Dinefwr, like Castell
Carreg Cennen and Dryslwyn, was
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
rebuilt by the elder brothers of Rhys ap Gruffydd
The castle passed back to the Normans, who may have been responsible
for the great rock cut ditch that surrounds the site. If this is
true, it is possible that they also built the stone castle with the
rock quarried from the ditch. In 1164 Rhys retook the castle
again in his wars against Henry II (1154-89). The castle was mentioned by Giraldus
in 1188. In 1189 the Lord Rhys (d.1197) imprisoned 2 of his
troublesome sons here. Such an imprisonment might well suggest
that a great tower stood here. In the struggles that beset Rhys'
principality he found it necessary to retake the castle again in 1192.
thirteenth century the fortress was claimed to be the capital
the kingdom of Deheubarth. As such it certainly attracted
enemies with Maelgwn ap Rhys (d.1230) being evicted from this castle and Llandovery in 1204. In January 1214, King John's troops, allied with
Rhys Ieunac (d.1222), a grandson of the Lord Rhys (d.1197), successfully
attacked the castle after fighting a pitched battle outside its walls
against Rhys Gryg (d.1234), his uncle. The castle wall was stormed and
the central tower attacked by men with scaling ladders.
they failed to break into the tower, the castle did surrender on terms
the next day.
The castle fell to the great offensive by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth in South
Wales during the winter of 1215 and was returned to Rhys Gryg
(d.1234). However on 30 August 1220, he dismantled it
before being beaten by the forces of Prince Llywelyn at the battle of
Carmarthen. The fortress was obviously rebuilt and Rhys remained
in possession, passing it on to his son, Rhys Mechyll (d.1244).
Rhys' death war was raging through Wales and in 1246 King Henry III
(1216-72) took the castle into his own hand from Rhys' widow, Matilda
Clare, and held it until her son, Rhys Fychan (d.1271), came of age in
The fortress suffered repeated attacks in the
wars, Rhys Fychan (d,1271) being expelled from the castle by Llywelyn
ap Gruffydd in 1256 as he preferred to stay loyal to King Henry III
(d.1272). Rhys went to Carmarthen and Prince Edward's bailiffs
raised a large relief force to retake Dinefwr for Rhys. Prince
Rhys then left this army under the walls of his castle and suddenly
fled within, changing sides and leaving his erstwhile English allies to
be massacred as they attempted to return to Carmarthen.
After Rhys' death in 1271, the castle passed to Rhys Wyndod, his son.
In 1276 royalist forces from Carmarthen appeared under the castle
walls and induced Rhys and his brothers to surrender. The king
then ordered the castle kept by a royal garrison, although he allowed
the princely brothers to keep their lands. At the beginning of
the war in 1282, Dinefwr, Llandovery and Castell Carreg Cennen were
seized by the rebels and on 17 June a royalist army under the earl of
Gloucester was defeated nearby. As late as 1319 it was recorded that
parts of Dinefwr castle had not been repaired since they were burned.
Presumably this burning occurred in 1282.
During the war of 1282-83, Rhys Wyndod was one of the last princes to remain fighting. However, on his surrender, King Edward
refused to turn Dinefwr
castle over to Rhys ap Maredudd of Dryslwyn, another great grandson of
the Lord Rhys (d.1197) who claimed it. This was a partial cause
for his rebellion in 1287 and Rhys' death by hanging in 1292. The
castle then remained as a royal fortress in the district, containing a
constable and 6 archers in 1370 during a French invasion scare.
The castle earthworks from an angular inner ward, about 160' east to
west by 120' north to south, backed against a steep fall down to the
Rover Tywi to the south. Such a ward bears comparison with those
of Dryslwyn and Dinas Powys. East of the main enceinte lay a
large rectangular outer
bailey about 200' north to south by 150' wide which itself was divided
into 2, an upper ward to the north and a lower ward with rectangular gatehouse to the south.
The core of the castle consists of a fine round keep, 45' in diameter, now standing
storeys high in the south-east corner of the ward. Round keeps seem particularly prevalent in South
Wales, but others can be found throughout western Europe. Entrance
to the tower was at first floor level via steps up the keep exterior,
somewhat similar to the layout at Dolbadarn. Much later a bridge
was built across to the entrance from the south
curtain. The peculiar centre of Dinefwr keep appears to be the
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
in Scotland and at Hawarden as well as at the uncompleted towers at Beaumaris.
The current ground floor entrance appears to belong to the same
date as the hall block. Despite unsourced claims to the contrary,
the keep was likely the
attacked in 1214.
The main castle enceinte
has been destroyed to the east, where the corner of the ward seems to
have been totally quarried away. This enceinte consisted of a
pentagonal ward which currently has a hole in the wall gateway to the south-west, where it is
closely covered by the keep. A postern lay to the south-east and
was covered by the only flanking in this entire ward, a shallow
rectangular turret at the south-west apex of the site. Excavation has shown that a second building phase saw 2 walls added
with the hole in the wall gateway to make a small, rectangular internal
Around the same time a round tower was added to the northern apex of
the site in a peculiar manner so that it did not project to the east
and only about half of it projected to the north. This odd arrangement
is similar to the tower added at the apex of Ewloe castle. It is possible that this tower was built by Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth or Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd as a sign of their lordship over these castles. The same may be true of the castles of Dolforwyn, Ewloe and Machen and perhaps echoes the double motted castles of Lincoln and Lewes in England.
The north front of the original castle
has been replaced by a large slightly projecting rectangular tower housing a solar block.
At the same time the round north tower was chamfered off
internally to make it a D shaped tower. Possibly simultaneously
a new south wall was built to the enceinte with a new twin towered,
internal gatehouse and a boldly projecting rectangular turret at its
north end. The bulk of the barbican was probably built slightly
after this, judging by the butt joint it makes with this turret.
Part of the old enceinte to the south-east seems to have been
retained as the north wall of the long barbican.
versions of long barbicans exist at Denbigh, Carreg Cennen and Castell y Bere. All would appear to be totally Welsh in origin.
The outer ward to the east was once walled and had a projecting gatetower
centrally to the east. This appears to have been the entire
flanking for the ward, which again would suggest an early date for its
construction. This virtual complete lack of flanking suggests
that the bulk of the site was Welsh built, even the later hall block to
the north being pretty deficient in flanking.
The final phase in the castle's life seems to have been the addition of
a long, narrow hall overlying the curtain between the rectangular tower to the east and the D
shaped tower at the north apex of the site. Possibly this addition is the only English work at the site.
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Paul Martin Remfry