Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Kidwelly Castle

On Sunday I went to Kidwelly Castle. I have been before but not for a number of years. It was just as good as I remembered.

The castle forms part of a defence system with Laugharne and Llansteffan. The first structure was begun in 1106, a wooden pallisade on an earthen mound. The stone curtain wall and replaced the wooden defenses in the early 13th century and by the end of the century the Chaworth family had built the massive towers and the inner ward complete with hall range, kitchen and chapel tower. The chapel protrudes beyond the curtain wall toward the river and the sacristry still sports a fine cruciform roof.
By the mid 1300's it had fallen under the control of the duchy of Lancaster and John of Gaunt rebuilt the great south gate. In 1403 Owain Glyndwr attacked but although the town fell the castle was not taken.

The massive gatehouse, completed around1422 was fully independent of the rest of the stronghold and easily defended. When I was there small children were eagerly peering through the murder holes and imagining raining missiles on the enemy below. It is a bloodthirsty child's paradise.

The castle is remarkably intact and there are narrow twisting corridors and towers to explore. The original grandeur of the building is still easily discernible, and many fine mouldings and fireplaces remain. In several rooms the wall plaster is still clearly seen and the whole castle reeks of history; the people who once lived and worked there still echo in the dark corners.
We spent alot of time looking at the evidence of alterations to the building and realise that for much of the castles active life it would have resembled a building site. Different types of stone at the top of walls that have been heightened adn doorways and windows blocked up.

The views from the towers stretch to the sea and beyond and to the east lies Gwenllian's Field. Gwenllian was a Welsh Warrior Princess from the 12th century princess of Gwynedd who lost her battle against the Normans at Kidwelly and was executed on the field after the defeat of her army. If you would like to read more about Gwenllian then I recommend Memories of the Curlew by Helen Spring isbn: 9781849234900. I also recommend that you pay a visit.
Kidwelly lies just south of Carmarthen.

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