Tan y Castell

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameTan y Castell
Alternative NamesAberrheidol; Rhyd y Felin; Llanychaiarn; Tyn y Castell; Tan y Bwlch; Old Aberystwyth; Aberstuyth; Llanbadarn
Historic CountryCardiganshire
Modern AuthorityCeredigion
1974 AuthorityDyfed

The original castle at Aberystwyth was built in 1110 by the Earl of Clare and occupied by the Normans until 1136. The Welsh controlled it from from 1136 to 1143. The site comprises a large oval ringwork castle on the back of a ridge, with a bailey 120ft long running along the ridge and protected by a scarp up to 13ft high; the ringwork measures 90ft by 70ft. The site was excavated in 1956-7, revealing that the castle was extensively damaged circa 1143 or later and that another period of occupation commenced about 1200AD, when the ruins were levelled and the gateway strengthened. (Coflein)

This is what the forerunner of Aberystwyth Castle is usually called, owing to a single documentary reference. However, there has been a curious transposition of names, because its grassy ramparts look down from a ridge above the Afon Ystwyth, not the Rheidol which paradoxically runs through Aberystwyth. It is a ringwork-and-bailey site. The castle is one of several raised by Gilbert de Clare when he invaded Ceredigion in 1110. His dynasty would play a leading part in the invasions of Wales and Ireland. Excavations have shown that the ramparts, originally lined with timber, were later cased in stone. The history of the castle is a stormy one, reflecting the tenuous existence of this Norman enclave in a resolutely Welsh part of Wales. Owain Gwynedd destroyed the castle in 1136 after defeating the Normans at Crug Mawr. Roger de Clare re-occupied the site in 1158, only to lose it to the Lord Rhys six years later. The castle changed hands at least five times in the early 13th century, in struggles between Deheubarth, Gwynedd and the English. It was finally captured by Llywelyn the Great in 1221. He probably destroyed it, since the record is then silent until Edward I commenced the new Aberystwyth Castle a mile to the north

(Adrian Pettifer -

Gatehouse Comments

Ramparts lined in stone at some point.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSN585790
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  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 265, 273
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 75 (brief)
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 25-6
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 37
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 55
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 12
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford)
  • Davis, P.R., 1987, Castles of Dyfed (Llandysul: Gomer Press) p. 59, 61
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 47, 48, 558-9
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 323
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 84-6
  • Owen, Henry (ed), 1936, The Description of Pembrokeshire (London) Vol. 4 p. 427-8
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 281-2 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 474 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy [online copy > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47863#s14]


  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • Houlder, C.J., 1977, ‘Tanycastell ring and bailey (Old Aberystwyth)’ 124th Annual Meeting in Abeystwyth, South Montgomery and North Radnor, CAA, 1977 p. 14-15
  • Griffiths, R.A., 1977, ‘The three castles at Aberystwyth’, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 126 p. 74-87
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132 (survived into C13 without being rebuilt in stone)
  • Talbot, E.J., 1966, Appendix II in Alcock, L., 'Castle Tower, Penmaen: a Norman ringwork in Glamorgan' Antiquarian Journal Vol. 44 p. 207
  • (Houlder, C.J.), 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 261 download copy
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • (Houlder, C.J.), 1962-3, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 6-7 p. 325 download copy
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • (Houlder, C.J.), 1959, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 5 p. 309 download copy
  • (Houlder, C.J.), 1957, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 1 p. 158 download copy
  • Houlder, C.J., 1957, 'Recent Excavations in Old Aberystwyth' Ceredigion Vol. 3.2 p. 114-7 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1956, 'The Castles of Cardiganshire' Ceredigion Vol. 3 p. 65 no. 25 online copy
  • Wright, 1912, Aberystwyth Studies Vol. 1 p. 115-25

Primary Sources

  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Brut y Tywysogion 1110, 1116, 1136, 1143, 1164, 1197, 1208, 1211 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)