St Davids Cathedral Close

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are major building remains

NameSt Davids Cathedral Close
Alternative NamesPorth-y-twr
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed
CommunitySt Davids and the Cathedral Close

Close surrounded by embattled wall of fair height. One fine gate in a long projection below a fortified belfry (Porth-y- twr). The whole is impractically large and not well suited for defence. (King)

But the Close, the ecclesiastical palladium, including within its embattled wall the venerable cathedral, the episcopal palace, the still habitable houses of some of the dignitaries, together with the skeletons of several in ruins, exhibit such remains of grandeur as may justify us in forming the most magnificent notions of their former establishment. This close was in circuit twelve hundred yards, had a walk round with a crenelled parapet. The entrance was by four handsome gateways or Porths, answering to the four cardinal points, such as Porth y twr, Tower Gate to the east, Porth Patrick, Patrick's Gate to the south, Porth gwyn, the White Gate to the west, Porth Bwnning, or Bunning's Gate to the north. This enclosure, allowing for the cemetery and suitable gardens to most of the houses, was richly built upon, and in its present state of decadency, as it bursts on the sight from the entrance above the valley, forms a most striking coup d'oeil. The Tower Gate, through which is the principal entrance into the close as leading from the town immediately, and connecting from all the main roads from the interior, consists of a large octagon tower 60 feet in height, with a noble door-way facing the east end of the church, and opening into the churchyard. This building, divided into stories, formed the consistory court and the record office of the see. In the opposite wing, consisting likewise of a tower, but of a very different form, and connected with the other by a range of buildings extending over the gateway, were the council chamber and other large appartments, supposed to have been appropriate to the mayor of the town, as they were only entered by a door and staircase on the town side

Under these apartments were the porter's lodge on one side of the gateway, and on the other a prison with a dungeon in the centre, a dark subterraneous vault or cavern, with no other adit than a circular opening in the floor, covered with a strong grating of iron, by which the malefactors were let into it. (Fenton, 1811 quoted in RCAHMW, 1925)

Situated at entrance to The Cathedral Close from The Pebbles. Large C14 bell tower with attached, possibly C15, fortified gate. Rubble stone part ruinous, the bell-tower substantially restored 1929 by W D Caroe. Bell-tower is large two-stage octagonal tower with moulded plinth and moulded course before set-back bell-stage, ruinous and roofless in old photographs but now with corbelled flat parapet. Bell-stage has large pointed openings, originally longer but part-blocked, with hoodmoulds. Lower stage has E side lancet and N side pointed moulded doorway with column shafts and hoodmould. Studded plank doors. SE stair tower projecting slightly on upper stage and rising to restored octagonal turret. S side obscured by attached gateway. Gateway and S tower added to S in rougher rubble stone with corbel table below former battlements, now ruinous. Rounded S end with higher corbel table. E front has big segmental pointed arch over roadway, small blocked doorway to right with loop over. To right, without break in walling, S tower with one high window, rounded S end with Close Wall attached to SW; W front window at upper level and lower large pointed light to left, just before change in level of corbel table. To left, segmental-pointed large arch over roadway, and above, to left a small window robbed of ashlar. Southern range is roofless, but within gateway, two portcullis slots and double archway on N side, robbed of ashlar, giving access to half-round recess with narrow round-headed doorway. South side has round headed narrow doorway. Studded plank doors with iron strap hinges to both doorways. (Listed Building Report 12541)

Situated to SW of cathedral between raised churchyard and lane running N from the Deanery to the ford. Rubble stone retaining wall, free-standing at S end where there are a pair of big squat square stone piers with pyramid caps to Deanery Gate carriage entry. C20 wooden gates, and small stone kissing gate to N. From gate, some seven metres length, then retaining wall of some 22m length with two blocked loops at S end, similar to those in N wall of C14 St Mary's College and indicating the site of the undercroft described by Archdeacon Yardley in early C18 as 'one large vault of equal length, where materials are deposited for ye use and repairs of ye church". Yardley states that the school, previously in the W cloister, was moved here to what was a 'storehouse, or workhouse for ye use of ye church', and presumably a schoolroom was built above, that survived until 1791 when John Nash converted it into a much criticised chapter house which was demolished 1829. It is not known how much survives of the undercroft. (Listed Building Report 12548)

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceSM752253
Latitude51.8813781738281
Longitude-5.26753997802734
Eastings175200
Northings225360
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Books

  • Hull, Lise, 2005, Castles and Bishops Palaces of Pembrokeshire (Logaston Press) p. 197
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 174
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 238-40 (plan)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 401
  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 340-1 online copy
  • Edwards, Emily Hewlett, 1909, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 46 online copy
  • Jones and Freeman, 1856, History and Antiquities of St David's (London) p. 207-10
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Fenton, R., 1811, A historical tour through Pembrokeshire (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & co.) p. 59- online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • 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
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1962 'The Bishop's Palace and Ecclesiastical City of St David's' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 332-35 online copy
  • Caroe, A.D.R., 1954, ‘Porth-y-Twr, St David’s’ Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 103 p. 1-17

Guide Books

  • Radford, C.A.R., St David's Bishops Palace (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Willis-Bund, J.W. (ed), 1902, Black Book of St. David's (Cymrodorion Society) p. 12-13