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Pembroke Castle, Pembroke

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Map ReferenceSM90SE
Grid ReferenceSM9816801619
Unitary (Local) AuthorityPembrokeshire
Old CountyPembrokeshire
Type Of SiteCASTLE
Pembroke Castle is a vast medieval fortress occupying the point of a cliff-girt promontory between two tidal inlets reaching in from Milford Haven. The castle was established by the Normans in about 1094. Finds of Roman coins may signal an earlier settlement. The castle remained largely an earthwork structure until the beginning of the thirteenth century when the circular great tower was built. Over the next century the castle's two wards or courts were enclosed by strong walls and towers. The town walls were also built in this period (see NPRN 300446). The castle was slighted following the Civil War siege of 1648 and was restored to its present condition in the later nineteenth-earlier twentieth century.

At the heart of the castle is the great tower, largely intact save for its floors and unrestored. It rears up to 24.6m high culminating in a vaulted roof and two tier battlements. The tower was much imitated in south-west Wales, for example at Benton, Manobier, Tenby and Llawhaden. The ruins of palatial apartments stand in the small inner ward in the shadow of the great tower. Below these is the Wogan, a natural cavern fortified with the castle. The walls of the small inner ward are mostly reduced to footings, but the great outer wall with its five towers and great gatehouse, has been largely restored and rebuilt and presents a brave face to the visitor.
In the medieval period mill dams held back the waters of the inlets either side of the castle and walled town. This arrangement seems to have been copied at Manobier Castle.

Significant new parchmarks were recorded during the Royal Commission's aerial survey programme in 2013. These included footings of a large stone building within the curtain wall of the Outer Ward. A large building had been excavated here in 1930-1, but no plan survived to show its shape or precise position. The clarity of the parchmark, and a range of other markings recorded within the castle ground, justified a timely reappraisal of the buried archaeology of the site.

The main block (parchmark G, centred at SM 98184 01573) appears to represent a late-medieval hall-house similar in plan, if not in scale, to celebrated examples of the type such as Cothay Manor (Somerset). The block is aligned north-north-east by south-south-west and is c.20m long overall with an average width of c.7m; wings project from both ends to a maximum east-west dimension of c.15m in the south wing. The relative narrowness of its walls ? and, indeed, its total destruction ? suggest that it didn?t carry the stone vaults that are so characteristic of south Pembrokeshire (Owen 1892, 76?7, et al.). It may therefore have been of a style more `cosmopolitan? than strictly regional or vernacular.

Cothay, from the late fifteenth century, comprised a central hall with transverse wings at either end (Emery 2006, 459?60, et al.). The northern wing contained a solar, overlying a parlour, while the southern wing housed the kitchen, pantry and buttery. Perhaps the thicker walls suggested in the southern wing at Pembroke represent fireplaces or ovens, partly within a north-south division. An `annexe? projects some 3?6m from the east wall, and may represent a porch entering onto a screens-passage between the hall and the southern wing, again as at Cothay.

It appears that the main domestic buildings which occupied the inner ward were both maintained and inhabited during the late fifteenth century. So, as at Carmarthen Castle, the mansion may result from the presence of an additional household ? perhaps belonging to a deputy, officiating for the earl, at the courts in the castle. Or perhaps the mansion was primarily a guest lodging for the accommodation of prestigious visitors with large retinues.

A new geophysical survey and historical study was undertaken by the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and the Castle Studies Trust in May 2016 following the aerial discoveries. (Day and Ludlow 2016).


Day, A. & Ludlow, N. 2016. Pembroke Castle: Geophysical Survey 2016. Dyfed Archaeological Trust report No. 2016/27
Ludlow, N. and Driver, T. Pembroke Castle: Discoveries in the Outer Ward, Archaeology in Wales 53, 73-8.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, June 2014. Updated May 2015 & November 2016

Sources: Cobb in Archaeologia Cambrensis 4th series 14 (1883), 196-220, 264-273
Cathcart-King in Archaeologia Cambrensis 127 for 1978 (1979), 75-121
Ludlow in Fortress 8 (1991), 25-30