Hen Gastell, Llanwnda

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Ringwork Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameHen Gastell, Llanwnda
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCaernarfonshire
Modern AuthorityGwynedd
1974 AuthorityGwynedd

Small promontory fort on bank of Afon Garrog. Oval enclosure defended by single bank. (RCAHMW, 1960)

Probably a homestead or farmstead rather than a fort. (OS field report)

A small promontory fort which has been damaged by levelling for farm buildings, and partly ploughed out, but of which almost half remains in a good state of preservation. One waste flint flake was collected from a molehill while visiting the site. Indications of past activity in the field just across the A499, consisting of a fairly large ditch (now filled in but visible on old maps and quite recent aerial photographs) and at least one possible lynchet (SH46965745C), may be associated with this site. (GAT, 1993)

A small embanked enclosure on a river promontory. It has an inner area on a knoll edged by a slight narrow bank. It also has an additional large external bank on the north side, possibly a natural glacial or fluvial feature that has been utilised. More likely to be an enclosed IA/RB settlement (a quern has been found on the site, type unknown) than a defended enclosure as the outer bank is not convincingly artificial. (Smith, 2005)

The previous description by the RCAHMW is correct except that there is no evidence that the entrance was on the west unless it was the same as the gap used by the post-medieval farm track through the outer bank. There is a low bank around the inner area but this is certainly not defensive. The outer bank however lies outside the ditch and so doesn't seem to be defensive either - could it be a fragmentary henge? It seems a possibility that this was an IA/RB settlement re-using an earlier feature a henge or a natural feature although neither seems to be acceptable unless the 'ditch' is a natural feature - a relict meander of the river, of which the isolated promontory has been used for the settlement. (Smith, 2005)

(Gwynedd Archaeological Trust HER online record accessed 23 May 2016)

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have confirmed the discovery of a small medieval castle, likely belonging to a local Welsh lord, near Caernarfon.

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust teams, who spent more than two years carefully excavating and analysing the Hen Gastell (Old Castle) site in Llanwnda, said the small castle was occupied in the 11th or 12th centuries by “someone of significance.”

The experts have announced their final conclusions after receiving specialist reports back on their findings and confirmation of a further 10 radiocarbon dates.

Site director Jane Kenney said: “The old people who named this site were right, as usual, and this was a type of small medieval castle, perhaps more like a manor house than a real castle.

“It was occupied in the 11th or 12th centuries AD by someone of significance who could afford to hire a blacksmith to make the knives and nails and other small items that the house needed.”

Among the findings made alongside the site’s main building were a possible timber tower or a rectangular hall.

The site’s owner could afford fancy bronze or brass decorations on his belt or horse harness, and perhaps a touch of gold - even if it was only really gilt.

“The house was occupied for no more than about four generations, perhaps much less, and then abandoned,” Ms Kay said.

“Some of the posts of the house were pulled out, possibly to be reused, but others left to rot. The site was then forgotten until, may be in the 16th or 17th century, a small farmhouse was built in the infilled ditch.

“This was replaced by the current farmhouse.

“The pits with slag in the middle of the excavation trench were remains of a blacksmithy and dated from the same time as the building, so the smith must have been working inside the building.”

The team will now produce a final report for publication and get professional artefact drawings done, however the conclusions they have already made are final. (Mike Williams 17 May 2016 reporter for North Wales Chronicle)

Gatehouse Comments

This site doesn't seem to ever previously been suggested as medieval. Clearly the finds make clear it was a medieval site. The question here is are the modest embankments sufficient to warrant calling this a castle or is this better described as a 'fortified manor house' (meaning, in this case, a defensible house of reasonable high status). Clearly the place name suggests that, for at least some local people, it did have the status of a castle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSH471573
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • RCAHMW, 1960, A Survey and Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Caernarvonshire Vol. 2: Central (HMSO) p. 225 no. 1337 online copy


  • 2016 Sept, 'Hen Gastell, Llanwnda' Castle Studies Group Bulletin No. 22 p. 3 online copy
  • Kenney, J. , 2014 , 'Survey and Excavation at Hen Gastell, Llanwnda, Gwynedd' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 53 p. 113-118


  • Jane Kenney, 2016, Hen Gastell, Llanwnda A Medieval Defended Site Summary of Excavation Report (GAT) online copy
  • Jane Kenney, 2016, Hen Gastell, Llanwnda Excavation Report (GAT) online copy
  • Hen Gastell, Llanwnda Excavation and Survey by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust in 2013 online copy
  • Smith, G. , 2005 , A Survey of Prehistoric Defended Enclosures in North West Wales 2004-2005: West Conwy, Gwynedd (Arfon) & Anglesey (GAT for CADW) p. 10 online copy