Llansteffan Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameLlansteffan Castle
Alternative NamesLlanstephan; St Stephen
Historic CountryCarmarthenshire
Modern AuthorityCarmarthenshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunityLlansteffan

Remains of a castle established in the earlier C12 within the site of an Iron Age promontory fort. Rebuilt in stone, and held by the de Camvilles for much of the Middle Ages. Substantial masonry castle.

Llanstephan Castle was built in the twelfth century with subsequent additions and refortifications until the fifteenth century. The main surviving feature of the mostly ruined small inner ward is the 3-storey square inner gate. Evidence of several domestic buildings survive at foundation level. The spacious outer ward features a 3-storey thirteenth century gatehouse with pair of D-plan flanking towers. There are fragments of tracery to the windows. (Coflein)

Prominently situated on a rocky promontery, overlooking the mouth of the Tywi.

The castle is said to have been built c1112. In 1136, it was held by the Camville family. It was taken by Maredudd ap Gruffydd in 1146, but re-occupied by the Normans by 1158, and restored to the Camvilles. Gerallt Cymro visited in 1188. Lord Rhys took the castle the following year, but William De Camville had recaptured it by 1192. The curtain wall of the Inner Ward probably dates from Camville's refortification of the site of c1200. Recaptured by the Welsh under Llewelyn the Great in 1215, it was restored to the Camvilles yet again after 1223. The ruined Round Tower and the Inner Gate probably date from that period. The castle was briefly held by the Welsh again in 1257, but William de Camville began an extensive programme of refortification in the 1260's. At this time, the Lower Ward was enclosed in stone with two strong D-plan towers and the E bastion, and the first phase of the massive Gatehouse. After the Camville family died out in 1338, the castle passed, through marriage, to the Penres family of Gower. The castle was taken by the Welsh during the Glyndwr uprising in 1405-6

The Crown held the property during the reign of Henry VII, and it was probably at that time that the Outer Gate was made into a more comfortable residence, and the comparatively weak new gate constructed alongside it. The castle was placed in the care of the state in 1959 and is now a monument run by Cadw.

The ground floor of the gatehouse retains massive barrel vault to former gate passage with 2 portcullis slots and murder holes. Flanking chambers also barrel-vaulted with arrow loops to the N. Fireplace to E room. Modern timber steps give access from W to 1st floor. 1st floor contains single large chamber, now lacking ceiling. Fireplace to S and loops with squinted embrasures to N, above entrance. Access to newel stair in S turrets. 2nd floor retains traces of formerly ornate and massive C16 hooded fireplace, having large corbels bearing carved heads. Small, barrel-vaulted latrines off newel stair to E. Stair gives access to former roof and battlement, now gone.

Substantial and impressive remains of a rubble masonry castle dating from the C12 to C15, consisting of a small Inner Ward, reached by a spacious Outer Ward, both with stone defences. Inner or Upper Ward largely ruined, the most significant portion remaining being the tall, square Inner Gate. This C13 building had 3 storeys, with pointed arched entrances to ground floor N and S, with portcullis grooves and bar holes still existing. Chamber above accessed via lost wall-walk, and upper floor reached from this via stair. Foundations remain of Inner Curtain and Round Tower here, which may have been removed as early as the C15. Foundations of several domestic buildings of this ward were unearthed during recent archaeological excavations. A section of curtain survives to the W, strengthened by short surviving row of vaults, perhaps in the C13, when a new wall-walk was provided. The Outer Ward retains external curtain walls to all 3 sides. The principal building is the impressive 3-storey, C13 gatehouse, perhaps inspired by similar designs at the Inner East Gatehouse at Caerphilly. Entrance boasts a segmental arch, blocked in C15, with pair of D-plan flanking towers. Smaller arch inserted to rear, within earlier arched head, remainder blocked in stone. Evenly spaced windows with fragments of tracery. Small drum towers to angles on courtyard elevation, containing newel stairs. Attached to E is C15 entrance, with simple arched entry having single portcullis groove, 1st floor corbelled-out, with little surviving of the upper level. D-shaped W tower in a very ruinous state. Barrel vault to ground floor, and heated upper storey chamber. E Bastion is simply a reinforcement of the SE angle, with no internal structural elements visible. Large D-pan N Tower, between E Bastion and gate, formerly for the principal apartments. Stair contained within a polygonal turret to the outer face. Internally a shell. Ground and first floor have separate entrances from the ward, with no fireplace to ground floor. First floor has fireplace, and garderobe to W. Stair leading from first floor to similar upper storey. 2 carved corbels remain, formerly supporting roof trusses. Remains of post-mediaeval barn survive between N Tower and E bastion, perhaps replacing earlier hall range. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceSN351101
Latitude51.7656517028809
Longitude-4.39050006866455
Eastings235140
Northings210140
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 191-2
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 82-84
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 220
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 273
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 100-2
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 88-91 (plan and reconstruction)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 55-7
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 99-100
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 38-41 (plan)
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 190, 358
  • Avent, J.R., 1991, 'The Early Development of Three Coastal Castles' in James, H. (ed), Sir Gar: Studies in Carmarthenshire History (Carmarthen) p. 167-188
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 58
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 262-3
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 229
  • Waters, 1943, The Lordship of Llanstephan (Carmarthen) esp p. 13-9
  • Richard, A.J., 1935, in Lloyd, J.E. (ed), History of Carmathenshire (Cardiff) Vol. 1 p. 284-5, 289-
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 196-8
  • RCAHMW, 1917, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Carmarthenshire (HMSO) p. 193-6 no. 574 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 286-7 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy [online copy > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47857#s4]
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 21-22 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 365

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Wiles, John, 2013-14, '"Marshall towers" in South-West Wales: Innovation, Emulation and Mimicry' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 27 p. 181-202
  • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • King, D.J.C., 1985, ‘Llanstephan Castle’ 132nd annual meeting, old Carmarthenshire, 1985, CAA p. 9–10
  • (Guilbert, G.C. in) Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1976, ‘Medieval Britain in 1975’, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 20 p. 186 download copy
  • Guilbert, G.C., 1974, 'Llanstephan Castle: 1973 Interim Report' Carmarthenshire Antiquary Vol. 10 p. 37-48
  • Guilbert, G.C. and Schweiso, J.J., 1972, 'Llanstephan Castle: An Interim Discussion of the 1971 Excavation' Carmarthenshire Antiquary Vol. 8 p. 75-90
  • (Guilbert, G.C.), 1972, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 16 p. 186 download copy
  • (Murray-Threipland), 1970, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 179 download copy
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • (Murray-Threipland), 1968, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 12 p. 181-2 download 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
  • 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
  • Craster, O.E., 1962 'Llanstephan Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. opp p. 347 plan, 350 (slight) online copy
  • 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)
  • Taylor, 1948-9, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 100 p. 129-31
  • 1928, 'The Castle and Lordship of Llanstephan' West Wales Historical Records Vol. 13 p. 33-152
  • 1927, 'The Castle and Lordship of Llanstephan' West Wales Historical Records Vol. 12 p. 59-132
  • Williams, Sir John, 1907, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 62 p. 108-18
  • Morgan, 1907, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 62 p. 214-5 online copy

Guide Books

  • Humphries, Peter, 2006 (3edn), Llansteffan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Humphries, Peter, 2001, Llansteffan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Humphries, Peter, 1988, Llansteffan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • King, D.J.C., 1963, Llanstephan Castle (HMSO)
  • Anon, 1922, Llanstephan Castle (Carmarthen)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1146, 1189, 1215, 1257 (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)
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1146, 1215 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1192, 1194, 1196 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1183, Description of Wales view online transcription
  • Jones, T. (ed), 1948, 'Cronica de Wallia and other documents' Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies Vol. 12 p. 27-44 (1215)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 296 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. 131-2
  • 1927, 'The Castle and Lordship of Llanstephan' West Wales Historical Records Vol. 12 p. 59-132
  • 1928, 'The Castle and Lordship of Llanstephan' West Wales Historical Records Vol. 13 p. 33-152
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference