Llandovery Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLlandovery Castle
Alternative NamesCanterbohhan; Cantref Bychan; Llanymddyfri; Llanymdyfri; Landevery
Historic CountryCarmarthenshire
Modern AuthorityCarmarthenshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed

Llandovery Castle is a motte and bailey castle first mentioned in 1113. The site was formed by scarping a natural hillock into a citadel and small bailey. Further enclosures may have existed to the north where the cattle market later stood. An outer bank to the west was levelled to make way for a car park in 1967-8. Extensive remains of masonry walls and towers occupy the motte, and a shell keep enclosure is represented by half-buried footings. (Coflein)

Situated on prominent natural outcrop overlooking Afon Bran, on SE of main car park.

Remant of a medieval castle of late C13. The first castle was an earth motte with bailey, the motte formed from the hill overlooking the Afon Bran, probably built for Richard fitz Pons who was given the lordship of Cantref Bychan in 1116. Repeatedly lost to the forces of the lords of Deheubarth even though Henry II spent a great deal on the castle in 1159-62. It was not secured by the English until 1277, though lost briefly to Llywelyn the Last in 1282. After this it was granted to John Giffard who was instructed to repair the defences and probably built the present masonry castle. It passed to the Barons Audley of Heleigh 1299 who also became Lords of Cemaes in N Pembrokeshire, and passed with Cemaes to the Touchet family in the later C14. Henry IV visited in 1400 and it was besieged by Owain Glyndwr in 1403. It was burnt in an uprising in 1532 by Hywel ap Rhys and thereafter was disused and a quarry for stone. The early C19 views show much the same remains as now. (Listed Building Report)

Standing on a tiny isolated knoll which rises above the little river Bran is a shell tower of which the exterior walls are still in fair preservation. This rock was utilized by the first Norman lord of Cant-ref Bychan as the foundation upon which to erect a mound, which was doubtless crowned with the usual wooden castle, and protected bv a strong bailey

The still existing mound is slightly oval in shape, the longer axis of its summit from N.E. to S.W. measuring about 60 feet; its height from the level of the surrounding meadow is about 45 feet. The bailey is roughly a square with rounded comers, its greatest irregularity occurring on the side occupied by the mound. The castle and its enclosure were defended by ditches, but at the present time there remain only slight traces in the adjacent gardens of the moat around the bailey.

Tins mount and bailey castle was probably erected by Richard fitz Pons, one of the barons whose energies were directed by the English king to the unsettled and dangerous region of South Wales. Fitz Pons assisted in the conquest of the lordship of Brecon and other enterprises of Bernard Newmarch in the closing years of the 11th century, after which he doubtless considered himself free to make conquests on his own account in the difficult country west of Brecon, for we find that he was confirmed in the lordship of Cantref Bychan by Henry I in 1116. In this year he may have strengthened his mound castle, and so far secured his position. It was the caput of his lordsliip, but the extent of his territory appears to have been small, and possibly at times extended little beyond the bounds of the ballium.

Considered from the military point of view, as well as from the residential, the mount and bailey castle does not seem to have occupied an enviable position. It was continually being assaulted by the Welsh, tut it managed to hold out against all attacks, probably because the flat ground around gave no assistance to the assailants. In 1113 the particular version of the Welsh Chronicle, which was written by a Carmarthenshire Welshman in the Norman interest, possibly Bledri ap Cadivor, states that the "rac castell” (that is, the retro-castle, the bailey) was captured by the Welsh, but the “twr,” or mound, withstood all assaults ( Brut y Tywysogion, Ms. B.,_ Rolls Edition). Its outlying position and strategical importance led Henry II. to take the castle into his own hands, and we find that in the three years 1159-61 no less a sum than about £5,000 in modern computation was expended in repairing and munitioning it ( Pipe Rolls, 6, 7, 8 Hen. II.). “ Nevertheless it fell," observes Professor J. E. Lloyd, “and the name no longer appeared in the royal records” ( Hist. Wales, ii, 511). It was taken by Rhys ap Gruff ydd in 1162, and its wooden iortalice completely destroyed. The bare mound offered, of course, no menace, and the site probably remained defenceless until the year 1282 when John Giffard, who had become its possessor through his marriage with Maud do Longuespce, was ordered by Edward 1. to “ strengthen it on account of the present disturbances amongst the Welsh.” The era of wooden castles had passed away. The period of great stone fortresses had already been ushered in in Wales with the construction of Caerphilly ; Conway and Carnarvon were to follow the suppression of the disturbances amongst the Welsh. Giffard, who must have been an old man when he'died in 1299, had been brought up to think that a strong tower was a sufficient shield of defence. Indeed, he had already fortified just such a site as the mound of Llandovery, and what he had done at Bronllys in Breconshire he proceeded to do in Carmarthenshire.

The remains at Llandovery consist of a strong circular tower, which has been built, not upon the summit of the earthen mound, but partly into the west side of it. This position led to an arrangement that has its parallel at Bronllys, namely, the placing of the entrance into the castle from the mound in the story above the ground lovel. The building is a mere shell, its structural details bavin ; been so completely defaced or removed that nothing visible gives clue to its age or plan. The masonry is rough and unfinished. It is possible that some ruins of fireplaces or windows may be concoaled beneath the abundant growth of ivy which threatens to bring the greater part of it to the ground. It is difficult to be sure if any stone walls ran off from the tower; excavation would alone clear up this point, as there are no traces above ground. But it is possible that there \v< s a stone curtain or small subsidiary tower at the other end of the mound, or Giffard may have contented himself with restoring the earthen ramparts, and clearing out the original moats, as he appears to have done at Bronllys. (RCAHMW 1917)

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 ReferenceSN767342
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  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 82
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 264, 279, 316
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  • Soulsby, I., 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore)
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  • 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. 706 (slight)
  • Richard, A.J., 1935, in Lloyd, J.E. (ed), History of Carmathenshire (Cardiff) Vol. 1 p. 273, 278-9
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 170
  • RCAHMW, 1917, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Carmarthenshire (HMSO) p. 94-5 no. 276 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 286 online copy
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  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy


  • Coplestone-Crow, B., 2011, 'Llandovery Castle and the Clifford family' Carmarthenshire Antiquary Vol. 47 p. 13-29
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • 1990, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 139
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 314
  • 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
  • King, D.J.C., 1967, ‘Llandovery Castle’ The114th Annual Meeting at Carmarthen, 1967, CAA p. 29-30
  • 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
  • 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)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • 1925, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 80 p. 453-4

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1116, 1158, 1195, 1201, 1202, 1203, 1204, 1210, 1213, 1216, 1227 (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)
  • 1885, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the seventh year of the reign of King Henry II A.D. 1160-1161 (Pipe Roll Society 4) p. 22, 54 online copy
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts) s.a. 1163, 1282, 1287 online copy
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1272-81) Vol. 1 p. 212 online copy
  • Edwards, G.E. (ed), 1935, Calendar of Ancient Correspondence Concerning Wales (Cardiff) p. 44
  • Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1912, Calendar of various Chancery Rolls - Welsh Rolls 1277-1294 p. 222 online copy
  • Stamp, A.E. (ed), 1929, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry IV (1402-1405) Vol. 2 p. 111 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Hingeston, F.C. (ed), 1860, Royal and Historical Letters Henry IV (Rolls Series 18) p. 139 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. 130-1