Laugharne Castle (Pembrokeshire, Wales)
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Laugharne castle is a glorious ruin that stands on a low cliff overlooking the estuary of the River Taf.
Originally established in 1116 by Robert Courtemain as a ringwork, the castle was the meeting place of Henry II of England with Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1171-1172 and where they agreed a treaty of peace. When Henry II of England died in 1189 the castle was seized by Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth and may have been burnt down at this time.
Laugharne was rebuilt as a Norman stronghold and in 1215 was captured by Llewelyn the Great. The castle was granted to the de Brian family in 1247, and was captured and destroyed by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1257.
It was in Laugharne in 1403 that Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion stalled. He ambushed and lost 700 men, subsequently retreating. After this the rebellion faltered out under the weight of greater English numbers, and by 1415, Owain Glyndŵr had disappeared.
The de Brian family was responsible for considerable accommodation and other additions to the castle, although after Guy de Brian’s death in 1390 the castle went into a long period of decline and only parts of the castle were occupied during this period. It was the de Brian’s who built the two large north round towers and curtain wall, along with a hall against the south wall. At the end of the 13th century the projecting gatehouse and a new south-west tower were built to strengthen the castle defences.
Up until this point the castle had been constructed in a vivid red sandstone, but in the mid-14th century Guy de Brian VII started building with a distinctive green stone. The whole south-western corner of the inner ward, including the round tower and the inner gatehouse, was considerably heightened. This building phase is particularly clear on the outside of the castle, where the green stone heightening can easily be seen distinguished from the older masonry on the south-west tower and adjacent curtain wall.
In 1584, Elizabeth I of England granted Laugharne to Sir John Perrott, said to have been the illegitimate son of Henry VIII (he was also granted the nearby Carew Castle). He was responsible for converting the crumbling medieval building into the Tudor mansion that is still evident today. This included remodelling the hall and building substantial Tudor ranges within the castle.
Perrot was executed in 1592, at which point the castle is recorded as in a poor state.
During the Civil War, Laugharne was captured by Royalists in 1644, but retaken by Parliamentarians after a week long siege in which much of the castle was damaged by cannon fire.
The castle was slighted to prevent any further use. It was left as a romantic ruin during the 18th century, and around the start of the 19th century the outer ward was laid with formal gardens.
Laugharne is most commonly known for its associations with the poet Dylan Thomas, who worked in the castle in a garden gazebo that is still present and accessible to visitors.
In the present day the castle is managed by CADW and allows entry to paying visitors or scheme members.
Pictures taken May 2018.