Cardigan Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCardigan Castle
Alternative NamesAberteifi; Aberteivi; Kardigan
Historic CountryCardiganshire
Modern AuthorityCeredigion
1974 AuthorityDyfed

There are substantial remains of the the castle known to have been rebuilt in 1240 and ordered to be demolished in 1645. These include a rather irregular enclosure, about 90m NE-SW by 44m, resting on steep slopes on the south-east, with the south-western end clothing natural crags above the Teifi. Portions of the curtain wall survive and in the tall embankment overlooking the bridge it is surmounted by a World War II pill-box.There are remains of three semi-circular towers, the largest & most elaborate incorporated into the early nineteenth century Castle Green House (NPRN 5249), as well as one, possibly two rectilinear 'bastions', at the north-east and south angles. Survey and excavation in 1984 suggested that early nineteenth century garden landscaping radically altered the area of the castle, destroying much of its surviving fabric. However, it appears that large parts of the current walled circuit follow the line of the medieval encience. (Coflein–ref. Murphy and O'Mahony)

The Castle that can be seen today was erected in Cardigan itself in the 1100, by Gilbert de Clare and if he had have realised what trouble this was to cause, he may not have bothered. Over the next 100 years the castle frequently changed hands between the Norman’s and the Welsh. De Clare’s son gained control of the castle in 1136, the same year that Rhys ap Gruffydd, the prince of Deheubarth, or Lord Rhys, led the defeat of the Norman’s in the town at the bloody battle of Crug Mawr. His prize was the castle which he set about transforming from its original wooden structure into stone. Rhys was the proud owner of the castle, up until his death in 1197, which marked the beginning of another period of conflict. His sons, Maelgwyn and Gruffyd, disputed their inheritance resulting in Maelgwyn surrendering Gruffydd to the Norman’s and selling the Castle to King John

A variety of Norman owners called Cardigan Castle home until Llywellyn the Great attacked and destroyed the castle in a show of strength. In what now looks like a historical tug-of-war the Norman William Marshal was next to take control, followed by the Welsh and then yet another Norman. After this final Norman conquest, during the 1240s, the castle was reconstructed. Two towers, a new keep and the town wall were all built to create the stronghold, the ruins of which are visible to visitors today.

By the end of the 13th century it was King Edward 1st who had laid claim to the castle. Peace the reigned for almost four centuries, 1645 and the English Civil War, when Oliver Cromwell took it upon himself to storm the battlements. Such was the damage that the castle lay uninhabited until the early 1800s when a private mansion was built on the property marking the end to the turmoil that has given Cardigan Castle the unique heritage it boasts today. (Cadwgan Building Preservation Trust, nd)

C13 castle remains, probably mostly dating from a rebuilding of c1244-54 under Robert Waleran, though the castle was in existence in 1136, was rebuilt in stone under the Lord Rhys in 1171 and repaired c1204 and in 1220s. Waleran became constable in 1248 and a new keep and town wall were built. In 1261 further sums were given to Waleran to complete the keep, but repairs were still needed in 1275, in 1321 a tower was hurriedly completed but by 1343 the curtain walls were partly in ruins. After the Glyndwr revolt a new hall and tower were built. The castle was slighted during the Civil War, and Castle Green House was built within 1827 incorporating the largest tower.

The principal remnants are the curved SE and E towers and NE bastion with portions of the curtain wall surviving between and to W of SE tower, in the tall embankment overlooking the bridge, surmounted by a c1940 pill-box. The Great Tower is listed as part of Castle Green House. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

A castle was erected in c. 1110, by Gilbert de Clare, who also founded the adjacent town. David King believed this first castle to have been the ringwork at Old Castle Farm (SN164464), but later authors seem to accept the site in the town was used for the start, which seems reasonable. The stone castle built Rhys ap Gruffydd may have been in parts clay bonded, rather than mortar set. Some thick clay bonder wall footings have been found in the recent excavations and investigations of the castle. However, The Brut records him as building the castle in stone and lime (apparently the first mention of lime in a welsh castle) in 1171. Some footings of a poor quality lime mortared wall may lie beneath the C13 tower incorporated into Castle Green House. The grand festival, sometimes called the first eisteddfod, organised by Lord Rhys in 1176 may have included a 'topping out' ceremony for this masonry building. The later tower, at the back of Castle Green House, usually dated as c. 1240s, may well have been a D shaped tower-keep, although such keeps are usually considered to be evidence of a welsh builder. This tower seems to lie on a slightly different alignment to the earlier structure but may have deliberately echoed its form.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSN177459
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 173
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 344
  • Poucher, P. 2010, Aberteifi: 900 mlynedd o hanes yng nghartref yr eisteddfod / Cardigan: 900 years of history at the home of the eisteddfod (Llandeilo: Dyfed Archaeological Trust)
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 43 (1231 siege)
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 316
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 77-9
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p.69-70
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 39-40
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 60-1
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 17 (plan)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 44
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 45, lxv
  • Soulsby, I., 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 335
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 590-1
  • Owen, Henry (ed), 1936, The Description of Pembrokeshire (London) Vol. 4 p. 494
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 199
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 280-1 online copy
  • Meyrick, Samuel Rush, 1907, The History and Antiquities of the County of Cardigan (Brecon) p. 168-70
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 472-4 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 23-4 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 377


  • Wiles, John, 2013-14, '"Marshall towers" in South-West Wales: Innovation, Emulation and Mimicry' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 27 p. 181-202
  • 2013, 'Archaeologicy at Cardigan Castle' HeritageDaily online copy
  • Holland, E., 2012, 'Cardigan Castle: rescue and regeneration' Transactions of the Ancient Mounuments Society Vol. 56 p. 54-67
  • 2011, 'Cardigan Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 13 p. 9 (news report on grant and plans for restoration)
  • 2006-7, 'Cardigan Castle benefits from Royal visit' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 20 p. 153
  • 2005-6, 'Planning for future of Cardigan Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 19 p. 142
  • Anon, 2004, 'Cardigan Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter Vol. 6 Issue1 p. 7
  • 2003-4, 'Cardigan Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 95-6 (news report)
  • 2001-2002, 'Cardigan Castle' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 15 p. 57-58 online copy
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • Murphy, K. and O’Mahoney, C. 1985. ‘Excavation and survey at Cardigan Castle’, Ceredigion Vol. 10.2 (plan) p. 189-218 online copy
  • Murphy, K., 1984, ‘Cardigan Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 24 p. 62–3
  • James, T.A., 1978, ‘Cardigan’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 18 p. 54
  • 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
  • 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)
  • King, D.J.C., 1956, 'The Castles of Cardiganshire' Ceredigion Vol. 3 p. 53-4 no. 2 online copy
  • 1859, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 14 p. 327-8 online copy

Guide Books

  • Johnson, Glen, 2015, Cardigan Castle - A Guide for Visitors_

Primary Sources

  • William ab Ithel (ed), 1860, Brut y Tywysogion Jesus MS 111 (Red Book of Hergest) 1107, 1161, 1171, 1176, 1198, 1215, 1216, 1223, 1231, 1240 online copy [Scan of original manuscript >]
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1837, Rotuli Chartarum, 1199-1216 (Record Commission) p. 44 online copy
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli litterarm patentium in Turri londinensi asservati (Record Commission) see index online copy
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1215, 1223, 1231, 1240 online copy
  • Calendar of Patent Rolls several references 1214-46 see indexes online copy
  • Bellaguet, M.L. (ed), 1841, Chronique du religieux de Saint-Denys Vol. 3 p. 329 (c. 1405) online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 121-2
  • C145/33(31) (Survey of 1275) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 1 No. 1000)
  • C145/141(10) (Survey of 1340) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 425 No. 1721 [online copy >])
  • B.M. Add. Roll 7198 (Survey of 14 Edward II) British Library Reference


  • Johnson, G. and Greenland, A.,1987, The Forgotten Castle of Cardigan