Carreg Cennen Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Palace (Other)

There are major building remains

NameCarreg Cennen Castle
Alternative NamesCaer Cynan; Karekenyl
Historic CountryCarmarthenshire
Modern AuthorityCarmarthenshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunityDyffryn Cennen

Carreg Cennen was the centre of the Welsh commote of Is-Cennen before the Anglo-Norman incursions. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it was part of the inheritance of the princes of Deheubarth and it is probable that construction of the castle took place between 1287 and 1321. Owned by the Giffard family from 1283, it remained with them until 1299 when John Giffard II was executed for his part in the baronial rising against Hugh Despenser in 1321. Ownership changed hands between various lords, until it was granted in 1340 to Henry lord of Kidwelly (later Duke of Lancaster), and thence it passed to the crown on the accession of Henry IV. In 1403 Carreg Cennen was taken by Owain Glyndwr. The castle was rendered unusable in 1462 by Yorkists after its involvement in the Wars of the Roses. In the nineteenth century Earl Cawdor carried out extensive conservation work. (Coflein)

Ruins of a large castle with Welsh origins but rebuilt after 1283 by John Giffard of Brimpsfield, Glos., and his son John. The elder Giffard held it until 1299, except that the crown took it over 1287-9 during the rising of Rhys ap Maredudd. The Giffards also held Llandovery Castle. John Giffard II was executed for his part in the baronial rising against Edward II's favourite Hugh Despenser in 1321. Held by Despenser until his execution and then by various lords until 1340 when it was granted to Henry later Duke of Lancaster, then lord of Kidwelly, and thence it passed with the Lancaster estates to the crown on the accession of Henry IV. It seems likely that most of the building happened after 1287 and before 1321, but documentary accounts are not available. Certainly in form it follows the innovations introduced by Edward I in his Welsh castle building. Accounts of repairs in 1369 suggest that it was then very neglected, as were many other Welsh castles in the C14

Carreg Cennen was the centre of the Welsh commote of Is-Cennen before the Anglo-Norman incursions, and Roman coins have been found. In the C12 and C13 the site was part of the inheritance of the princes of Deheubarth: the Lord Rhys and Rhys Fychan. The first written record in 1248 says that Rhys Fychan had obtained the castle back from the English, he was driven out in 1257 by his uncle Maredudd ap Rhys, and he in turn lost it to Edward I in 1277. It was captured by the forces of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282, and lost again 1283. The castle was taken by Owain Glyndwr in the uprising of 1403 and the walls were said to have been `completely destroyed'. The castle was involved in the Wars of the Roses on the Lancastrian side and therefore rendered unusable by the Yorkists in 1462. Earl Cawdor (1817-98) undertook extensive conservation works in the C19, restoring several of the wall walks and repairing many of the openings.

Castle, rubble stone with some ashlar dressings. Square inner ward with N gatehouse, round NW tower, rounded NE tower and chapel tower in centre of E side. The S and W sides rise sheer from the cliff. Two-storey hall range against the E wall. This part was built first, then shortly after followed the Barbican in front of the gatehouse and flight of steps up from the E, and shortly after that the Outer Ward extending out to the N and E. The Barbican approach is by a series of steps with drawbridges to the square tower with drawbridge over the ditch to the gatehouse. This was double-towered with spurred bases to half-octagonal towers and of 3 storeys. The NW tower had an upper floor possibly only accessible from a wall-gallery. The NE tower was vaulted at ground floor. E side had main rooms, storage in ground floor, kitchen, hall and solar above. From the hall a mural stair led up to the chapel at second floor level, within the square E tower. Curtain walls to W and S, that to W badly ruined, the S preseved to full height. Curved SW corner, not a proper tower. Vaulted passage from SE corner to cave below E outer ward. The Outer Ward defences are much reduced, a lime-kiln survives in the E part. (Listed Building Report)

Carreg Cennen Castle. Carreg Cennen was, during the historic period, the administrative centre and llys of Iscennen commote, giving its name to Maenor Llys within which it lay; its maerdref lay in Area 198 now represented by the farm-names Ferdre Fawr and Fach (Rees 1924, 200). The llys had been established by at least the 13th century and appears to have been fortified prior to the construction of the present castle later in that century, possibly under the Prince of Deheubarth Rhys ap Gruffydd who built castles at Dinefwr (Area 195) and Cardigan in the late 12th century. Along with Cantref Bychan, Carreg Cennen fell to his son Rhys Gryg but was separated from the rest of Iscennen in 1233 when Rhys Mechyll succeeded. It was briefly captured by the English in 1248, was the scene of several changes of hands in the 1250s and finally, in 1277, surrendered to the English. The castle, along with Iscennen, was acquired by John Giffard in 1283, and in 1340 it became a member of the Duchy of Lancaster (Rees 1953, xv-xvi). The castle was rebuilt as a substantial masonry construction, the present Inner Ward being constructed in the late 13th century and the Outer Ward being added in the early 14th century. The castle was captured and damaged during the Glyndwr rebellion, but was finally destroyed during the Wars of the Roses in 1461. The later history of the castle is obscure until the late 18th century when its striking site came to the notice of Romantic painters and poets. It was acquired by the State in 1932 on whose behalf it is now managed by Cadw. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust Historic Landscapes ref. Lewis 1990)

Gatehouse Comments

Magnificently set castle, high on a limestone precipice. The ancient centre and stronghold of the commote of Is-Cennen. The earliest documentary reference for a castle on the site dates from 1248 and the existing castle belongs to the late C13/early C14, though there was a castle here long before this. C19 restorations. Constructed of rubble stone with ashlar dressings. Square inner bailey, with 3-storey gatehouse to N; rounded towers to the NW and NE. 2-storey hall range against E wall. Curtain wall to S survives at full height, that to the W is badly damaged. A vaulted passage runs from the SE corner to a cave below E outer ward. Outer ward has reduced defences; surviving limekiln to E.

- 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 ReferenceSN668190
Latitude51.8543395996094
Longitude-3.9355800151825
Eastings266800
Northings219080
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.
Copyright Philip Blayney All rights reserved.

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 260, 344, 367
  • Remfry, P. M. and Ruckley, N., 2010, Castell Carreg Cennen and the families of Deheubarth, Giffard and Lancaster (SCS Publishing)
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 66-67
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 220
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 83-6
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p.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. 43-6
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 67-70 (plan and reconstruction)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 46-7
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 20-3 (plan)
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 54
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 336-8
  • 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. 602
  • Richard, A.J., 1935, in Lloyd, J.E. (ed), History of Carmathenshire (Cardiff) Vol. 1 p. 283-4, 289
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 191-3
  • RCAHMW, 1917, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Carmarthenshire (HMSO) p. 86-7 no. 256 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 359

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Remfry, P.M., 2012, ‘Castell Carreg Cennen, Carmarthenshire’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 51 p. 107-110
  • King, D.J.C., 1985, ‘Carreg Cennen Castle’ 132nd annual meeting, old Carmarthenshire, 1985, CAA p. 19
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 213
  • 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
  • Jenkins, 1959-61, The Carmarthen Antiquary Vol. 3 p. 30-1
  • Morgan and Spurrell, 1914-5, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 10 p. 61-2
  • 1912-13, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 8 p. 73
  • Evans, 1906-7, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 2 p. 197-8
  • Stephey-Gulston, 1905-6, Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 1 p. 39-40

Guide Books

  • Lewis, J.M., 2006, Carreg Cennen Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Lewis, J.M., 1990, Carreg Cennen Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Isaac, V., 1985, The story of Carreg Cennen Castle and farm; history, description, legends and rare breeds centre (Llandeilo: Hydemarket)
  • Gittins, R., 1983. Carreg Cennen Castle (Llandysul: Gomer Press)
  • Lewis, J.M., 1960, Carreg Cennen Castle, Carmarthenshire (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1248, 1256 (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)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1272-81) Vol. 1 p. 212 online copy
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1282, 1287 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. 124-5