Dinefwr Castle (Carmarthenshire, Wales)
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Situated above the gorgeous Tywi valley, the site of Dinefwr Castle (pronounced Din-ever) is associated with the princes of Deheubarth, the kingdom in south-west Wales, the chief seat of their kingdom.
The first castle supposedly built on the site of Dinefwr Castle was pre-Norman conquest by Rhodri the Great (820 – 878), although nothing remains of this structure. Dinefwr later became the seat of Rhodri’s Grandson Hywel Dda, first ruler of Deheubarth and later king of most of Wales. Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheubarth from 1155 to 1197, is thought to have rebuilt the castle.
In 1197 the castle was briefly occupied by the English. It was retaken by Rhys Grug, then in 1213 taken by his nephew Rhys Ieuanc with English support. When Lleweylyn ap Iorwerth divided up Lord Rhys' inheritance in 1216 the castle was given back to Rhys Grug, who dismantled a vast portion of the castle in 1220 to prevent occupation. The present keep and north-west tower are though to have been constructed after this.
In 1255 Llywelyn the Last gave Dinefwr to Rhys Fychan, then later gave it to Maredudd ap Rhys before later returning it to Rhys Fychan. Maredydd now allied himself to King Edward I of England, and helped Edward capture Dinefwr in 1277. Maredudd had apparently been promised Dinefwr in return for his help, but Edward did not keep his promise and had Maredudd executed in 1291.
It was briefly held again by the Welsh in 1287 during the uprising of Rhys ap Maredudd, however by the 1290s is was held by John Gifford, who also held the nearby Carreg Cennen Castle. In 1317 the castle was granted to Hugh Despencer and was damaged in the subsequent revolt over the influence the Despencers held over the Crown.
It was unsuccessfully besieged by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr in 1403.
Towards the end of the 15th century the castle was held by Sir Rhys ap Thomas, who carried out extensive rebuilding and repairs. In 1531 his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd was executed for treason and the castle was confiscated by the crown, though the family were later able to recover it.
In 1660 Newton House was built nearby and the castle keep modified as a summer house. The remains of the large windows can be seen at the top of the keep, but it burned down in the 18th century. The castle is now owned by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and managed by CADW. The Castle lies within Dinefwr Park which is managed by the National Trust, but the castle remains are free to access and require a small walk from the carpark.
Site visited April 2018.
Photos © Completely Castles 2018