Kidwelly Town Walls

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are major building remains

NameKidwelly Town Walls
Alternative NamesCydweli; Kedwelly
Historic CountryCarmarthenshire
Modern AuthorityCarmarthenshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunityKidwelly

The earliest murage grant for Kidwelly is 1280; the town walls are thus likely to be in existence by 1300 or so. The trench excavated in February 1980 proved that the walls overlaid and followed the course of the earlier earthern defences. The best extant stretch of wall is that running west from the castle moat on the north side of the town, which is in the guardianship of the Ancient Monuments Branch of the Welsh Office. It is some 1.6m: wide and survives to an average height of 2.3m. Scaffolding holes through the thickness of the wall at a height of lm. above ground level occur at irregular intervals along the length of the wall. The trench cut by Dyfed Archaeological Trust referred to above showed that the wall has very slight footings. It is built of roughly dressed boulders, some derived from the glacial drift, others from the Mynydd y Garreg area, and also of thin slabs from the local Pennant beds. The wall splays out and terminates in the ditch to prevent access into the town and this part is built wholly of Pennant slabs. Most of the facing stones of the wall have been robbed. The town wall now terminates in the northwest corner of Castle Farm garden, at the point where it would have turned 90 degrees southwards. The town wall has a chamfered face here, which suggests that the corner may have been formed by a short cross wall between the two long stretches. Although the area is very overgrown it is clear that the short stretch of wall running westwards from the wider town wall abuts it and is secondary. Although breached by a small brick shed the narrower wall continues to a projecting, hollow, low arched gateway. The arch is 2.6m. wide though now crudely blocked to half its width. It is 56cm. wide, of the same stone as the town wall, with no brick visible in its makeup. The arch is at a lower level than the town wall and lies over the former course of the town ditch

(James 1980)

Situated at SW end of Castle Street, some 130m WSW of Kidwelly Castle.

Medieval gateway, probably early C14, though aid for walling the town was given in 1280-1. The principal gate to the small walled town SW of the castle. Reconstruction drawings suggest a single rectangular structure with chamfered spur-footed angles, of three storeys with battlements. Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Numerous window and fireplace embrasures to rear of front wall and rear of N wall, including two blocked N lancets. The gateway was originally stone vaulted.

Rubble stone ruinous gateway, the front and side walls of a substantial gatehouse with traces of three storeys within. Broad segmental-pointed main arch of four steps, chamfered to front, portcullis slot between 2nd and 3rd steps. Side to left is obscured by public house, but has corbelled first floor chimneybreast. Three upper floor broad cambered headed windows, presumably to a principal hall, robbed of ashlar. Side to right has two narrow first floor lancets, robbed of ashlar, and two ground floor loops. Chamfered SW angle with spur foot. S wall has mostly gone, N wall survives to full height with short return remaining of inner E wall. (Listed Building Report)

The monument comprises an unusually well preserved medieval town gate dating from c. 1300 whose upper storey was converted into the late medieval town hall. The "old town" of Kidwelly was laid out with the castle from the foundation in 1106. However, following a murage grant in 1280 the town was separated from the northern bailey of the castle by stone walls. Three gates of which this gate is the only survivor originally entered the town. When Leland visited in 1539 he saw "three gates and over one of them was the ruine of a fairtown haul, and under a prison". This refers to this gateway. The gate passage and the two storey chambers to either side date from around 1300. The external facade was nearly symmetrical, though the left side is now hidden behind the public house. The lowest chamber has oilets and the chamber above single trefoiled lights. The sides are angled and the SW corner has the remains of a spur buttress similar in form to those on the chapel tower in the castle. The upper storey has some 14th century fabric but the three window openings and the fireplace are later additions following the modifications to a town hall in the late 15th / early 16th centuries. The gate passage contains a portcullis slot in the front of a rebated setting for a pair of wooden gates. The gate passage is un-vaulted but collapse of the side walls does not allow the arrangements to the rear to be reconstructed. The internal arrangements of the chambers to the side are not clear as they were converted into cottages in the 16th and 17th centuries. They may also have replaced the prison mentioned by Leland, as there are a number of partition walls. On the first floor the room to the south of the gate passage has a central fireplace between the two windows and retains some of the corbels from its timber ceiling. There is access to a garderobe within the thickness of the wall. The equivalent room on the northern side is more complicated with a puzzling arrangement of doors, recesses and windows, but at some phase of its history it was provided with a fireplace. The second floor contains a suite of rooms independent from the floor beneath, apparently entered by a timber stair into the western side. This gave access to the main chamber with two windows looking west flanking a large fireplace. The northern window retains some of its dressed stone surround, showing it to be mullioned and glazed. To the northern end is a smaller, well-lit and appointed chamber probably separated by a timber partition, and at the southern end there is a room on the same plan as those below. The room at the southern end is isolated, whilst that to the north has a doorway leading onto the walkway of the town wall. This upper floor is a remodelling of the original as it partly blocks the portcullis slit and contains windows and fireplaces of late medieval date. This remodelling may have followed damage during the Glyndwr rebellion, but there is no evidence that the gate contained the Shire Hall destroyed in that uprising. During the middle ages the economic activity shifted from the "Old Town" within the walls, to the area around the priory, and this new town hall was well sited to service both communities. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Murage for five year granted in December 1280 but this may have been rescinded since murage for three years was given in March 1281.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* 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 ReferenceSN408070
Latitude51.7384986877441
Longitude-4.30814981460571
Eastings240850
Northings207010
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Laitude 51° 44' 18.78" Longitude -4° 18' 29.05"

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 174
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 27, 83, 170, 204, 217, 272
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 52
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press)
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds), Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 152-4
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 61
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 360
  • Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 plan p. 63 online copy
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 217
  • Beresford, Maurice, 1967, New towns of the Middle Ages: town plantation in England, Wales and Gascony (London: Lutterworth Press) p. 541
  • Richard, A.J., 1935, in Lloyd, J.E. (ed), History of Carmathenshire (Cardiff) Vol. 1 p. 316-7
  • RCAHMW, 1917, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Carmarthenshire (HMSO) p. 49-50 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (Methuen and Co) p. 247
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 160
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Bond J., 2001, 'Earthen Castles, Outer Enclosures and the Earthworks at Ascott d'Oilly Castle, Oxfordshire' Oxoniensia Vol. 46 p. 65-6 (Appendix: Norman earthwork castles with failed towns in outer enclosures) online copy
  • James, H., 1980, 'Topgraphical notes on the early medieval borough of Kidwelly' Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Vol. 16 p. 6-17 online copy
  • 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

Guide Books

  • Kenyon, John R., 2002, Kidwelly Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Kenyon, John R., 1986, Kidwelly Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1933, Kidwelly Castle (HMSO) online copy and [plan > http://www.kidwellyhistory.co.uk/PhotoGallery/Maps/pages/WalledTown.htm]

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1272-81) Vol. 1 p. 418; p. 427 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 319 online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/murindex.html], [petitions > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/mupindex.html ] and [other such > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/muaindex.html]. < >