After having a small amount of trouble locating the Castle ruins which were hidden quietly above a small narrow path, we eventually found ourselves standing on top of a small strategic hilltop with a overview of the castle and a reminder that this place was for sure a grand and beautiful structure at one time. Only small amounts remain when visiting, so it lets your imagination take over, but for me that’s the one thing I enjoy about visiting these wonderful historical places. So join us for a wander and explore at Narberth Castle.
The first mention of a Norman castle at Narberth comes in 1116. It was the early fortress that was a simple motte and bailey enclosure built of timber. And In 1199 it was owned by the Marshal family, though it seemed they did little to strengthen the fortifications. It must have been in poor condition by 1220 when Henry III of England called on free men of the region to help the Earl of Pembroke repair Wiston and Narberth castles.
In the 13th century that timber castle was rebuilt in stone, possibly after a Welsh attack in 1299. This work is often attributed to William de Braose who took control of Narberth Castle after he married Eva Marshal, the heiress of the Earls of Pembroke. Human remains were found in the outer bailey, suggesting that this was the graveyard for the early medieval church that was moved to the hillside opposite when the castle was rebuilt in stone. A settlement grew up between the castle and the new church, and over time the settlement became the market town of Narberth. Farm fields stretched out beyond the town and a corn mill was built just beyond the castle.
Eva and William’s daughter Maud married into the powerful Mortimer family and Narberth Castle formed part of her dowry. When Sir Edmund Mortimer joined Owain Glyndwr’s uprising the castle was forfeited to the crown. In 1404 Thomas Carew was rewarded for defending the castle against Glyndwr with his small garrison and reaped the reward of lordship in 1404. Henry V forgave Mortimer and returned the castle to him but when Mortimer died without an heir in 1425 the castle reverted to the crown.
Narberth was once a rectangular enclosure with four turreted corner towers, the entire of the north side and the gatehouse were long gone, but what remains are fragments of a great chamber over a vaulted storeroom. It was slighted by Cromwell after the Civil War so it was of no military value where It then fell into a sad state of decay and unfortunately its seen more vandalism these days but it’s still one of those sights were you can still wander inside one of the towers and envisage life leading up the spiral staircases and looking out across the medieval fortifications or even walk inside the vaulted cellar and pantry and just picture your life living in those times.
The remains we see today are part of the rebuilding in stone that probably took place in 1246. The keep was begun in that year and several other towers added in the late 13th century. The Remains include a rectangular enclosure about 40m by 20m that are defended by two drum towers. In the partially preserved northern towers, fireplaces and latrines were found, and probably similar were also in the southern towers.
The south-east tower had three floors, with a bakery on the ground floor and a chapel on the first floor. In the southern part of the courtyard there was a large L-shaped building. On the first floor, it had a great hall and private apartments (solar), over the ground floor which housed there was a kitchen and a pantry. Behind these remains are two more of the surviving towers, the South East and the South West towers.
They are on elevated ground, if you walk down to the bottom of the mound and look back up you get a fantastic view of the castle. The narrow wing was also supposed to be located in the western part of the courtyard, in which a long gallery was to be built at the beginning of the 16th century.
Upon entering the castle you would have had to walk over mighty gatehouse linked with the north east towers on either side and the gatehouse would have been housed over a dungeon. None of these features are complete.
Perhaps that’s why Narberth castle is often described as neglected or incomplete, but I think its worth the visit considering the amount of information boards around giving you rich information about where and what things are and the fact that the site is almost always empty so you can take your time and enjoy the historical atmosphere how you would like too. We hope we’ve shown you somewhere off the beaten track, perhaps unknown, but this is what we love to do, showcase these amazing quiet yet impressive fortresses in the hope that people will want to visit again!
Till next time!