Tenby Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameTenby Castle
Alternative NamesDinbych-y-pysgod; Canneby
Historic CountryPembrokeshire
Modern AuthorityPembrokeshire
1974 AuthorityDyfed

Tenby castle occupied a large steep-sided promontory attached by a narrow neck to the medieval borough with its splendid walls (see NPRN 33213). The castle is greatly ruined and only fragments remain within a public park. The promontory was walled where it faces the town. It is reached by a sloping roadway rising along the southern wall. The much ruined gate has a D-plan barbican or outwork. Next to this the town museum built in the shell of the castle apartments. On the highest part of the promontory is a small round tower with a square stair turret. At 5.8m diameter this is the smallest castle great tower in Wales and may have been built as a homage to the great tower at Pembroke Castle. (Coflein)

On Castle Hill, a rugged promontory that divides the north and south beaches of Tenby, are the fragmentary remains of a medieval castle that was first mentioned in the twelfth century. In the 13th century Tenby Castle was part of the Lordship of Pembroke. The present remains are a gate tower and barbican (killing zone) at the south-west entrance,a round central watch tower on the summit of the hill, defensive walls and parts of domestic buildings. Short lengths of embattled curtain wall are exposed at low tide. (Dyfed Archaeological Trust HER)

Remains are situated at various locations on Castle Hill, on the NE side of the town.

Fragmentary remains of a medieval castle whose individual buildings were mentioned in an Inquisition of 1386. It is not know for certain when the masonry castle was built, a C12 Norman fort was taken by the Welsh in 1153 and 1187. The castle was part of the lordship of Pembroke in the C13, and the present remains are almost certainly C13, but whether built for the Marshals before 1245 or their successor William Valence (d 1296) is uncertain, nor is the extent of damage sustained in 1260 when Llywelyn the Last sacked the town

In disrepair from the C14, the castle saw action in the C17, being held for the Parliament for most of the Civil War, but taken for 10 weeks in 1648 by the Royalists. In 1818 a look-out tower and boat-house for the coastguard was built. In the 1860s the Castle Hill was laid out with walks and the National Memorial to the Prince Consort erected. The National School was built into a medieval domestic building, possibly the hall, depicted as roofless and gable-ended in early views. The school was founded in 1832, enlarged in 1842, and closed in 1874. The building became the Tenby Museum in 1878, and is listed separately.

Fragmentary remains of C13 castle. Of the outer walls very little remains of the main wall across the neck of the headland, but a stretch survives to N, before the 1904 lifeboat house, with arrowslits and wall-walk, and a short length on the S next to the gate and barbican. A more fragmentary and much repaired piece is next to the museum, which is itself built into a medieval domestic building, possibly the hall. A simple square gate through the curtain wall is the main entry but protected by an impressive D-shaped barbican across the approach path. On the summit of Castle Hill the small round watch tower is earlier than the square tower added to W, both medieval. Rubble stone with various altered openings, the square tower containing a newel staircase with access to the roof. Footings of domestic buildings remain on the landward side. Tenby Museum is listed separately. (Listed Building Report)

Fragmentry ruins on Castle hill, bounded by remains of wall, c.160m E-W by 52-95m; entry is through a gate tower and barbican on the S, E of this is a c.34m E-W by 20m complex of buildings, currently occupied by the Museum; a battered circular tower, c.5.8m in diameter, having a rectangular annex on the W, occupies the summit. Laid out as a public park.

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 ReferenceSN137005
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 208
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 94
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  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 174-6
  • Davis, Paul, 2000, A Company of Forts. A Guide to the Medieval Castles of West Wales (Gomer Press) p. 109-11
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  • Stickings, T.G., 1973, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 122-5
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  • RCAHMW, 1925, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Pembrokeshire (HMSO) p. 394-5 no. 1123 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 280 online copy
  • Edwards, Emily Hewlett, 1909, Castles and Strongholds of Pembrokeshire (Tenby) p. 29-33 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 470-72 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 428


  • Wiles, John, 2013-14, '"Marshall towers" in South-West Wales: Innovation, Emulation and Mimicry' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 27 p. 181-202
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • Thomas, W.G., 1976, ‘Tenby Castle’ and ‘Tenby town walls’ The 123rd Annual Meeting in South Pembrokeshire, 1976, CAA p. 26-8
  • Walker, 1969-70, Library of Wales Journal Vol. 16 p. 22
  • 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
  • Harrison, W., 1966, 'Some Aspects of Tenby's History' The Pembrokeshire Historian Vol. 2 p. 54-
  • 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
  • Thomas, W.Gwyn, 1962, 'Tenby Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 119 p. 325-6 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)
  • Laws, E., 1896, 'Notes on the fortifications of mediaeval Tenby' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 51 p. 177-92, 273-89 online copy
  • 1851, 'Tenby Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 6 p. 303-4 online copy

Guide Books

  • Davies, M., 1979, The Story of Tenby (Tenby Museum)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1153 (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)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 437 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 458, 470 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1324-27) Vol. 5 p. 495 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. 396-7
  • C145/237(3) (Survey of 1386) The National Archives reference (calendared in Evans, D.L. (ed), 1957, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 4 p. 198-200 No. 375 [online copy > http://hdl.handle.net/2027/inu.30000095331652?urlappend=%3Bseq=210])
  • SP14/49/32 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference