PEMBROKE CASTLE, PEMBROKE

Site Details



NPRN
94945
Map Reference
SM90SE
Grid Reference
SM9816801619
Unitary (Local) Authority
Pembrokeshire
Old County
Pembrokeshire
Community
Pembroke
Type of Site
CASTLE
Broad Class
Defence
Period
Medieval

Site Description

1. Pembroke Castle is a vast medieval fortress occupying the point of a cliff-girt promontory between two tidal inlets reaching in from Milford Haven. The castle was established by the Normans in about 1094. Finds of Roman coins may signal an earlier settlement. The castle remained largely an earthwork structure until the beginning of the thirteenth century when the circular great tower was built. Over the next century the castle's two wards or courts were enclosed by strong walls and towers. The town walls were also built in this period (see NPRN 300446). The castle was slighted following the Civil War siege of 1648 and was restored to its present condition in the later nineteenth-earlier twentieth century.

At the heart of the castle is the great tower, largely intact save for its floors and unrestored. It rears up to 24.6m high culminating in a vaulted roof and two tier battlements. The tower was much imitated in south-west Wales, for example at Benton, Manobier, Tenby and Llawhaden. The ruins of palatial apartments stand in the small inner ward in the shadow of the great tower. Below these is the Wogan, a natural cavern fortified with the castle. The walls of the small inner ward are mostly reduced to footings, but the great outer wall with its five towers and great gatehouse, has been largely restored and rebuilt and presents a brave face to the visitor.
In the medieval period mill dams held back the waters of the inlets either side of the castle and walled town. This arrangement seems to have been copied at Manobier Castle.

Sources: Cobb in Archaeologia Cambrensis 4th series 14 (1883), 196-220, 264-273
Cathcart-King in Archaeologia Cambrensis 127 for 1978 (1979), 75-121
Ludlow in Fortress 8 (1991), 25-30

John Wiles, RCAHMW, 4 December 2007

2. The dry summer of 2013 proved to be extremely productive for cropmark aerial reconnaissance across many parts of south, south-west and north Wales. Some of the most interesting parchmarks were recorded within Pembroke Castle during a flight on 29th July 2013 at the very end of the dry spell, prior to impending rain. Parchmarks of various structures are known to become visible within Pembroke Castle from time to time, and have often been observed by visitors from the vantage point of the great keep, but have never been systematically documented. Among the parchmarks recorded at Pembroke Castle during Royal Commission aerial survey in 2013 were those showing footings of a large stone building within the curtain wall of the Outer Ward. Initial checks by TD with Neil Ludlow confirmed that a large building had been excavated here in 1930-1, but no plan survived to show its shape or precise position. The clarity of the building parchmark, and a range of other markings recorded within the castle ground, justified a timely reappraisal of the buried archaeology of Pembroke Castle assisted by accurate mapping from orthorectified aerial photographs. Parchmarks of the main block (centred at SM 98184 01573), appears to resolve as a late-medieval hall-house, similar in plan, if not in scale, to such celebrated examples of the type as Cothay Manor (Somerset). The block is aligned north-north-east by south-south-west and is c.20m long overall with an average width of c.7m; wings project from both ends, to a maximum east-west dimension of c.15m in the south wing (Fig. 4). The relative narrowness of its walls – and, indeed, its total destruction – suggest that it didn’t carry the stone vaults that are so characteristic of south Pembrokeshire. A longer report by T. Driver and N. Ludlow will appear in Archaeology in Wales for 2013.

T. Driver, RCAHMW, June 2014

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