Tenby Town Walls

The town walls are said without evidence to have been built by the Marshalls before 1245 as they existed in 1328 when a single murage grant for 7 years was enacted.  As the walls bear similarities to the walls of various Marshall castles which have loops at internal ground level, this appears possible.  Other such walls exist at Dunamase and Goodrich, though such walls do not exist at other known Marshall castles like Chepstow, Pembroke and Usk.  Such loops also exist at Grosmont, which was never under Marshall control.  

The town walls were rebuilt in 1457 after becoming derelict.  To this end Earl Jasper ‘Tudor' of Pembroke agreed to pay half the costs if the townsfolk supplied the rest.  This included heightening the walls and thickening them to 6' so they could take a wallwalk.  To do this a succession of arches were added to the rear of the wall, in places blocking some of the earlier, ground level loops.  It appears that the walls were all heightened by some 5'.  Further the moat was widened to 30'.  The large rectangular bastion with its keyhole gunports, fireplace and adjacent wallwalk operated garderobe were probably built now and the D shaped towers rebuilt.  The  'Five Arch' barbican may have been rebuilt during the Spanish Armada scare.  The wallwalk was largely intact in 1812, but removed soon afterwards.

Along the coast cliffs are scrapy remnants of retaining walls and a turret as somewhat peculiarly it is the landward defences that have largely survived
substantially complete with 5 towers and a gate.  The Great North or Carmarthen gate was demolished in 1781, but the rest of the NW wall survives, some 25' high, running up to a D shaped corner tower.  The original wall with wallwalk was only 18' high and 4'6" thick.  The corner tower is now 30' high and seems to have been largely reconstructed in 1457 and then converted into a summer house.  The lower loops on this front were blocked when the curtain was thickened.

From the NW corner the wall ran to the SE via a much mutilated probably 1457, D shaped tower to the ‘five arch gate'.  The wall along this front was thickened by the use of arches which left the earlier loops open.  The gate was originally a hole in the wall structure that had the semi-circular barbican applied to it, probably in 1457.  Originally it only had an egress to the north via a portcullis protected pointed archway.  Within this was the open space, some 40' by 20' of the interior of the barbican.  A right angled turn brought the attacker to the main gate which was defended solely by its gates and the wallwalks of the barbican and the curtain over the gate.  The arch to this is Romanesque, if it is original.  The other 4 gates in the barbican have been broken through earlier thinnings in the wall of uncertain purpose.

From the gate the wall runs to another D shaped tower.  However, after only 3 loops there is a marked change in the wall style and the loops end.  Obviously the curtain has been rebuilt beyond here, slightly thinner than before.  There is a plaque here which states ‘Built 1588, Elizabeth Regina 30'.   Beyond this point the loops style in the battlements change from those with oillets to either plain slits or those with sighting slits.  At the end of this is a much modified rectangular tower which seems also to be fifteenth century.  Finally, there is another D shaped tower which appears to mark the thirteenth century end of the wall.  This tower has been much modified in recent years.  From here the original wall turns at right angles to run along the beach.  Surprisingly a little triangular annex has been added here with a small rectangular tower commanding the seashore.  This appears to be fifteenth century.

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


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