Dryslwyn Castle

The castle crowns the summit of an isolated hill rising from the Afon Tywi flood plain.  The castle was initially founded by a prince of Deheubarth, possibly Rhys ap Gruffydd (d.1197) or his son, Rhys Gryg (d.1234), who was certainly lord of the district by 1227.   Maredudd ap Rhys inherited the castle on Rhys' death in 1234 and ruled his lands from Dryswlyn castle until 27 July 1271 when he died within the fortress, leaving the castle to his son, Rhys ap Maredudd (d.1292).  The castle endured its first known siege by royal forces in 1245 and its history as a princely castle came to an end in 1287 when it was captured by the Crown after a desperate and famous siege in which part of the wall was brought down burying the attackers in a mine.  The site of the siege mine is still plainly obvious in the outer defences.

There is a walled borough on the lower summit of the hill, which like the castle itself, was modified and repaired throughout the following century.  In 1370, during a French invasion scare, the castle contained a constable, Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd, and 10 archers.  Some 30 years later the castle was captured in 1403 during the wars of Glyndwr.  It remained in rebel hands for some 3 years before being abandoned and largely demolished.

The earliest castle consisted of a strong limestone rubble walled ward which now mostly stands some 3' high.  To the east, part of the curtain wall was remodelled to make a garderobe with 2 shafts reached up stone steps.  At the NE corner is the original, but altered gatehouse, within which are the remains of steps to the wallwalk.  It survives as only foundations, but the lower jambs of the portcullis slot remains within a cobbled passage.  On the south side of the gatehouse is the original round tower-keep, 40' in diameter was walls 12' thick.  It is set mostly within the defences, just like the keep at Dinefwr.  Dryslwyn keep was originally entered at first floor level from external steps built above a broad NW buttress.  A ground floor doorway with segmental stone head, is a later insertion.
 A list of other round tower keeps can be found in the description of Llanstephan castle and a general list of round keeps is found under Dundrum. 

Within the ward are the foundations of the early great hall with a later one at right angles on its east side.  The original hall has a segmental-headed doorway in the north wall, with a narrow window to its west.  In the centre are the stone foundations of the hall fire hearth and the outline of a small prison to the north. 

A separate building phase consisted of a middle ward constructed on the NE side of the inner ward.  Another bailey was then added to the north.  The fragmentary remains of the curtain in the outer ward looks similar to that of the inner ward on the south side, so perhaps the 3 baileys were walled in stone from the first.  Within the original inner ward, a new apartment block and chapel were added on the south side, directly overlooking the Tywi valley.  Probably simultaneously the gatehouse was rebuilt.  All of this occurred while the castle was probably still under Welsh control.  With the substantial settlement grown around the north side of the fortress this became the largest known castle in Wales built by a Welsh lord.  The projecting chapel on the east side was at first floor level and still contains the remains of 3 lancet windows.  There was also originally a postern gate in the original curtain wall at this point.  The 2 storey apartment block has 2 pointed windows in the lower storey and the jamb and embrasure of a third, while in the upper storey a single similar opening survives with the jamb and embrasure of a second opening.  In the outer ward masonry of the NE gatehouse includes stone steps to the destroyed wallwalk.

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


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