Kidwelly Castle (Carmarthenshire, Wales)
Updated: Jan 18, 2019
An imposing statement of Norman power, Kidwelly Castle started as a timber and ringwork castle overlooking the River Gwendraeth .
The castle was founded soon after 1106 by the Bishop of Salisbury. It started as a large D-shaped ringwork with timber defences and like many Norman castles in south-west Wales, was taken and held by the Welsh multiple times.
The earliest phase of the stone castle dates to around 1200, but there's ambiguity over whether this happened whilst the site was under Norman or Welsh control. Comparing it with local castles Laugharne and Llansteffan it is most likely that the work was undertaken during a period when the Normans had regained control either in 1201 or 1220, but without any written evidence its impossible to be 100% certain of this.
The main phase of construction happened in the later 13th Century (c.1275) under Payn and Patrick de Chaworth, leading Lords of the Welsh Marches. This phase included construction of the square inner ward with its 4 massive towers, and rebuilding the outer curtain wall with four towers and gatehouses to the north and south. This formed the concentric castle that can be seen to this day.
In 1283 the castle was acquired by William de Valence, and it is likely that he undertook further work in the inner ward, including adding a new kitchen, hall, solar, and the private chapel that faces over the river.
In the 14th Century the castle became the administrative centre for the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1403 the castle was besieged during the Owain Glyndwr revolt, but held out despite the town itself being ransacked. There is no evidence that Owain himself was involved in the siege, instead a former steward of the Duchy of Lancaster, Henry Don, was responsible for this failed attempt to take Kidwelly Castle.
From 1408 to 1422 work took place on the partially destroyed gatehouse. Later medieval work included two rectangular buildings, a bakehouse, a malt kiln, and additional curtain wall.
By 1609 the castle is recorded as 'decayed and ruined'.
in the present day the Castle is managed by CADW. It is paid entry, free to CADW members. There's a small free carpark for the castle. if you're visiting, I would definitely recommend taking a look at the town walls as well!
Pictures taken April 2018.