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St Davids Castle (Parc-y-Castell)

Near St. David's, Pembrokshire, Wales

 

Text, photographs & drawing copyright by John Northall

This early earthwork castle consisted of a partial ringwork and bailey and it was built to provide security for the Bishop of St Davids. It was the furthermost castle of the Landsker Line of castles that stretched from the Bishop's other castle at Llawhaden. The location of St Davids castle can be seen on the sketch map provided for Hayscastle.

King William the Conqueror may have stayed here during his pilgrimage to the nearby ancient holy site at St Davids.

Below: a sketch of how St Davids Castle may have looked in the early 12th century, viewed from the east. The wooden palisade walls and buildings are conjectural but are based on the structures excavated at other sites of this era.

The photograph shows a sturdy D-shaped ringwork appoximately 15 feet high that is surrounded by a V shaped ditch 8 feet deep. This took the place of the conical motte more often found in earthwork castles and provided a greater area of fortified accommodation compared with the overall ground area covered. There is also a more lightly built outer bailey to the north (left) that was built with a core of unmortared stone set within a clay bank.

The ringwork is largely undamaged, except of course for the missing wooden palisade along its top, but it is obscured by a thick layer of undergrowth. There is a steep drop down to the River Alun on the east side (furthest from the camera) where there was deemed to be no need for an additional protective bank.

The castle was superseded by the fortified Bishops Palace which was sited just upstream within the Cathedral precinct. The king had complained to the Bishop about the quality of his accomodation, which could have been within this earthwork, and this may have hastened the demise of the castle. This contrasts with Llawhaden which was converted from a ringwork into an impressive stone castle.

The OS map grid reference for St Davids Castle is 744252. The castle lies on private land but can be easily seen from the adjacent road.

 

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