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Narberth Castle

At S end of town, Pembrokeshire, south Wales
SN 110 144

Map link for Narberth Castle

Above: view of the interior of the castle - the hall & the southwest tower.

Text copyright © 1998 by Alison D. Martin
Photographs copyright © by Irma Hale

Below: exterior view of the southwest tower (left) and interior view of the ruined southeast tower (right)


Castles have been my passion since the sight of my first one in North Wales. It was my first time in the United Kingdom and not long after I stepped from my early morning flight, I came face to face with the enormous and proud Flint Castle. From that moment on I wanted to view as many as I could and I even moved from the United States to the United Kingdom in order to be closer to the structures and to Wales.

Most of my spare time had been spent in viewing the castles and in touring the different areas of Wales and a holiday over Easter 98 had brought me into South Wales and the unexpected pleasure of viewing Narberth Castle. I had mapped out the area well and had planned to see as many castles as possible but Narberth had escaped my travel plans. I was in search of a totally different structure all together when the journey brought me into the small but picturesque village of Narberth. Perched quietly above me as I drove along the road was what appeared to be the ruins of a castle. I quickly turned around and parked the car in order to take a closer look.

There was no clearly visible path that would lead up to the structure and I was about to depart when I saw a small narrow path to my left that seemed to possibly lead to the ruins. I walked along the path and very soon I found myself standing amongst the remainder of what surely was a grand structure at one time. To envisage this took some effort, as there are only scant fragments left. I later read that what was now there was most likely preceded by what is now called Sentence Castle located just a few miles away.

Narberth was once a rectangular enclosure with four corner towers. The entire North side and the gatehouse were long gone. What remained were fragments of a great chamber over a vaulted storeroom. It's location may lead one to think that it had played a role in the Glyndwr Rebellion though the area remained under English influence under the watchful eye of Thomas Carrewe. He kept the castle secure during this period with his small garrison and reaped the reward of Lordship in 1404. Sir Edmund Mortimer was the fifth to gain the Earldom but it reverted to royal possession when he died childless in 1425.

Narberth has no overly grand stories to remark of its past. Many other castles have far more exciting histories. It is Narberth's quiet simplicity that makes it a treasure all it's own. It is rather disappointing to see the condition that Narberth is in today. What little that remains has fallen victim to lack of any attending to and the whole site shows the signs of blatant vandalism. There are several agencies in the process of attempting to secure the much-needed funds for the restoration but at this point the prognosis looks bleak at best. I fell in love with Narberth upon first sight and have only been able to conclude that my love is more of a sympathy for a structure that once stood so tall and proud and has been reduced to only a fragment of its former self. Though in comparison to some of the larger structures, Narberth may seem not so important to attempt to view, I can promise that it is well worth a trip to this lovely village.

Upon my exit from the Castle, I noticed that it stood on private land with a NO TRESPASSING sign that stands a bit out of view. I quickly left the site when I noticed that I should not have been there and then contacted the Pembrokeshire County Council in regard to revisiting the site. I was told that the site has been leased to the council for a period of one hundred years and due to the castle's current condition, it was not open for visitors under any circumstances. Considerable work needs to be done in order to make the actual Castle grounds safe for tourism. Even if viewed solely from the road, Narberth is well worth a visit. If you listen carefully, it may just speak to you as it has to me.

The following is an excerpt from an essay titled "Narberth - Part of a Greater Domain" copyright © by Richard Williams.

Leading west from the tiny conurbation is a road called Welshman's Road. The origin of this name could well be the fact that it formed the final approach of visitors to the two manors from the more western enclaves of the Mortimers. And the western-most of these lordships, on the mainland at least, was Narberth. This included the castle and its adjacent borough, together with Robeston Wathen, Templeton, Lampeter Velfrey, Llanddewi Velfrey, Molleston, Henllan Amgoed, Peulinog and Crinow, plus half of St. Clears.

Described by one observer as a "small but imposing medieval castle", built on a knoll to the south of the town, Narberth was of an irregular rectangular shape, with towers at each corner. The gatehouse was set into the shorter north wall and could well have been linked to the dominant north-east tower with its "great deep dungeon". Sadly, the structure has become progressively more derelict since the late 16th century.

The history of virtually every Welsh castle contains at least one episode which describes its fate during the Glyndwr Rebellion. While Narberth's position could have occasioned a threat from the Welsh at more than one stage of the uprising, it would appear that it remained throughout a bastion of English influence in the area.

This was, no doubt, due to the energies of the castellan, Thomas Carrewe, who, with a small garrison of men-at-arms and bowmen, kept it secure. For this, he was rewarded with the lordship in 1404. This favour Tad been in the hands of the crown since 1402, when it was forfeited by Sir Edmund Mortimer, younger brother of the fourth Earl, Roger, when the former had made common cause with Glyndwr after his capture in June of that year.

By courtesy of Henry V, the lordship of Narberth reverted to the Mortimers in the person of Edmund's nephew of the same name. This benefaction, for loyal service in the war against France, was rather ironic, as the young Mortimer was the true heir to the English throne having rightful, but unfulfilled precedence over the former Prince Hal who made the gift.

This Edmund also regained the earldom as its fifth holder, but became the last incumbent when he died childless in 1425. With the accession of his nephew's son as Edward IV, Narberth reverted into royal possession.

So ended the Narberth-Mortimer association. It had lasted virtually unbroken for almost two centuries. However important that link had been in the lives of some east Pembrokeshire retainers, though, throughout that period their patch was merely part of a larger fabric. The lordship of Narberth was just one of many in a much greater domain.


Below: view of the southwest tower at Narberth Castle


Below: the cellar and pantry (left) & southeast tower (right)

Below: interior view of the vaulted cellar & pantry


Below: this fragment is all that remains of the castle's Great Tower (left) and a window seat in Southwest Tower (right)



Below: interior of the southwest tower (left) & view of the southeast tower from southwest tower (right)



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Copyright © 2009 by Alison D. Martin, Richard Williams, Irma Hale and the Castles of Wales Website