Narberth – castle


   The exact date of the creation of the Narberth Castle and the name of its founder are unknown. Sometimes the beginning of the 11th century and Stephen Perrot, allegedly a Norman knight from Brittany, are given, but this is not information confirmed in documents. In the cherter of king Henry I, dated around 1130, it is allowed to harvest timber from “our Narberth forest”, which suggests that it was then the property of the Crown. This increases the probability that the castle was erected by Earl of Shrewsbury, and that it then passed into the hands of the king, who took over his land in 1100. After all the castle was erected as one of the many strongholds that were supposed to protect the Norman lands in Pembrokeshire and was in the so-called Landsker Line, or a series of fortifications defining the twelfth century range of Anglo-Norman conquest.
In 1116, the castle was attacked and burnt by the Welsh and if it was in a different place earlier, it was during the reconstruction period, that it was moved to its current location. Just like the previous building, it was still timber – earth castle in a ringwork or a motte and baily form. Around 1140, it passed into the hands of Henri Fitz Roy, the illegitimate son of king Henry I, despite being part of the estate of Gilbert de Clare. In 1159 and 1215, Narberth was again attacked by the Welsh. In both cases it was burnt, but was quickly recaptured and rebuilt. In 1247 it became the property of Roger Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore, and ten years later destroyed by Welsh troops led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. After regaining the destroyed stronghold, Mortimer began its reconstruction, but this time for the first time a stone was used. Despite this, again in 1299, at least part of the castle was burned during the Welsh invasion. The size of the destruction is unknown, though Mortimer complained to the king that some of his men were killed.

   In 1322, Roger Mortimer supported the Earl of Lancaster rebellion against king Edward II. After the defeat of the rebellion, he lost Narberth and was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died in 1326. The castle later passed through the hands of several owners before it was restored to the Mortimer family in 1354. In 1402, however, it was again confiscated when Edmund Mortimer allied with Owain Glyndŵr during his Welsh uprising. The constable of the castle was than Thomas Carew, who in 1404 successfully defended Narberth against the Welsh rebels. It prompted Henry IV to reward him of the castle.
Narberth was restored to the Mortimers family in 1413 by Henry V. However, when Edmund Mortimer died without money in 1422, the castle returned to the Crown. Henry VI then gave it to Richard, the Duke of York, until his death at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. It remained in the possession of the Crown until Henry VIII granted it to Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the owner of the Carew Castle. At that time, the building was already in bad condition and in the seventeenth century fell into total ruin.


   A stone castle from the 13th century was erected on a plan of polygon, similar to a rectangle. It consisted of a single defensive wall reinforced in the corners with cylindrical towers, from which the north-east was much larger and probably served as a keep. In the partly preserved northern towers the existence of fireplaces and latrines was found, probably similar were also in the southern towers. The south-eastern tower had three floors, with a bakery in the ground floor and a chapel on the first floor. The eastern and western wall curtains were additionally reinforced by single semicircular towers. On the south side of the inner ward was a large L-shaped building, adjacent to the inner faces of the defensive walls and towers. On the first floor it had a large room and private apartments (solar), and in the ground floor there was a kitchen and pantry. The gate was located between the two northern towers, in the gatehouse, situated entirely within the ward and not protruding from the perimeter of the defensive walls. The fortified outer ward stretching on the north side was made of timber. It was separated from the main castle by a dry moat (ditch).

Current state

   The castle has been preserved to the present day in a poor state. The ruins of the two southern towers and relics of the southern building with preserved one vaulted room are the best visible. Also on the north side, a fragment of the keep has survived. Narberth is now owned by the Pembrokeshire County Council and is open to the public all year round.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website, Narberth castle.