 1647. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Haverfordwest Castle, Pembrokeshire, Dyfed
Owned by: Pembrokeshire National Park Authority
The original earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was rebuilt in stone sometime before 1220, when it withstood an attack by Llewelyn the Great, who had already burned the town. In 1289, Queen Eleanor the wife of Edward I acquired the castle and began rebuilding it as a royal residence. The castle survived an attack in 1405, during Owain Glyn Dŵr’s War of Independence. During the English Civil War the castle changed hands four times between the Royalists and Parliamentarians Cromwell finally ordered the castle destroyed in 1648. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Hawarden Old Castle, Hawarden, Clwyd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Replacing an earlier earth and timber motte and bailey Norman fortification, the current castle was rebuilt in stone during the 13th century. During the Welsh struggle for independence, in 1282 Dafydd ap Gruffudd captured Hawarden in a coordinated attack on English castles in the area. Angered by such a challenge to his authority the English King Edward I, ordered Dafydd to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The castle was later seized during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294. After the English Civil War in the 17th century the castle was slighted in order to prevent its reuse. The old castle ruins now lie on the New Hawarden Castle estate, the grand former home of British Prime Minister, W.E. Gladstone. Located on private land, occasionally open to the public on summertime Sundays.
Hay Castle, Hay-on-Wye, Powys
Owned by: Hay Castle Trust
One of the great medieval fortifications built to control the troubled border region of England and Wales. Constructed in the late 12th century by the powerful Norman Lord William de Braose, the castle was sacked by Llewelyn the Great, in 1231, and rebuilt by Henry III who also added the town walls. Captured by Prince Edward (later Edward I) in 1264 and then by Simon de Montfort's forces in 1265, the castle resisted the advances of Owain Glyn Dŵr’s rising of 1405. The castle served as residence for the Dukes of Buckingham, until the last duke was executed by Henry VIII in 1521. After this the castle gradually fell into the ruin we see today. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Kenfig Castle, Mawdlam, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, the first earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was rebuilt in stone during the 12th century. Between 1167 and 1295 Kenfig was sacked by the Welsh on at least six separate occasions. By the late 15th century the castle and town that had grown within its outer ward had been abandoned, as a consequence of encroaching sand dunes. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Kidwelly Castle, Kidwelly, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
The early Norman earth and timber fortification was gradually rebuilt in stone from 1200 onwards, adopting the latest half-moon shaped castle design. Further defences were added and improved over the following 200 years by the earls of Lancaster. Kidwelly was unsuccessfully besieged by the Welsh forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1403, who had already taken the town. Relieved after just three weeks, the castle and town were rebuilt on the instructions of the English King Henry V. Perhaps familiar to some, Kidwelly appears as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Laugharne Castle, Kidwelly, Laugharne, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Standing high on a clifftop setting overlooking the River Taf, the first small Norman earthwork fortification was rebuilt in stone during the late 12th century. The castle was captured by Llywelyn the Great in his campaign across southern Wales in 1215. And again in 1257, it suffered in another Welsh uprising when the powerful Norman noble Guy De Brian was captured at Laugharne by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and the castle destroyed. The de Brian family refortified Laugharne, adding the strong stone walls and towers we see today to counter the threat of the Owain Glyndwr rising in 1405. Following a weeklong siege during the 17th century English Civil War the castle was badly damaged, it was later slighted to prevent any further use and left as a romantic ruin. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Llanblethian Castle, Cowbridge, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
Also known as St Quintins Castle, named after Herbert de St Quentin, who is thought to have built the first timber and earth fortification on the site around 1102. In 1245, the castle and lands were acquired by the de Clare family, who started to build the stone structure which stands today. Gilbert de Clare met his end at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and it is thought likely that the castle was never fully completed. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Llandovery Castle, Llandovery, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The first Norman earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was started around 1116 and was almost immediately attacked and partially destroyed by Welsh forces under Gruffydd ap Rhys. The castle changed hands several times over the next century or so, finally falling to the English King Edward I in 1277 who refortified the defences. Briefly captured by the Welsh forces of Llywelyn the Last in 1282, it was again attacked during the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion in 1403 and left a partial ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Llanilid Castle, Llanilid, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
This well-preserved raised ringwork, or low circular mound, once protected a timber Norman fortification. Probably built by the St Quintin family, lords of the manor until 1245, the wooden palisades of the castle sat atop the summit of the mound protected by a surrounding ditch. There is no evidence to suggest that stone walls ever replaced the wooden structure. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Llansteffan Castle, Llansteffan, Dyfed
Owned by: Cadw
Sited on a headland overlooking the mouth of the Tywi, the castle controlled an important river crossing. The first Norman earth and timber enclosure, or ringwork, was set within the ancient defences of an Iron Age fort. Rebuilt in stone from the late 12th century onwards by the Camville family, the castle was briefly held on two occasions by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1403 and 1405. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Llantrisant Castle, Llantrisant, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Controlling a strategically important route into the valleys below, the original Norman fortification was rebuilt in stone around 1250 by Richard de Clare, lord of Glamorgan. Damaged during a Welsh uprising led by Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294, and again in 1316 by Llywelyn Bren, it is thought that the castle eventually met its end in 1404 during the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion. The remains of the castle tower now stand in parkland in the centre of town.
Llawhaden Castle, Llawhaden, Pembrokeshire
Owned by: Cadw
The fortified palace of the bishops of St Davids, was started in 1115 by Bishop Bernard. This first earth and timber ringwork defence was totally rebuilt between 1362 and 1389 by Bishop Adam de Houghton. The much grander bishop’s palace that evolved included two suites of residences, an impressive twin-towered gatehouse, great hall and chapel. The palace had fallen from favour during the 15th century, and was in state of disrepair by the late 16th century. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Loughor Castle, Loughor, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
Controlling a strategic crossing of the Gower Peninsula, the original Norman ringwork defences topped by a wooden palisade, were set within the former Roman fort of Leucarum. In the two centuries that followed, the castle was attacked in the Welsh uprising of 1151, and later captured by the forces of Llywelyn the Great in 1215. The Norman noble John de Braose acquired the castle in 1220 and set about repairing and strengthening its stone defences. Loughor fell out of use following King Edward I’s Conquest of Wales, and gradually fell into ruin. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Mold Castle, Mold, Clwyd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
This early Norman earthen motte and bailey fortification was founded by Robert de Montalt around the 1140. Captured by Owain Gwynedd in 1147, the castle changed hands several times in the troubled century that followed along the England and Wales border. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Monmouth Castle, Monmouth, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
Built in the late 11th century by William fitz Osbern, the castle was strengthened and added to in the centuries that followed. A favourite residence of Henry IV, in 1387 the castle witnessed the birth of the future King Henry V. During the English Civil War, Monmouth changed hands three times, finally falling to the Parliamentarians in 1645. The castle was subsequently slighted to prevent its reuse and a residence known as Great Castle House was built on the site in 1673, which is now home to the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers museum. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Montgomery Castle, Montgomery, Powys
Owned by: Cadw
Built by Henry III in 1223 to guard the Welsh border region, the castle and surrounding walled town took a mere 11 years to complete. Montgomery had a relatively short military life, as after the final Welsh War in the late 13th century the castle’s status as a front line fortress was reduced. Attacked by the Welsh forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1402, the town was and sacked and burned, however the castle fortress withstood the assault. In 1643 the castle was surrendered to Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War, it was later slighted to prevent it being used again for military purposes. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Morlais Castle, Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built on the site of an Iron Age hillfort high in the Glamorgan uplands, the castle was started around 1287 by Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester on land claimed by Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford. This land grab disagreement apparently turned violent and in 1290 King Edward I was forced to intervene in person, marching his forces into the area to settle the dispute between the warring earls. In 1294 Morlais was captured by the last native Welsh Prince, Madog ap Llywelyn. After the final Welsh War in the late 13th century and due to its remote location, the castle was abandoned and left to ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Narbeth Castle, South Wales
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The first Norman fortress on the site dates from 1116, although the current stone structure was erected by Andrew Perrot in the 13th century. A much earlier castle may have occupied the site however, as ‘Castell Arbeth’ is mentioned in the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient myths and legends …as the home of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed. Narbeth was successfully defended during the Glyndwr rebellion between 1400 and 1415, but was ‘slighted’ after being taken by Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil War. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Neath Castle, Neath, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built to guard a crossing of the River Nedd, the Normans erected their first earth and timber ringwork fortification alongside a former Roman site in 1130. Subject to almost continuous raids by the Welsh, the castle was rebuilt in stone sometime in the early 13th century, possibly after being destroyed by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in 1231. In the early 14th century the castle was again sacked, this time by the enemies of the then owner, the extremely unpopular lord of Glamorgan, Hugh le Despenser, favourite of Edward II. It was the rebuilding work following this latest altercation that produced the grand gatehouse that we see today.
Nevern Castle, Pembrokeshire, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Also known as Castell Nanhyfer, the first Norman earth and timber motte and bailey fortification was erected within a much earlier Iron Age site around 1108. Built by Robert fitz Martin, lord of Cemmaes, the castle was captured and Robert expelled during the Welsh rebellion of 1136. The fitz Martin’s regained Nevern when William fitz Martin married Angharad, the daughter of the Welsh Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd. Lord Rhys appears to have had a rethink, when in 1191 he stormed the castle and turned it over to his son, Maelgwyn. After the final Welsh War in the late 13th century, the castle was abandoned and left to ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Newcastle Castle, Bridgend, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Originally built as a Norman ringwork fortification in 1106, by William de Londres, one of the legendary Twelve Knights of Glamorgan. These early timber defences were strengthened and rebuilt in stone around 1183, in response to a Welsh uprising led by the Lord of Afon, Morgan ap Caradog. Owned by the Turberville family for many years, who had little use for it as their main seat was at nearby Coity Castle, it seems to have fallen out of use after this. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Newcastle Emlyn Castle, Newcastle Emlyn, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Thought to have been founded around 1215, this is a very early example of a Welsh castle built using stone. Between 1287 and 1289, the castle changed hands three times during the Welsh revolt by Rhys ap Maredudd against English rule. After Rhys had been defeated and killed, Newcastle became crown property and its defences were extended and improved, including the addition of the impressive gatehouse. A planned new town, or borough, was also established outside the castle walls. The castle was taken by Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1403, left in ruins it was converted into a mansion around 1500. After surrendering to Parliamentarian forces during the English Civil War, the castle was blown up to make it indefensible, it quickly fell into disuse after this. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Newport (Pembrokeshire) Castle, Newport, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
The Norman castle and surrounding settlement was built around 1191, by William fitz Martin. Fitz Martin had been ejected from the family home of Nevern Castle by his father-in-law, the Lord Rhys, and founded Newport to serve as the administrative centre for the district of Cemais. Captured and destroyed on at least two separate occasions by the Welsh, first by Llywelyn the Great, and later by Llywelyn the Last, the remains of the present castle date mostly from after this destruction. The castle was partially restored and turned into a residence in 1859, now under private ownership viewing is from the surrounding area only.
Newport Castle, Newport, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
The present castle dates from the early 14th century, although the buildings belong to the later 14th and 15th centuries. Evidence of an earlier Norman fortification built by Gilbert de Clare, was destroyed in order to make way for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway in the 1840’s. The new castle was built by de Clare's brother in law, Hugh d'Audele, when Newport was made the administration centre for Wentloog. Built on the banks of the River Usk, the design allowed small boats to enter the castle through the gatehouse at high tide. In ruins by the 17th century, the castle motte and the rest of the bailey have been built over. Currently closed for health and safety reasons
Ogmore Castle, Bridgend, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
Built by William de Londres to guard a strategic crossing of the River Ewenny, the initial Norman earth and timber ringwork castle was quickly rebuilt in stone sometime after 1116. Adding to and refortifying over the intervening years, the Londres family held Ogmore until 1298, when through marriage it became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Damaged in the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion of 1405, the castle gradually fell out of use during the 16th century. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.
Old Beaupre Castle
Owned by: Cadw
Perhaps more of a medieval fortified manor house than a castle, parts of Beaupre date from around 1300. Extensively remodelled during the Tudor period, first by Sir Rice Mansel, and later by members of the Basset family. The Basset family crest can still be seen on panels within the porch. Beaupre fell out of use early in the 18th century, when the then owners, the Jones family moved to New Beaupre. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Oxwich Castle, Oxwich, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
More of a grand Tudor manor house than a castle, Oxwich was built by Sir Rice Mansel in the early 1500’s to provide elegant family accommodation. One of the more influential families in Glamorgan, Sir Edward Mansel added considerably to his father’s work by creating an even grander range containing an impressive hall and elegant long gallery. When the family moved out in the 1630’s the mansion fell into disrepair. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Oystermouth Castle, The Mumbles, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cityof Swansea council
Founded by the Norman noble William de Londres around 1106, the first castle on the site was a simple earth and timber ringwork fortification. William had built several similar castles around the Gower in an attempt to secure control of the region for Henry Beaumont, Earl of Warwick. Unsubdued, the castle was sacked by the Welsh in 1116 and William was forced to flee. Rebuilt again in stone soon afterwards, the castle changed hands several times between 1137 and 1287, and by 1331 the Lords of Gower were living elsewhere. The castle gradually declined in importance and after the Middle Ages fell into ruin. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Pembroke Castle, Pembroke, Dyfed
Owned by: Philipps family
Set on a rocky promontory guarding the Cleddau Estuary, the first Norman castle on the site was an earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification. Built by Roger of Montgomery during the Norman invasion of Wales in 1093, the castle withstood several Welsh attacks and sieges in the decades that followed. In 1189, Pembroke was acquired by the most famous knight of the times, William Marshal. The Earl Marshal immediately set about rebuilding the earth and timber fort into the grand medieval stone fortress that we see today. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Penmark Castle, Penmark, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
High above a deep ravine of the River Waycock, Gilbert de Umfraville constructed the first earth and timber motte and bailey fortification on the site in the 12th century. Later rebuilt in stone, the castle passed to Oliver de St John when he married the young heiress Elizabeth Umfraville, in the early 14th century. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Pennard Castle, Parkmill, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Originally built as a Norman ringwork type fortification with timber palisades on top of an earth mound, the castle was founded by Henry de Beaumont, earl of Warwick, after he was granted the Lordship of Gower in 1107. Subsequently rebuilt in local stone during the late 13thcentury, including a curtain wall surrounding a central courtyard with square tower. Commanding views over Three Cliffs Bay, the blowing sands from below led to the abandonment of the castle around 1400. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Penrice Castle, Penrice, Glamorgan
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built by the de Penrice family who were gifted the land on which the castle stands for their part in the in the 13th century Norman Conquest of Gower. When the last de Penrice heiress married in 1410, the castle and its lands passed to the Mansel family. The castle’s stone curtain wall and central keep were damaged in the English Civil War of the 17th century, and landscaped into the gardens of the nearby mansion house during the 18th century. Located on private land, can be viewed from adjacent footpath.
Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire, Dyfed
Owned by: Picton Castle Trust
The original Norman motte castle was rebuilt in stone by Sir John Wogan during the 13th century. Attacked and then occupied by French troops supporting the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion of 1405, the castle was seized again during the English Civil War in 1645 by Parliamentary forces. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Powis Castle, Welshpool, Powys
Owned by: National Trust
Originally the fortress of a dynasty of Welsh princes, it is thought that the first wooden structure was rebuilt in stone by Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, sometime after he had besieged and destroyed the castle in 1274. Remodelled and embellished over the centuries, the medieval fortress was gradually transformed into the grand country mansion it is today. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Prestatyn Castle, Prestatyn, , Clwyd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built around 1157 by Robert de Banastre, this early Norman earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification was strengthened at some point with the addition of a stone wall surrounding the bailey. Destroyed by Owain Gwynedd in 1167, the castle does not appear to have been rebuilt. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Raglan Castle, Raglan, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
Started in the 1430’s, already some 150 years late for castle building, Raglan appears to have been built for show rather than defence. Successive generations of the Herbert and Somerset families competed to create a luxurious fortified castle, complete with grand keep and towers, all surrounded by landscaped parkland, gardens and terraces. Besieged by Oliver Cromwell’s forces for thirteen weeks during the latter stages of the English Civil War, the castle eventually surrendered and was slighted, or damaged, to prevent its reuse. After the restoration of Charles II, the Somerset’s decided not to restore the castle. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Rhuddlan Castle, Rhuddlan, Clwyd
Owned by: Cadw
Built by the English King Edward I in 1277 following the First Welsh War, under the supervision of the king’s favourite architect master mason James of St George, Rhuddlan was not completed until 1282. To ensure that the castle could always be reached in times of trouble, Edward had the River Clwyd diverted and dredged for over 2 miles to provide a deep-water channel for shipping. Just two years later, following the defeat of Llewellyn the Last, the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed at the castle which formalised English rule over Wales. Attacked during the Welsh rising of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1294, and again by the forces of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1400, the castle held out on both occasions. During the English Civil War, Rhuddlan was captured by Parliamentary forces following a siege in 1646 parts of the castle were blown up to prevent its reuse. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Skenfrith Castle, Skenfrith, Gwent
Owned by: National Trust
Set on the banks of the River Monnow, the first timber and earth defences were built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Built to provide border defences against Welsh attack, the early castle was replaced by a more substantial stone fortress in the early 13th century. Although Skenfrith briefly saw action during the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1404, by 1538 the castle had been abandoned and gradually fell into ruin. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
St Clears Castle, St Clears, Dyfed
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Set between the banks of Tâf and Cynin rivers, this Norman earth and timber motte and bailey castle was erected in the 12th century. Just below the castle, a small port on the River Tâf kept St Clears Castle and borough, or new town, supplied with the essentials of medieval life. The castle resisted capture during the Owain Glyn Dŵr rebellion of 1404. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
St Donat's Castle, Llantwit Major, Glamorgan
Owned by: UWC Atlantic College
Dating mainly from the 13th century, with substantial additions from the 15th and 16th centuries, St Donat's Castle has remained in almost continuous occupation since it was built. Over the centuries successive generations of the Stradling family gradually transformed the building from a military fortress into a comfortable country house. The castle is now home to UWC Atlantic College, an international Sixth Form College, and within the castle grounds lies St Donat's Arts Centre. Visitor access is usually limited to summer weekends.
Swansea Castle, Swansea, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
The first Norman earth and timber fortification was built around 1106, on land granted to Henry de Beaumont, Lord of Gower, by the English King Henry I. Almost as soon as it was built, the castle was attacked by the Welsh. After several unsuccessful attempts the castle finally fell to Welsh forces in 1217. Restored to Henry III of England in 1220, the castle was rebuilt in stone between 1221 and 1284. The castle ceased to have a major military role after Edward I's pacification of Wales and the castle buildings were sold off, pulled down or put to alternative use. Free and open access for external viewing during restricted dates and times.
Tenby Castle, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built by the Normans during their invasion of West Wales in the 12th century, the castle included a stone tower surrounded by a curtain wall. Captured and destroyed by Maredudd ap Gruffydd and Rhys ap Gruffydd in 1153, the castle was besieged again by the Welsh in 1187. In the late 13th century, the castle and the town came into the possession of the French knight William de Valence, who ordered the construction of the town’s defensive stone walls. Along with many other castles in the area, Tenby ceased to have a major military role following King Edward I's pacification of Wales and is thought to have been largely abandoned as a defensive fortification. In 1648 during the English Civil War, Royalists forces held Tenby Castle for 10 weeks until they were starved into surrendering by the besieging Parliamentarians. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Tomen y Bala, Bala, Gwynedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, the summit of the earthen motte, or mound, would originally have been topped by a timber palisade. Possibly an administrative centre for the region, it was sacked in 1202, when Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince Llywelyn the Great, drove out Elis ap Madog, Lord of Penllyn. The castle must have still have been in use in 1310, when Bala was founded as an English borough, or planned settlement, beside it. Climb the motte to view the typical grid plan of the medieval streets which still dictates the layout of the current town centre. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Tomen-y-Mur, Trawsfynydd, Gywnedd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Built within the walls of a 1st century Roman fort, the Normans reoccupied and refortified the site by erecting a substantial earthen motte, or mound. It is possible that the motte topped by its timber palisade was constructed by William Rufus in 1095, to counter the Welsh insurgency. The name Tomen y Mur simply translates to Mound in the walls. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Tomen-y-Rhodwydd, Ruthin, Clwyd
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Erected around 1149 by the Welsh Prince Owain Gwynedd, this earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification was built to protect the borders of his princedom. The wooden castle stood until 1157, when it was burnt down by Iorwerth Goch ap Maredudd of Powys. The castle was refortified again in 1211, and used by the English King John when he invaded Gwynedd in his campaign against Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Llywelyn the Great. Located on private land, but can be viewed from adjacent main road.
Tretower Castle and Court, Tretower, Powys
Owned by: Cadw
The first Norman earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification on the site was erected in the early 12th century. A stone cylindrical shell keep replaced the wooden fort atop the motte around 1150, and further stone defences were added in the 13th century. In the early 14th century new residential buildings were built some distance away from the original fortifications, forming Tretower Court. The lords of Tretower apparently favoured the more luxurious surroundings of the court and the castle gradually fell into ruin. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Twthill Castle, Rhuddlan, Clwyd
Owned by: Cadw
On a spur of land overlooking the River Clwyd, this early earth and timber motte and bailey type fortification was built by Robert of Rhuddlan in 1073, to consolidate Norman advances into northern Wales. It is claimed that the site was originally occupied by the royal palace of Gruffud ap Llewelyn. Twthill changed hands several times throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, but fell into disuse in the 1280’s, when Edward I’s new Rhuddlan Castle was built a short distance away down-river. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Usk Castle, Usk, Gwent
Owned by: Scheduled Ancient Monument
Standing on a hill guarding a crossing of the River Usk, the first Norman castle was built by the de Clare family around 1138. The castle’s defences were greatly strengthened and improved by the most famous medieval knight of his day, Sir William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, who had married Isabella, a de Clare heiress. The castle passed through numerous hands during the 14th century, including the notorious Despenser family. Following the death of Edward II in 1327, Usk was regained by Elizabeth de Burgh, who lavished money into rebuilding and remodelling the castle. Besieged during the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1405, the defenders, led by Richard Grey of Codnor, routed the attackers killing some 1,500 Welshmen. According to one source, 300 prisoners were later beheaded outside the castle walls. Free and open access at any reasonable time.
Weobley Castle, Llanrhidian, Glamorgan
Owned by: Cadw
Perhaps more a fortified manor house than a castle, Weobley was built by the 'elegant and refined' de la Bere family in the early 14th century. Badly damaged during the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1405, Sir Rhys ap Thomas lavished funds to transform Woebley into the luxurious residence that would reflect his new social status as Governor of Wales. Rhys had recently been knighted on the Bosworth battlefield after slaying Richard III, in August 1485. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
White Castle, Llantilio Crossenny, Gwent
Owned by: Cadw
The castle derived its name from the whitewash that once adorned the stone walls originally called Llantilio Castle it is now the best preserved of The Three Castles, namely, White, Skenfrith and Grosmont. The term The Three Castles refers to the fact that for a large part of their history they guarded a single block of territory under the control of Lord Hubert de Burgh. The Monnow Valley was an important route between Hereford and south Wales in medieval times. Unlike its neighbours, White Castle was not built with residential accommodation in mind, suggesting that it served only as defensive fortress. Along with many other castles in the area, White Castle ceased to have a major military role following King Edward I's pacification of Wales and is thought to have been largely abandoned after the 14th century. Restricted opening times and entrance charges apply.
Wiston Castle, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
Cadw
Built around 1100, this typical Norman motte and bailey fortification was actually built by a Flemish knight called Wizo, from whom the castle takes its name. Captured twice by the Welsh during the 12th century, it was quickly recaptured on both occasions. Demolished by Llywelyn the Great in 1220, Wiston was later restored by William Marshal but was finally abandoned when Picton Castle was built at the end of the 13th century. Free and open access during restricted dates and times.

OPENING TIMES

Cardiff Castle is one of Wales’ leading heritage attractions and a site of international significance.

Located within beautiful parklands at the heart of the capital. At once a Roman fort, Norman stronghold and Victorian Gothic masterpiece, Cardiff Castle’s walls and fairy-tale towers conceal 2,000 years of history.

The Castle you see today, in the heart of the capital city, is at once a Roman fort, an impressive Norman castle and an extraordinary Victorian Gothic fantasy palace, created for one of the world’s richest men.

In the nineteenth century, art- architect William Burges created a medieval dream-world for the 3rd Marquess of Bute the results are simply breath-taking with opulent interiors rich with gilding, elaborate wood carving, murals and stained glass. For the ultimate Victorian medieval dream world, see the spectacular fairy-tale apartments, rich with murals, gilding and elaborate wood carvings, stained glass and marble.

With the exposed Roman Wall to view, the medieval Keep to climb and the atmospheric Wartime Shelters to explore, make sure you allow plenty of time for your visit.

MORE INFORMATION

Adults: £13.50
Children (5-16): £9.50
Concessions: £11.50
Under 5s: FREE

For a small additional fee you can follow in the footsteps of the Bute family, accompanying one of our expert guides on a fascinating and informative tour of the spectacular Victorian living quarters. The tour lasts for approx. 50 minutes and is essential if you’re looking to delve a little deeper in to the history of this amazing building.

If you live or work in Cardiff you can apply for a Castle Key which gives you FREE admission to this world-class heritage attraction for 3 years.

There is an administration charge of £6.50 per Castle Key card issued.

There is no charge for children (under 16)

Situated in the light and spacious castle Visitor Centre, the Keep Terrace Bistro offers a selection of hot meals, sandwiches, daily chef’s specials and sweet treats, plus a range of coffees and blends of tea.

The Castle Gift Shop features an eclectic selection of beautiful gifts and keepsakes, inspired by the Castle collections.

A concessionary ticket is available for disabled visitors a single carer may enter free of charge with each disabled visitor. Note that the Castle Apartments contain many steps and spiral staircases and for this reason House Tours are not suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs.


The Characteristics of Shell Keep Castles

The simple idea behind the Shell Keep was to re-wrap an existing castle within a jacket of stone. Rather than go to the vast expense of rebuilding the innards of the castle, Shell Keeps replaced the wooden outer wall which had previously encircled the castle.

The shell of Clifford’s Tower, in York, is the only remnant of the old York Castle. Credit: Duncan Harris, CC-BY-2.0.

This meant that the Shell simply contained the existing wooden buildings, and acted only a shield against attackers. It was an refinement of an existing castle design – and not a new form of castle construction.

Shell Keeps tended to be oval, circular or polygonal in shape and completely encircled the wooden towers and buildings of the castle. Some included simple gateways or towers, although these weren’t the norm.

Originally, these Shell Keeps had little communication with the contents of the castle – the new walls bore little structural relationship to the wooden components within.

However, over time, castle-inhabitants began to build new wooden buildings which backed onto the stone Shell walls.


Shell Keep

The style of The ''Shell Keep'' was a first move in replacing the (then) traditional building practice of using wooden construction methods to make a longer lasting and stronger structure was created. The first design pattern used was a Sea Shell shape (rounded front with a squared back). Some Rounded Keeps are also known as Shell Keeps. This was a more visual identifier due to the upper ridges of the Keep Top sweeping downward. With visually appealing, the true use of this pattern was to allow siege missile to strike at an angle (defusing initial force of impact) &ndash and then fall downward.

Lighter at the top or upper level of The Keep (stone weight), Shell Keeps were gradually made ''heavier'' as they went towards their bottom or foundations. These massive stones were placed to avoid counter-mining measures (a popular Medieval siege tactic). An Anglo-Saxon building practice (11th Century AD), perhaps one the best cited examples of a existing Shell Keep is that of Windsor Castle in England.

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The Norman Keep at Cardiff Castle in Wales, UK - August 2017

The twelve-sided Keep at Cardiff is the finest in Wales and is known as a ‘shell’ keep. Its outer walls provided a shell for smaller buildings within it. From the top of the Keep the panoramic views of the city are breath-taking and to the north you can see as far as Castell Coch. There are approximately 50 steep stone steps leading to the Keep entrance and further steps to reach the viewing platform, but it’s worth the effort!

Cardiff Castle (Welsh: Castell Caerdydd) is a medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion located in the city centre of Cardiff, Wales. The original motte and bailey castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders on top of a 3rd-century Roman fort. The castle was commissioned either by William the Conqueror or by Robert Fitzhamon, and formed the heart of the medieval town of Cardiff and the Marcher Lord territory of Glamorgan. In the 12th century the castle began to be rebuilt in stone, probably by Robert of Gloucester, with a shell keep and substantial defensive walls being erected. Further work was conducted by Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester, in the second half of the 13th century. Cardiff Castle was repeatedly involved in the conflicts between the Anglo-Normans and the Welsh, being attacked several times in the 12th century, and stormed in 1404 during the revolt of Owain Glyndŵr.

After being held by the de Clare and Despenser families for several centuries the castle was acquired by Richard de Beauchamp in 1423. Richard conducted extensive work on the castle, founding the main range on the west side of the castle, dominated by a tall octagonal tower. Following the Wars of the Roses, the status of the castle as a Marcher territory was revoked and its military significance began to decline. The Herbert family took over the property in 1550, remodelling parts of the main range and carrying out construction work in the outer bailey, then occupied by Cardiff's Shire Hall and other buildings. During the English Civil War Cardiff Castle was initially taken by a Parliamentary force, but was regained by Royalist supporters in 1645. When fighting broke out again in 1648, a Royalist army attacked Cardiff in a bid to regain the castle, leading to the Battle of St Fagans just outside the city. Cardiff Castle escaped potential destruction by Parliament after the war and was instead garrisoned, probably to protect against a possible Scottish invasion.

In the mid-18th century, Cardiff Castle passed into the hands of the Marquesses of Bute. John Stuart, the first Marquess, employed Capability Brown and Henry Holland to renovate the main range, turning it into a Georgian mansion, and to landscape the castle grounds, demolishing many of the older medieval buildings and walls. During the first half of the 19th century the family became extremely wealthy as a result of the growth of the coal industry in Glamorgan. The third Marquess, John Crichton-Stuart, used this wealth to back an extensive programme of renovations under William Burges. Burges remodelled the castle in a Gothic revival style, lavishing money and attention on the main range. The resulting interior designs are considered to be amongst "the most magnificent that the gothic revival ever achieved".[2] The grounds were re-landscaped and, following the discovery of the old Roman remains, reconstructed walls and a gatehouse in a Roman style were incorporated into the castle design. Extensive landscaped parks were built around the outside of the castle.

In the early 20th century the fourth Marquess inherited the castle and construction work continued into the 1920s. The Bute lands and commercial interests around Cardiff were sold off or nationalised until, by the time of the Second World War, little was left except the castle. During the war, extensive air raid shelters were built in the castle walls they could hold up to 1,800 people. When the Marquess died in 1947, the castle was given to the city of Cardiff. Today the castle is run as a tourist attraction, with the grounds housing the "Firing Line" regimental museum and interpretation centre. The castle has also served as a venue for events, including musical performances and festivals.

The future site of Cardiff Castle was first used by the Romans as a defensive location for many years.[3] The first fort was probably built about AD 55 and occupied until AD 80.[4] It was a rectangular structure much larger than the current site, and formed part of the southern Roman border in Wales during the conquest of the Silures.[5] When the border advanced, defences became less important and the fort was replaced with a sequence of two, much smaller, fortifications on the north side of the current site.[6]

A fourth fort was built in the middle of the 3rd century in order to combat the pirate threat along the coast, and forms the basis of the Roman remains seen on the castle site.[7] The fort was almost square in design, approximately 635 feet (194 m) by 603 feet (184 m) large, constructed from limestone brought by sea from Penarth.[8] The fort's irregular shape was determined by the River Taff that flowed along the west side of the walls.[9] The sea would have come much closer to the site than is the case in the 21st century, and the fort would have directly overlooked the harbour.[8] This Roman fort was probably occupied at least until the end of the 4th century, but it is unclear when it was finally abandoned.[10] There is no evidence for the re-occupation of the site until the 11th century.[10]

Plan of the castle in the 21st century A - North Gate B - motte and shell keep C - outer bailey D - main lodgings E - inner bailey F - the Clock Tower G - the Black Tower H - South Gate and barbican tower

The Normans began to make incursions into South Wales from the late 1060s onwards, pushing westwards from their bases in recently occupied England.[11] Their advance was marked by the construction of castles, frequently on old Roman sites, and the creation of regional lordships.[12] The reuse of Roman sites produced considerable savings in the manpower required to construct large earth fortifications.[13]

Cardiff Castle was built during this period. There are two possible dates for the construction: William the Conqueror may have built a castle at Cardiff as early as 1081 on his return from his pilgrimage to St Davids.[14] Alternatively, the first Norman fortification may have been constructed around 1091 by Robert Fitzhamon, the lord of Gloucester.[15] Fitzhamon invaded the region in 1090, and used the castle as a base for the occupation of the rest of southern Glamorgan over the next few years.[16] The site was close to the sea and could be easily supplied by ship, was well protected by the Rivers Taff and Rhymney and also controlled the old Roman road running along the coast.[17]

Cardiff Castle was a motte-and-bailey design. The old Roman walls had collapsed and the Normans used their remains as the basis for the outer castle perimeter, digging a defensive trench and throwing up a 27-foot (8.2 m) high bank of earth over the Roman fortifications.[18] The Normans further divided the castle with an internal wall to form an inner and an outer bailey. In the north-west corner of the castle a wooden keep was constructed on top of a 40-foot (12 m) tall earth motte, surrounded by a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide moat.[19] The motte was the largest built in Wales.[20] The overall area of the castle was around 8.25 acres (3.34 ha) the inner bailey was around 2 acres (0.81 ha) in area.[21] Mills were essential to local communities during this period, and the castle mill was located outside the west side of the castle, fed by the River Taff under local feudal law, the residents of Cardiff were required to use this mill to grind their own grain.[22]

The conquered lands in Glamorgan were given out in packages called knights' fees, and many of these knights held their lands on condition that they provided forces to protect Cardiff Castle.[23] Under this approach, called a castle-guard system, some knights were required to maintain buildings called "houses" within the castle itself, in the outer bailey.[24] Anglo-Saxon peasants settled the region around Cardiff, bringing with them English customs, although Welsh lords continued to rule the more remote districts almost independently until the 14th century.[25] Cardiff Castle was a Marcher Lord territory, enjoying special privileges and independence from the English Crown. The medieval town of Cardiff spread out from the south side of the castle.[26]

Part of the reconstructed Roman wall (l), the foundations of the internal bailey wall, and the reconstructed Roman north gatehouse (r)

FitzHamon was fatally injured at the Battle of Tinchebray in 1106 and died shortly afterwards.[27] Henry I then gave the castle in 1122 to Robert of Gloucester, the king's illegitimate son and the husband of FitzHamon's daughter, Mabe.[28] After the failed attempt of Robert Curthose, duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror's eldest son, to take England from Henry I, Robert of Normandy was imprisoned in the castle until his death in 1134.[29] Robert held the castle during the troubled years of the Anarchy in England and Wales, and passed it on to his son, William Fitz Robert.[30] Around the middle of the century, possibly under Robert of Gloucester, a 77-foot (23 m) wide, 30-foot (9 m) high shell keep was constructed on top of the motte, along with a stone wall around the south and west sides of the inner bailey.[31] The polygonal shell keep has architectural links to a similar design at Arundel Castle.[32] The building work was probably undertaken in response to the threat posed following the Welsh uprising of 1136.[20]

Tensions with the Welsh continued, and in 1158 Ifor Bach raided the castle and took William hostage for a period.[30] A further attack followed in 1183.[30] By 1184 town walls had been built around Cardiff, and the West Gate to the town was constructed in the gap between the castle and the river.[33] William died in 1183, leaving three daughters. One of these, Isabel, Countess of Gloucester, was declared the sole heir to the estate by Henry II. This was contrary to legal custom in England, and was done in order that Henry could then marry her to his youngest son Prince John and thus provide him with extensive lands.[34] John later divorced Isabel, but he retained control of the castle until she married Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1214.[35]

Upon Isabel's death in 1217 the castle passed through her sister to Gilbert de Clare, becoming part of the Honour of Clare, a major grouping of estates and fortifications in medieval England.[36] The castle formed the centre of the family's power in South Wales, although the de Clares typically preferred to reside in their castles at Clare and Tonbridge.[37] Gilbert's son, Richard de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester, carried out building work at the castle in the late 13th century, constructing the Black Tower that forms part of the southern gateway seen today.[38] On the ground floor the tower contained the Stavell Oged and Stavell Wenn chambers, with three rooms constructed above them.[38] Richard was also probably responsible for rebuilding the northern and eastern walls of the inner bailey in stone.[39] The inner bailey was reached through a gatehouse on the eastern side, protected by two circular towers and later called the Exchequer Gate.[40] The defensive work may have been prompted by the threat posed by the hostile Welsh leader Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales.[41]

Richard's grandson, Gilbert de Clare, the last male de Clare, died at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and the castle was given to Hugh Despenser the Younger, the controversial favourite of Edward II.[30] Poor harvests and harsh governance by the Despenser family encouraged a Welsh rebellion under Llywelyn Bren in 1316 this was crushed and Llywelyn was hanged, drawn and quartered in Cardiff Castle in 1318 on Hugh's orders.[42] The execution attracted much criticism from across both the English and Welsh communities, and in 1321 Hugh arrested Sir William Fleminge as a scapegoat for the incident, first detaining him in the Black Tower and then executing him in the castle grounds.[43] Conflict between the Despensers and the other Marcher Lords broke out soon after, leading to the castle being sacked in 1321 during the Despenser War.[30] The Despensers recovered the castle and retained it for the rest of the century, despite the execution of Hugh Despenser for treason in 1326.[44] Under a 1340 charter granted by the Despensers, the castle's constable was made the de facto mayor of Cardiff, controlling the local courts.[45]

By the 15th century, the Despensers were increasingly using Caerphilly Castle as their main residence in the region rather than Cardiff.[46] Thomas le Despenser was executed in 1400 on charges of conspiring against Henry IV.[47] In 1401 rebellion broke out in North Wales under the leadership of Owain Glyndŵr, quickly spreading across the rest of the country. In 1404 Cardiff and the castle were taken by the rebels, causing considerable damage to the Black Tower and the southern gatehouse in the process.[48] On Thomas's death the castle passed first to his young son, Richard, and on his death in 1414, through his daughter Isabel to the Beauchamp family.[47] Isabel first married Richard de Beauchamp, the Earl of Worcester and then, on his death, to his cousin Richard de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, in 1423.[47]

Richard did not acquire Caerphilly Castle as part of the marriage settlement, so he set about redeveloping Cardiff instead.[49] He built a new tower alongside the Black Tower in 1430, restoring the gateway, and extended the motte defences.[50] He also constructed a substantial new domestic range in the south-west of the site between 1425 and 1439, with a central octagonal tower 75-foot (23 m) high, sporting defensive machicolations, and featuring four smaller polygonal turrets facing the inner bailey.[51] The range was built of Lias ashlar stone with limestone used for some of the details, set upon the spur bases characteristic of South Wales and incorporated parts of the older 4th and 13th century walls.[52] The buildings were influenced by similar work in the previous century at Windsor Castle and would in turn shape renovations at Newport and Nottingham Castles the octagonal tower has architectural links to Guy's Tower, built at around the same time in Warwick Castle.[53] A flower garden was built to the south of the range, with private access to Richard's chambers.[54] Richard also rebuilt the town's wider defences, including a new stone bridge over the River Taff guarded by the West Gate, finishing the work by 1451.[55]

Cardiff Castle remained in the hands of Richard's son, Henry and Henry's daughter, Anne until 1449.[47] When Anne died, it passed by marriage to Richard Neville, who held it until his death in 1471 during the period of civil strife known as the Wars of the Roses.[47] As the conflict progressed and political fortunes rose and fell, the castle passed from George, the Duke of Clarence, to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to Jasper Tudor, the Duke of Bedford, back to Richard Neville's wife Anne, back to Jasper and finally to Prince Henry, the future Henry VIII.[56] The ascension of the Tudor dynasty to the English throne at the end of the wars heralded a change in the way Wales was administered. The Tudors were Welsh in origin, and their rule eased hostilities between the Welsh and English. As a result, defensive castles became less important.[57] In 1495 Henry VII formally revoked the Marcher territory status of Cardiff Castle and the surrounding territories, bringing them under normal English law as the County of Glamorgan.[58]

The Crown leased the castle to Charles Somerset in 1513 Charles used it while he was living in Cardiff.[59] In 1550 William Herbert, later the Earl of Pembroke, then bought Cardiff Castle and the surrounding estates from Edward VI.[60] The outer bailey contained a range of buildings at this time, and extensive building work was carried out during the century.[61] The Shire Hall had been built in the outer bailey, forming part of a walled complex of buildings that included the lodgings for the traditional twelve holders of castle-guard lands.[62] The outer bailey also included orchards, gardens and a chapel.[63] The castle continued to be used to detain criminals during the 16th century, with the Black Tower being used as a prison to hold them the heretic Thomas Capper was burnt at the castle on the orders of Henry VIII.[64] The visiting antiquarian John Leland described the keep as "a great thing and strong, but now in some ruine", but the Black Tower was considered to be in good repair.[65] In the inner bailey, the Herberts built an Elizabethan extension to the north end of the main range, with large windows looking onto a new northern garden the southern garden was replaced by a kitchen garden.[66]

In 1610 the cartographer John Speed produced a map of the castle, and noted that it was "large and in good repair."[67] In 1642, however, civil war broke out between the rival Royalist supporters of King Charles I and Parliament. Cardiff Castle was then owned by Philip Herbert, a moderate Parliamentarian, and the castle was initially held by a pro-Royalist garrison. It was taken by Parliamentary forces in the early period of the war, according to popular tradition by a sneak attack using a secret passageway.[68] The Royalist commander William Seymour, the Marquess of Hertford, then attacked the castle in turn, taking it in a surprise assault. Parliamentary forces and local troops then immediately besieged the castle, retaking it after five hours of fighting and reinstalling a garrison.[69] In early 1645 Mr Carne, the High Sheriff, rebelled against Parliament, taking Cardiff town but initially failing to seize the castle.[69] The King sent forces from Oxford, under the command of Sir Charles Kemys, to reinforce Carne but Parliament despatched a naval squadron to provide support to their forces from the sea.[69] A small battle ensued before the castle was taken by the Royalists.[70]

With the Royalist military position across the country worsening, King Charles himself came to Cardiff Castle that July to meet with local Welsh leaders.[71] Relations between his commander in the region, Sir Charles Gerard, and the people of Glamorgan had deteriorated badly and when Charles left the castle, he was confronted by a small army of angry locals, demanding to be given control of the castle.[71] These clubmen then declared themselves the "Peaceable Army" and increased their demands to include near independence for the region.[72] After negotiations, a compromise was found in which the royal garrison would quit the castle, to be replaced by a local Glamorgan force, commanded by Sir Richard Beaupré in return, £800 and a force of a thousand men were promised to Charles.[71] In September, Charles returned to South Wales and reneged on the agreement, disbanding the Peaceable Army, but his military position in the region was collapsing.[73] The Peaceable Army's leaders switched sides and forced the surrender of Cardiff and the castle to Parliament in mid-September.[73]

With the outbreak of fresh fighting in 1648, a Royalist army of 8,000 fresh recruits was mustered under the command of General Rowland Laugharne and Sir Edward Stradling, with the intent of retaking Cardiff.[74] Parliamentary forces in Brecon under the command of Colonel Thomas Horton moved quickly to reinforce the castle, although with only 3,000 men they were content to wait until a larger army under Oliver Cromwell could arrive from Gloucester.[74] With time against them, the Royalist army attacked, leading to the battle of St Fagans just to the west of Cardiff, and a heavy Royalist defeat.[75]

After the war, Cardiff Castle escaped the slighting, or deliberate damage and destruction, that affected many other castles.[76] Probably because of the threat of a pro-Royalist invasion by the Presbyterian Scots, a Parliamentary garrison was installed instead and the castle remained intact.[76] The Herberts continued to own the castle as the Earls of Pembroke, both during the interregnum and after the restoration of Charles II.[77] The castle's constable continued to act as mayor of the town of Cardiff, controlling the meetings of the town's burgesses, bailffs and aldermen the Herberts usually appointed members of the more important local gentry to this position during the period.[78]

Lady Charlotte Herbert was the last of the family to control Cardiff Castle.[77] She married twice, latterly to Thomas, Viscount Windsor and on her death in 1733 the castle passed to their son, Herbert.[77] Herbert's daughter, Charlotte Jane Windsor, married John Stuart, who rose to become the Marquess of Bute, beginning a family line that would control the castle for the next century.[77]

In 1776 the Marquess began to renovate the property with the intention of turning it into a residence for his son, John.[79] The grounds were radically altered under a programme of work that involved Capability Brown and his son-in-law, Henry Holland.[80] The stone wall that separated the inner and outer baileys was destroyed using gunpowder, the Shire Hall and the knights' houses in the outer bailey were destroyed and the remaining ground partially flattened the whole of the area was laid with turf.[81] Considerable work was carried out on the main lodgings, demolishing the Herbert additions, building two new wings and removing many of the older features to produce a more contemporary, 18th century appearance.[82] The keep and motte was stripped of the ivy and trees that had grown up them, and a spiral path was laid down around the motte.[83] The motte's moat was filled in as part of the landscaping.[84] A summer house was built in the south-east corner of the castle.[83] Further work was planned on the property, including a reported proposal to roof the keep in copper, insert new windows and turn it into an assembly room for dances, but these projects were cut short by the Marquess's son's death in 1794.[82]

In 1814 Lord Bute's grandson, John, inherited his title and the castle. In 1825 the new Marquess began a sequence of investments in the Cardiff Docks, an expensive programme of work that would enable Cardiff to become a major coal exporting port.[85] Although the Docks were not particularly profitable, they transformed the value of the Butes' mining and land interests, making the family immensely wealthy.[86] By 1900, the family estate owned 22,000 acres (8,900 ha) of land in Glamorgan.[87]

The second Marquess preferred to live on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and only used Cardiff Castle occasionally.[88] The castle saw little investment and only four full-time servants were maintained on the premises, meaning that cooked food had to be brought across from the kitchens at a nearby hotel.[89] The castle remained at the centre of the Butes' political power base in Cardiff, however, with their faction sometimes termed as "the Castle party".[90] During the violent protests of the Merthyr Rising of 1831, the Marquess-based himself at Cardiff Castle, from where he directed operations and kept Whitehall informed of the unfolding events.[91] The governance of the city of Cardiff was finally reformed by an act of Parliament in the 1835, introducing a town council and a mayor, severing the link with the castle constable.[92]

The third Marquess of Bute, again called John, inherited the title and castle in 1848.[93] He was then less than a year old, and as he grew up he came to despise the existing castle, believing that it represented a mediocre, half-hearted example of the Gothic style.[94] Bute engaged the architect William Burges, to undertake the remodelling of the castle. The two shared a passion in medieval Gothic Revivalism and this, combined with Bute's huge financial resources, enabled Burges to rebuild the property on a grand scale. Burges brought with him almost of all of the team that had supported him on earlier projects, including John Starling Chapple, William Frame and Horatio Lonsdale.[95] Burges's contribution, in particular his research into the history of the castle and his architectural imagination, was critical to the transformation.[96]

Work began on Bute's coming of age in 1868 with the construction of the 150-foot (46 m) high Clock Tower.[97] The tower, built in Burges's signature Forest of Dean ashlar stone, formed a suite of bachelor's rooms, comprising a bedroom, a servant's room and the Summer and Winter smoking rooms.[97] Externally, the tower was a re-working of a design Burges had previously used in an unsuccessful competition entry for the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Internally, the rooms were sumptuously decorated with gildings, carvings and cartoons, many allegorical in style, depicting the seasons, myths and fables.[98] In his A History Of The Gothic Revival, written as the tower was being built, Charles Locke Eastlake wrote of Burges's "peculiar talents (and) luxuriant fancy."[99] The Summer Smoking Room rested at the top of the structure and was two storeys high with an internal balcony that, through an unbroken band of windows, gave views of the Cardiff Docks, the Bristol Channel, and the Glamorgan countryside. The floor had a map of the world in mosaic. The sculpture was created by Thomas Nicholls.[100]

As the rest of the castle was developed, work progressed along the rest of the 18th century range including the construction of the Guest Tower, the Arab Room, the Chaucer Room, the Nursery, the Library, the Banqueting Hall and bedrooms for both Lord and Lady Bute.[95] In plan, the new castle followed the arrangement of a standard Victorian country house quite closely. The Bute Tower included Lord Bute's bedroom and ended in another highlight, the Roof Garden, featuring a sculpture of the Madonna and child by Ceccardo Fucigna. Bute's bedroom contained extensive religious iconography and an en-suite bathroom. The Octagon Tower followed, including an oratory, built on the spot where Bute's father died, and the Chaucer Room, the roof of which is considered by historian Mark Girouard to be a "superb example of Burges's genius".[101]

The central part of the castle comprised a two-storey banqueting hall, with the library below. Both are enormous, the latter to hold part of the bibliophile Marquess's vast library. Both included elaborate carvings and fireplaces, those in the banqueting hall depicting the castle itself in the time of Robert, Duke of Normandy.[102] The decoration here is less impressive than elsewhere in the castle, as much of it was completed after Burges's death by Lonsdale, a less talented painter.[101] The Arab Room in the Herbert Tower remains however one of Burges's masterpieces. Its jelly mould ceiling in a Moorish style is particularly notable. It was this room on which Burges was working when he died and Bute placed Burges's initials, and his own, and the date 1881 in the fireplace as a memorial.[103] The central portion of the castle also included the Grand Staircase, recorded in a watercolour perspective prepared by Axel Haig.[104]

Burges's interiors at Cardiff Castle have been widely praised. The historian Megan Aldrich considers them amongst "the most magnificent that the gothic revival ever achieved", J. Mordaunt Crook has described them as "three dimensional passports to fairy kingdoms and realms of gold", and John Newman praises them as "most successful of all the fantasy castles of the nineteenth century."[105] The exterior of the castle, however, has received a more mixed reception from critics. Crook admires the variegated and romantic silhouette of the building, but architect John Grant considered them to present a "picturesque if not happy combination" of varying historical styles, and Adrian Pettifer criticises them as "incongruous" and excessively Gothic in style.[106]

Work was also carried out on the castle grounds, the interior being flattened further, destroying much of the medieval and Roman archaeological remains.[107] In 1889, Lord Bute's building works uncovered the remains of the old Roman fort for the first time since the 11th century, leading to archaeological investigations being carried out in 1890.[9] New walls in a Roman style were built by William Frame on the foundations of the originals, complete with a reconstructed Roman North Gate, and the outer medieval bank was stripped away around the new walls.[108]

The grounds were extensively planted with trees and shrubs, including over the motte.[83] From the late 18th century until the 1850s the castle grounds were completely open to the public, but restrictions were imposed in 1858 and as a replacement the 434 acres of land to the west and north of the castle was turned into Bute Park.[109] From 1868, the castle grounds were closed to the public altogether.[108] Stables were built just to the north of the castle, but only half were completed during the 19th century.[110] The Animal Wall was built along the south side of the castle, decorated with statues of animals, and the Swiss Bridge – a combination of summerhouse and river-crossing – was erected over the river by the West Gate.[111] Cathays Park was built on the east side of the castle, but was sold to the city of Cardiff in 1898.[112]

John, the fourth Marquess, acquired the castle in 1900 on the death of his father, and the family estates and investments around the castle began to rapidly reduce in size.[113] Cardiff had grown hugely in the previous century, its population increasing from 1,870 in 1800 to around 250,000 in 1900, but the coal trade began to diminish after 1918 and industry suffered during the depression of the 1920s.[114] John only inherited a part of the Butes' Glamorgan estates, and in the first decades of the 20th century he sold off much of the remaining assets around Cardiff, including the coal mines, docks and railway companies, with the bulk of the land interests being finally sold off or nationalised in 1938.[113]

Development work on the castle continued. There was extensive restoration of the medieval masonry in 1921, with architect John Grant rebuilding the South Gate and the barbican tower, and reconstructing the medieval West Gate and town wall alongside the castle, with the Swiss Bridge being moved in 1927 to make room for the new West Gate development.[115] Further archaeological investigations were carried out into the Roman walls in 1922 and 1923, leading to Grant redesigning the northern Roman gatehouse.[116] The second half of the castle stables were finally completed.[83] The Animal Wall was moved in the 1920s to the west side of the castle to enclose a pre-Raphaelite themed garden.[112] The grand staircase in the main range was torn out in the 1930s.[117] During World War II, extensive air-raid shelters were tunnelled out within the medieval walls, with eight different sections, able to hold up to 1,800 people in total, and the castle was also used to tether barrage balloons above the city.[118]

In 1947, the John, the fifth Marquess, inherited the castle on the death of his father and faced considerable death duties.[119] He sold the very last of the Bute lands in Cardiff and gave the castle and the surrounding park to the city on behalf of the people of Cardiff the family flag was taken down from the castle as part of the official hand-over ceremony.[120] The castle was protected as a grade I listed building and as a scheduled monument.[121]

Cardiff Castle is now run as a tourist attraction, and is one of the most popular sites in the city.[122] The castle is not fully furnished, as the furniture and fittings in the castle were removed by the Marquess in 1947 and subsequently disposed of an extensive restoration has been carried out, however, of the fittings originally designed for the Clock Tower by Burges.[123] The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, founded in 1949, was housed in the castle's main range for many years, but moved into the castle's former stables north of the castle in 1998.[124] A new interpretation centre, which opened in 2008, was built alongside the South Gate at a cost of £6.5 million, and the castle also contains "Firing Line", the joint regimental museum of the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards and the Royal Welsh.[125]

The castle has been used for a range of cultural and social events. The castle has seen various musical performances, including by Tom Jones, Green Day and the Stereophonics, with a capacity to accommodate over 10,000 people. During the 1960s and 1970s the castle was the setting for a sequence of military tattoos.


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