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Aberrheidol Castle

Ceredigion, West Wales

Adrian Pettifer

This is what the forerunner of Aberystwyth Castle is usually called, owing to a single documentary reference. However, there has been a curious transposition of names, because its grassy ramparts look down from a ridge above the Afon Ystwyth, not the Rheidol which paradoxically runs through Aberystwyth. It is a ringwork-and-bailey site. The castle is one of several raised by Gilbert de Clare when he invaded Ceredigion in 1110. His dynasty would play a leading part in the invasions of Wales and Ireland.

Excavations have shown that the ramparts, originally lined with timber, were later cased in stone. The history of the castle is a stormy one, reflecting the tenuous existence of this Norman enclave in a resolutely Welsh part of Wales. Owain Gwynedd destroyed the castle in 1136 after defeating the Normans at Crug Mawr. Roger de Clare re-occupied the site in 1158, only to lose it to the Lord Rhys six years later. The castle changed hands at least five times in the early 13th century, in struggles between Deheubarth, Gwynedd and the English. It was finally captured by Llywelyn the Great in 1221. He probably destroyed it, since the record is then silent until Edward I commenced the new Aberystwyth Castle a mile to the north.

Welsh Castles
Boydell & Brewer Ltd., 2000
ISBN: 0 85115 778 5

Adrian Pettifer has a degree in Ancient and Medieval History from the University of Birmingham, and has long been a keen visitor of historic monuments, concentrating primarily on castles, abbeys, churches and ancient sites. He is the author of English Castles (1995) and Welsh Castles (2000), published by Boydell and Brewer, gazetteers intended to provide a concise history and description of every masonry castle and the more substantial earthworks. He can be reached via e-mail at: AdrianPettifer@msn.com.

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