Castell Nanhyfer, Nevern

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

There are earthwork remains

NameCastell Nanhyfer, Nevern
Alternative NamesCammais; Cammeis; Cemmeis; Llanhyvor; castellum Newer
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunityNevern

Castell Nanhyfer, an inland promontory enclosure, some 100m east-west by 90m, resting on steep natural slopes and crags on the south-east, is delineated by up to three lines of banks and ditches on the north and west, with a circular mound, about 32m in diameter occupying its north-western angle. The outward banks are the most massive and the northern facade shows remains of a stone revetment. A circular tower, in the region of 6.5m across, has been identified upon the motte summit; the eastern tip of the promontory, rising above precipitous crags, is cut off by a rock-cut ditch, forming a court, about 30m north-south by 20m, defined by stone walls and containing traces of a rectangular structure, possibly a tower. The entrance to the castle enclosure is thought to have led between the crags on the north, the massive north-facing ramparts, and the stone-walled citadel. Identified as a 12th-early 13th century castle, possibly of several distinct constructions, thought to have been abandoned in the earlier 13th century. (Coflein)

Nevern is dominated by the remains of Castell Nanhyfer. This fine motte-and-bailey castle, which began life as an Iron Age promontory fort, was built by the Fitzmartins, the Norman lords of Cemais, in 1191. It was seized by Rhys ap Gruffudd, who was later imprisoned by his sons in the tower which he built. He died there in 1195, bringing to an end Welsh rule in south-west Wales. Castell Nanhyfer is therefore a key but strangely neglected site in Welsh history (RCAHMW, 96-cs-0678). (Coflein–ref. Driver)

The main enclosure is thought to be originally IA, or Caple writes early medieval, modified as an earthwork castle, the circular mound representing a motte, or collapsed structure, and the E enclosure representing a discrete castle-building episode. Much of the stone work is clay bonded slate, not lime mortared masonry. Caple writes founded by "Anglo-Norman lord Robert FitzMartin in about 1108/9

Control of the castle oscillated between the FitzMartin family and the Welsh prince Rhys ap Gruffudd (the Lord Rhys) between 1135 and 1191, after which it was demolished in 1195 by Rhys's son Hywel Sais."

I shall not pass over in silence the circumstance which occurred in the principal castle of Cemmeis at Lanhever (Nevern), in our days. Rhys, son of Gruffydd, by the instigation of his son Gruffydd, a cunning and artful man, took away by force, from William, son of Martin (de Tours), his son-in-law, the castle of Lanhever, notwithstanding he had solemnly sworn, by the most precious relics, that his indemnity and security should be faithfully maintained, and, contrary to his word and oath, gave it to his son Gruffydd; but since "A sordid prey has not a good ending," the Lord, who by the mouth of his prophet, exclaims "Vengeance is mine, and I will repay!" ordained that the castle should be taken away from the contriver of this wicked plot, Gruffydd, and bestowed upon the man in the world he most hated, his brother Malgon. Rhys, also, about two years afterwards, intending to disinherit his own daughter, and two granddaughters and grandsons, by a singular instance of divine vengeance, was taken prisoner by his sons in battle, and confined in this same castle; thus justly suffering the greatest disgrace and confusion in the very place where he had perpetrated an act of the most consummate baseness. I think it also worthy to be remembered, that at the time this misfortune befell him, he had concealed in his possession, at Dinevor, the collar of St. Canauc of Brecknock, for which, by divine vengeance, he merited to be taken prisoner and confined. (Giraldus Cambrensis)

Gatehouse Comments

The castle is currently (2013) undergoing an extensive archaeological investigation headed by Dr Chris Caple of the University of Durham. The project is committed to open publication of its work and extensive interim reports have been produced and published. For Gatehouse the most interesting of the many aspects of this work is the very extensive use of clay bounding for the walls of this castle. This appears to be a deliberate choice rather than a pure economic neccesity required by a lack of limestone for lime mortar and the use of clay as a masonry bonding material in Wales may well have been a more widespread phenomenon.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSN082401
Latitude52.0265808105469
Longitude-4.79689979553223
Eastings208210
Northings240150
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
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
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
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright ceridwen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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

Books

  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 175-6
  • Caple, C., 2011, 'Nevern Castle / Castell Nanhyfer' in J.R. Kenyon (comp) South-west Wales: Pembrokeshire and western Carmarthenshire. Rport and proceedings of the 156th summer meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute in 2010 edited by P. Ottaway (London: RAI) p. 45-52
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 248 (listed)
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 79
  • Driver, T., 2007, Pembrokeshire: Historic Landscapes from the Air (RCAHMW) p. 152
  • Hull, Lise, 2005, Castles and Bishops Palaces of Pembrokeshire (Logaston Press) p. 149-53
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 158
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 98-100 (reconstruction)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 54-5
  • Miles, D., 1998, A Book on Nevern (Llandysul: Gomer Press)
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 70
  • Davis, Paul R., 1988, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Swansea)
  • Miles, Dillwyn, 1979 (Revised 1988), Castles of Pembrokeshire (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park) p. 27
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 395
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 334
  • Stickings, T.G., 1973, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 106-7
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 128
  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 260 no. 772 online copy
  • Edwards, Emily Hewlett, 1909, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 10-11 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy

Journals

  • Wiles, John, 2013-14, '"Marshall towers" in South-West Wales: Innovation, Emulation and Mimicry' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 27 p. 181-202
  • Caple, C., 2012, 'The Apotropaic Symbolled Threshold to Nevern Castle – Castell Nanhyfer' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 169 p. 422-452
  • Caple, C., 2011 'Nevern Castle: searching for the first masonry castle in Wales' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 55 p. 326-34
  • 2010-11, 'Nevern Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 196 (brief excavation summary)
  • Caple, C., 2010, ‘Nevern Castle Castell Nanhyfer, Nevern’ CBA Wales Newsletter Vol. 40 p. 406
  • 2009-10, 'Nevern Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 23 p. 140-44 (preliminary excavation report)
  • Caple, Chris, 2009 Nov/Dec, 'Nevern Castle - Castell Nanhyfer' British Archaeology no. 109 p. 28-33 (preliminary excavation report) online transcription
  • Caple, Chris, 2009, 'Nevern Castle excavations 2009' CBA Wales/Cymru Newsletter Vol. 37 p. 2-4
  • Caple, C., 2009, 'Nevern Castle - Castell Nanhyfer' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 49 p. 126-7 online transcription
  • Caple, C. and Davies, W., 2008, 'Surveys and excavations at Nevern Castle 2005-8' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 48 p. 38-46 online transcription
  • Turvey, R., 1997, 'The Castle Strategy of the Lord Rhys' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 144 p. 103-132
  • Avent, Richard, 1994, 'Castles of the Welsh Princes' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 11-17
  • Turvey, R., 1989, ‘Nevern Castle: a new interpretation’ Journal of the Pembrokeshire Historical Society Vol. 3 p. 57–66 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
  • 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)
  • King, D.J.C. and Perks, J.C., 1950-51, 'Castle Nanhyfer, Nevern (Pemb)' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 101 p. 123-8
  • 1859, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 14 p. 334 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Jones, T., 1952, Brut y Tywysogion (Peniarth MS 20 version) (University of Wales, History and Law series 11) 1191, 1194, 1195
  • Remfry, P.M. (trans), 2007, Annales Cambriae (Castle Studies Research and Publishing) p. 99
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1191, 1195 online copy
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • The Great Roll of the Pipe for the ninth year of the reign of King Richard I Michaelmas 1197 (Pipe Roll Society 46)
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1931 The Great Roll of the Pipe for the ninth year of the reign of King Richard the First, Michaelmas 1197 (Pipe Roll 43) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 46)

Other

  • Caple, C., July 2013, Nevern Castle Excavations: Interim Report 2013 Summer Excavations (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., August 2012, Nevern Castle: Interim Report 2012 Summer (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., August 2011, Nevern Castle: Interim Report 2011 Summer (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., August 2010, Nevern Castle Excavations: Interim Report 2010 Summer Excavations (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., April 2010, Nevern Castle Excavations: Interim Report 2010 Easter Excavations (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., August 2009, Nevern Castle Excavations: Interim Report 2009 (Durham University) online copy
  • Caple, C., 25/7/2008, Nevern Castle Excavations: Interim Report 2008 (Durham University) online copy
  • Nevern Castle Archaeological Excavation and Research Project (Durham University) online copy