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Walwyn's Castle

aka Castell Gwalchmai and Castle Gawayn

Between Haverfordwest and Dale, Pembrokeshire, Wales
OS SM 873 030

Photographs, drawing, plan and text copyright © by John Northall
With acknowledgements to The Royal Commision on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales
and Castles of Pembrokeshire by Dillwyn Miles.

Above: A close look at the outer rampart of Walwyn's Castle, which would have been topped by a palisade of squared and pointed tree-trunks

Walwyn's Castle was built within an Iron Age hillfort by Norman invaders some time after the death of the Prince of south west Wales, Rhys ap Tewdwr, in 1093. It is situated in the commote (administrative district) of Rhos at the head of a long narrow valley running north for a distance of around 3 miles from the Cleddau estuary. The proximity of the castle to the large and sheltered Milford Haven waterway allowed good maritime communications and allowed safe travel to England without having to pass through many miles of rugged and hostile territory.

The castle was well sited to control the southern part of Rhos and give good access to the Cleddau estuary.

Looking west past the site of the outer gatehouse.

The castle was the seat of the medieval Barony of Walwyn’s Castle and had dependent castles at Benton and Dale. Unusually, it seems to have developed less than either of the two smaller castles as there is no visible stonework at this site. However, the strongly sited earthworks of Walwyn's Castle are more complex than the usual ringwork or motte and bailey and gave good protection without incurring the great cost of rebuilding in stone.

A plan of the earthworks and the surrounding area (not to scale)

Walwyn's Castle was built on an inland promontory formed by the divergence of the valley, so that the roughly triangular site had steep slopes on two of its three sides. A 15 foot high bank had been built across the third side during the iron age, perhaps 1500 years earlier, and the castle was built within this enclosure. In common with other Norman castles that reused earlier earthworks, such as Castell Dinas or Dryslwyn, an inner enclosure was constructed that could be more easliy defended with fewer soldiers.

The outer bank of Walwyn's Castle as seen across the neighbouring churchyard.

Often described as a ringwork and bailey, Walwyn's Castle did in fact possess an unusual quarter-circular motte built at the end of a strong cross-bank towards the rear of the castle. The 20 foot high motte provided a secure area and final refuge at the most inaccessible part of the site and its top would have been surrounded by a strong palisade, probably containing a small but sturdy timber tower.

Looking north from the lower bailey, the motte can be seen beyond its ditch peeping through the trees.

The cross-bank from the lower bailey, with the site of the inner gatehouse to the left and the corner of the motte to the right.

An upper bailey was created next to the motte by dividing the highest part of the iron age enclosure from the rest of the outer bailey with a modest bank and wooden palisade. The upper bailey gave access to the motte across a deep ditch and the outer bailey contained the main gate and the inner gate to the lower bailey beyond the motte.

A deep V-shaped ditch separated the inner bailey from the motte and its adjoining cross-bank.

Looking up the steep slope of the motte from within its shallow ditch to the south.

The sides of the upper and lower baileys needed little in the way of man-made protection due to the natural steepness of the promontory and the marshy ground below. A smaller earthwork outside the strong outer bank gave added protection by preventing a direct attack on the main gate.

Looking towards the valley from the top of the quarter-circular motte.

Despite the apparent lack of any substantial stonework, Walwyn's Castle was in continual use for many years. The Norman-English leader Guy de Bryan was born here in 1254 and was acknowledged as 'Baron of Chastel Walwyn' by the king. His son, also called Guy de Bryan was born in 1289 at Walwyns Castle and his grandson, Guy the fith, was born at the fuedal home in 1311. This Guy had a very successful military career being made Admiral of the King’s Fleet in 1361.

Looking south from within the outer bailey, the raised inner bailey is to the left and the motte with its cross-bank are within the line of trees.

 

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