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Caer Penrhos

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Map ReferenceSN56NE
Grid ReferenceSN5520569555
Unitary (Local) AuthorityCeredigion
Old CountyCardiganshire
CAER PENRHOS (CASTELL PENRHOS), Llanrhystud. Hillfort. SN 5520 6960. NPRN 300770 (4.2ha)

Recorded as a Medieval castle built by Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd in 1148. Rejected as a hillfort by Hogg and Davies (1994, 270).

Hughes (1926) described Caer Penrhos as follows: `The ground slopes away in all directions from the earthwork, which consists of a single fosse and vallum. In the south-east is a large motte in the vicinity of which a ditch has been excavated from solid rock. This looks an example of a pre-existing earthwork having been adapted at a later period to form a motte and bailey..?

The fort basically comprises two elements. The first is a massive but simple triangular fortification with a simple terminal-defined entrance at the north-east tip. The second is a substantial ringwork built across the south-eastern rampart bounded by a rock-cut ditch on the south and west sides. Hughes (1926, 26), noted that `This looks an example of a pre-existing earthwork having been adapted at a later period to form a motte and bailey type.? While the relationship between the ringwork and the main rampart is slightly ambiguous on the south side (due to later field boundaries obscuring the medieval gateway), on the north side the ringwork appears to clearly cut through the eastern rampart.

The question of whether this is an Iron Age fort, modified during the medieval period, effectively rests with a comparison of the rampart and outer ditch of the main fort, and the ringwork structure. The ditch and rampart of the fort are best visible at the north, flanking the simple entrance, and here they are similar in appearance to other Iron Age earthworks in the region. However, the earthworks of the ringwork are very different, the rock cut ditch being far deeper and with fresh rock edges, and the ringwork earthwork taller. If acceptable as an Iron Age fort in its original phase, the fort is one of the largest and most massively constructed in the region. There are parts of the rampart, particularly at the point at which it meets the ringwork on the north, where the earthwork is broader and taller than at other points on the circuit. It is entirely feasible that the Iron Age rampart was modified in places during the medieval occupation, and quite fresh walling still visible towards the top of the eastern rampart may also date from this period. Original rampart is stonework visible along the south rampart in a sheep scrape. Aerial photography in dry summers has shown parchmarks of a substantial double ditch system defending the eastern flanks of the fort, perhaps a prehistoric defensive feature.

Caer Penrhos is not sited on a bold seaward-facing hill above the coastal plain at Llanrhystud (Y Foel would have been an obvious location) but is instead set back slightly in its present position. The sea is still visible and the fort is highly visible from coastal hills to the south; however, it also commands good inland vistas eastwards along the Wyre valley towards Gaer Fawr.

Visit date: 15th March 2002.