Manorbier Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameManorbier Castle
Alternative NamesMeanor Pir; Maenor Pyrr; Mansion of Pyrrhus; Manorbeer; Manober; Mannorbeer
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunityManorbier

Manorbier is an early twelfth century and later castle with substantial stone buildings erected before 1200. The site was largely rebuilt in stone in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, and re-fortified in the seventeenth. The surviving remains consist of an inner enclosure, about 76m by 44m, and an outer, about 100m by 76m, laid out along an east-west inland promontory above the confluence of two streams. Commanding a quiet, wooded valley with a view of the sea beyond, Manorbier is one of the most secluded and beautiful castles in Pembrokeshire. It is famous as the birthplace, in 1147, of Giraldus Cambrensis, who accompanied Archbishop Baldwin on a tour of Wales in 1188 to recruit for the Third Crusade. His oft-quoted writings on Manorbier describe it as 'the pleasantest spot in Wales' and provide a vivid sense of the surroundings of the castle in its heyday. He wrote: 'The castle is excellently well defended by turrets and bulwarks, having on its northern and southern sides a fine fish pond under its wall, and a beautiful orchard on the same side, enclosed on one part by a vineyard and on the other by a wood'. Unlike many of the more austere and ruinous Pembrokeshire castles, Manorbier contains a range of well preserved domestic and farm buildings thought to date to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Two of the towers of the old castle were brought into habitation during the late nineteenth century by the owner, J R Cobb, through the provision of roofs and floors. (Coflein)

Prominently sited at the S end of Manorbier village. History: The de Barri family were lords of Manorbier and their castle is first mentioned as the birthplace of Gerald de Barri (Giraldus Cambrensis) in 1146. The de Barris were to become of greater consequence as an Irish family, ancestors of the Barrys of Olethan. Only the Hall and the Old Tower survive of the C12 buildings

The main period of strengthening and adornment of the castle was probably under David de Barri, who was appointed Justiciar of Ireland in 1267. This was a period when the subjugation of Ireland was in decline, and a retreat to Wales might be anticipated. From the mid C14 the title to the castle fell into dispute and its history very entangled. In 1475 it became vested in the Crown, and entered a period of decline, as Leland described it. In the C17 it was occupied by Parliamentary forces and then acquired by sir Erasmus Philipps of Picton Castle, in whose family it has since remained. In c.1880 J R Cobb took a tenancy, built a house in the Inner Ward and carried out numerous restorations. The castle is believed never to have been seriously besieged, and its decline was merely through physical neglect. Description: Although built on sandstone, the masonry is of limestone. The castle consists of an Inner Ward, with a strong curtain wall, and a less defended Outer Ward with a dry moat at the Inner Ward entrance. Inner Ward: At the SW is the mediaeval house, consisting of a hall and 2 later wings. The hall is about 10.5 m by 6.6 m, with a large lateral fireplace on the NE side, with big corbels for the hood. To the NW of the Hall is a Buttery and above that a Solar. There are 3 vaulted spaces beneath the Hall, 2 of which were sealed and unused. There is an external staircase and an internal winding staircase leading to the Solar The Solar has a window of Norman style. The walls are of exceptional thickness, and the building might be regarded as a small Keep, until the C13 additions decreased its military character. The Chapel was added c.1260. It is aligned to true E, without regard to adjacent structures. It is almost as large as the Hall, and much ornamented. It has a high pointed vault. It is of limestone with architectural dressings of sandstone. There are traces of an extensive scheme of painted decoration. Large windows with Early English angle-columns and stiff-leaf capitals. Single sedile, with a lancet window at S of the altar. One window at the S side was later altered to a fireplace, with a large external chimney and a stack resembling 2 circular stacks fused together. Between the Chapel and Hall is sandwiched a later passage with solars above. From this to the S is a spur, which extends to the Curtain Wall. Outside the latter is a tower: in military terms it gave flanking defence to the curtain, in domestic terms it served for latrines. To the NE of the Inner Ward is the entrance with gate-towers and 2 large corner towers. The ruinous Old Tower to the NW of the present entrance is probably contemporary with the Hall. The curtain wall and the corner towers are probably c.1230. The most complete feature is the Round Tower, with 4 storeys (the floors restored) and battlements. The windows and door recesses are in deep arch-headed alcoves, as the wall is about 1.5 m thick. The parapet stands on a corbel table and is crenellated. The curtain walls were heightened several times. The guardroom now serves as the castle ticket office ad shop. It has a shallow first floor vault and an upper storey. The vaulted gatehouse contains the signs of portcullises and a drawbridge, but some details are due to modern attempts at reconstruction. Recess for the raised drawbridge about 0.9 m deep with housings for the trunnions. Upper rooms with window seats. At the top there is a lookout tower. The barn at the SE of the Inner Ward is post-0mediaeval. Attached to it is a large hexagonal chimney of unknown purpose, but seemingly domestic, with ovens. At the NE end is the house built c.1880 by J R Cobb, but there are vaulted cellars beneath it which are perhaps mediaeval. In the Outer War is a large barn, seemingly later in date than the Civil War earthworks at the entrance to the Inner Ward. This barn is about 10 m by about 42 m long, with slightly battered walls and the typical large opposed doorways of a threshing floor, one 4.5 m wide and the other 3 m wide. Nothing survives of its roof structure and it was already roofless by the time of Buck’s engraving in 1740. There are fragmentary defences of the Outer Ward, including a tower or bastion at the N corner. Listed Grade I for its exceptional importance as an early complete medieval castle of enclosure. (Listed Building Report)

Manorbier Castle is probably best known for being the birthplace of Giraldus Cambrensis. The Royal Commission record of 1925 states that the surviving structure is not earlier than the period 1275-1325, but that the present castle is built upon and incorporates an earlier building. The castle is located about 800m from the sea on rising ground in a deep valley. The inner ward, c60m x c40m, is surrounded by a curtain wall with a gatehouse in the east wall. At the north-east and south-east corners are two towers, the north tower and the round tower. There is a spur tower at the south-western corner and a turret roughly mid-way along the northern curtain wall. A range of domestic buildings, including the hall block, the kitchens and a chapel, formerly abutted the southern, western and north-western curtain walls. Some of these have been replaced by modern buildings. The hall block and the chapel survive, although the chapel was converted to secular use during the 16th century. Much restoration work was carried out on the castle in the 1860s and 1960s. In 1986 the castle was described as being "in a good state of preservation" (Dyfed Archaeological Trust HER)

Odo de Barri built the first castle at Manorbier, in the C11, an earth and timber fortification which his son, William de Barri, refortified in stone during C12. William's son was Giraldus Cambrensis.

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 ReferenceSS063977
Latitude51.6454887390137
Longitude-4.79967021942139
Eastings206380
Northings197790
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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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.

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 162
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 86-87
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 2209-10
  • Driver, T., 2007, Pembrokeshire: Historic Landscapes from the Air (RCAHMW) p. 245-6
  • Hull, Lise, 2005, Castles and Bishops Palaces of Pembrokeshire (Logaston Press) p. 132-140
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 163-6
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 47, 93-5 (reconstructions)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 103-4
  • Salter, Mike, 1996, The Castles of South West Wales (Malvern) p. 64-7 (plan)
  • Miles, Dillwyn, 1979 (Revised 1988), Castles of Pembrokeshire (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park) p. 24-5
  • Davis, P.R., 1987, Castles of Dyfed (Llandysul: Gomer Press) p. 14-15
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 394-5
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 365
  • Stickings, T.G., 1973, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 32-38
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 239
  • Leach, A.L., 1937, History of the Civil War in Pembrokeshire (London) p. 60, 112
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 209-10
  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 211-4 no. 651 online copy
  • Edwards, Emily Hewlett, 1909, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 26-30 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 476-7 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • 1780, Antiquarian Repertory Vol. 3 p. 276 plate
  • 1779, Antiquarian Repertory Vol. 2 p. 213-4, 280, plates
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 423
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 69-70 online copy

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
  • King, D.J.C. and Perks, J.C., 1970, 'Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 119 p. 83-118
  • 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
  • King, D.J.C., 1962, 'Manorbier Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 319-20 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1962, 'The Castles of Pembrokeshire' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 313-6 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)
  • Hussey, 1939, Country Life Vol. 86 p. 308-12
  • Duckett, Sir J., 1891, 'Evidences of the Barri Family of Manorbeer and Olethan, with other early owners of the former, in Pembrokeshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 46 p. 190-209, 277-96 online copy
  • Duckett, Sir J., 1882, 'Manorbeer Castle and its early owners' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 37 p. 166-73 online copy
  • Cobb, J.R., 1880, 'Manorbere' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 35 p. 286-91 online copy
  • Duckett, Sir J., 1880, 'Manorbeer Castle: evidences of its early owners' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 35 p. 134-45 online copy
  • Smith, Gilbert N., 1849, 'Maenor Pyrr' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 4 p. 204-7 online copy

Guide Books

  • Dashwood, Caroline, c.2003, Manorbier Castle, Pembrokeshire (Pembroke: Monddi Diamond Press)
  • Vlitos, R., n.d., Manorbier Castle and Gerald of Wales (Llandeilo: Dragon Publishing)
  • Dashwood, Francis, 1966, A brief Guide to Manorbier Castle in the County of Pembroke

Primary Sources

  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 392-3
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1912, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1374-77) Vol. 16 p. 495 online copy
  • Stamp, A.E. (ed), 1929, Calendar of Close Rolls Henry IV (1402-1405) Vol. 2 p. 111 view online copy (subscription required)