Dinefwr, like Castell Carreg Cennen and Dryslwynwas another early castle of the princes of Deheubarth, which may have begun its existence as a castle of the Clares during the Anarchy.  It lay about a quarter of a mile south-west of an earlier Roman fort and was rebuilt by the elder brothers of Rhys ap Gruffydd (d.1197) in 1151.  By the thirteenth century the fortress was claimed to be the capital of the kingdom of Deheubarth.  As such it certainly attracked enemies.  In January 1214, King John's troops, allied with Prince Rhys Ieunac (d.1222), a grandson of the Lord Rhys, successfully attacked the castle after fighting a pitched battle outside its walls against Rhys Gryg (d.1234).  The castle wall was stormed and then the central tower attacked by men with scaling ladders.  Although they failed to break into the tower, the castle did surrender on terms the next day.  The fortress suffered repeated attacks in the Welsh wars of the 1270s and 80s.  King Edward's refusal to turn the castle over to Rhys ap Maredudd in 1284 led to a renewal of fighting in South Wales in 1287 and Rhys' death by hanging in 1292.

The castle consists of a fine round keep, now standing 2½ storeys high.  Round keeps seem particularly prevailant in South Wales, but others can be found throughout western Europe.  These are listed under Llanstephan and
Dundrum.  The peculiar centre of Dinefwr keep appears to be the original internal wall of the tower which had a passageway all the round at this level.  A similar design is seen in the Snowdon tower at Kildrummy in Scotland and at Hawarden as well as the uncompleted towers at Beaumaris.  Despite unsourced claims to the country this was likely the tower attacked in 1214. 

The keep is protected on three sides by a tall curtain wall.  This has been destroyed on the NE side, while the north wall of the castle has been replaced by a later courtyard with a hall block, terminated by a round tower emeshed in the west end of the black.  The SW curtain has two irregular rectangular turrets providing some flanking, while there is virtually none for the hole in the wall gateway, although this was protected by a long Welsh barbican and rectangular gatetower of a later build.  Other versions of long barbicans exist at Denbigh and Carreg Cennen.  There was an outer ward to the east which was also walled and had no flanking, but a projecting rectangular gatehouse half way along the NE front.

Why not join me at other Lost Welsh Castles next Spring?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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