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Hays Castle Motte

7 miles from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, west Wales SM 897256

Text, photographs and drawings copyright by John Northall

Below: a map of part of Pembrokeshire showing the location of several early castles.

This earthwork castle lies within the ancient boundaries of Pebidiog (otherwise known as Dewisland), the immediate district of the lordship of Saint Davids cathedral. Hayscastle is 7 miles from the fortified town and fine stone castle of Haverfordwest, 3 miles from the stone keep of Roch, and 10 miles from the fortified Bishop's palace and earlier earthwork castle of Saint Davids.

When the Normans invaded this south-west part of Wales they initially penetrated the countryside by following river valleys inland from the coast, and they built earthwork castles to protect their gains. Hayscastle stands at the head of one of the small river valleys that run up from the large sandy beach at Newgale some 3 1/2 miles distant.

There is no recorded history of the site, but the castle was probably the home of one of the knights of the Bishop of Saint Davids. There were other knightly mottes at nearby Poyntz Castle and Castle Morris.

The drawing below by John Northall depicts Hays Castle as it may have appeared in the year 1150. The sketch is based on Mr Northall's observations at the site.

The present day remains of the castle are relatively slight and only those familiar with earthen castles would recognise the site as a medieval castle. The earthen motte, or castle mound, is of the flat-topped type and was big enough to house a self-contained bailey complex. It was oval in plan and still stands around 20 feet high on one side, but unfortunately has been dug away on the side towards the nearby Celtic (as opposed to Norman) style church.

The castle was protected by marshland on its south-western perimeter and by a widening of its wet moat at the opposite end. The line of its outer bailey on the north-eastern end is preserved as a curved fieldbank around which runs a single tracked tarmac road.

 

Learn more about motte-and-bailey & ringwork castles
Visit two other "knight's castles" Penhow and Stokesay
View Mr Northall's other contributions to the Castles of Wales website

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