There’s not much to see now of the castle at Nevern. But for almost a century, a complex and dramatic story of treachery, prosperity, family feuds and celebrations was played out on this promontory in north Pembrokeshire.

Wooden lookout tower and palisade or fence

1108: Norman colonists built banks and motte with wooden palisades and tower

Turmhügelburg. – Photo: Wy / Wikipedia

Forty years after the 1066 conquest of England, the Normans were still trying to subjugate Wales. Norman King Henry I authorized Robert FitzMartin to take control of Cemaes, the north of what is now Pembrokeshire. FitzMartin chose Nevern at which to build a stronghold for his forces.

More about the history

Aerial drawing of 12th century stone buildings within castle boundary walls

It became an important hub with impressive stone buildings, battled over by Welsh and Normans

Conquering the Welsh wasn’t easy. After Henry I died, the Normans were distracted by a long feud over the English crown. At the Battle of Crug Mawr in 1136, the Welsh decisively took back control, and occupied the castles at Cardigan and Nevern. Gruffydd, and later his son Rhys, were prominent leaders.

More about the buildings

Aerial view of the site in modern times: trees and grass

1196: Burned to the ground after ninety years. Has been farm land ever since

Eventually the Normans returned. An uneasy truce was established when William FitzMartin married Rhys’ daughter Angharad. But as soon as William went off to fight in the crusades, Rhys re-occupied Nevern. He and his sons then fought between themselves, finally destroying the castle.

More about the people

The wooden throne in the middle of the site, with picnic table behind

1980: Nevern Community Council bought the site for the benefit of the community

Together with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, and Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service) Nevern Community Council has worked hard to look after the site and open it up for all to enjoy.

Join the Friends of Nevern Castle to help conserve and manage the site.

Fragment of pottery found at the site

2008-2018: Archaeological digs uncover the varied history and changing structure of the castle

Dr Chris Caple of Durham University led the excavations. Many artefacts were discovered, providing a fascinating glimpse of life in the castle. The findings also showed the development of the buildings and walls and their construction by Norman and Welsh techniques.

More on the archaeology

View of path through long grass and hills beyond

Now a space of peace and tranquillity

A few people have lived and farmed here over the centuries. Now it is home to walkers and wildlife. Little can be seen of the castle except for the banks, ditches, and the motte. Trees grow where there were once fine halls and commanding views over the countryside. Come and enjoy the peace; and remember our history!

Visit Nevern Castle

What you can see today

The Square Tower

Aerial photo of remains of a tower on a grassy mound
The Square Tower [PCNPA]

On a rocky outcrop at the eastern side of the castle, you can see the remains of a square stone tower, built in the later years of the castle’s life. This was the most secure part of the castle, with steep slopes all round. The deep ditch between the tower and the bailey was cut into the rock by hand; you can still see the pick marks.

Drawing of 12th century stone tower at the top of a rocky ditch

The bailey

View from a high point across open grass surrounded by trees
The bailey

Protected by banks and walls on two sides, and steep slopes on the other two, the castle’s bailey – the flat area watched over by the towers – was where the daily life of the castle took place.

Halls, houses, stables, and workshops occupied this space. At first they were made of wood, but later more strongly built in stone.

Drawing of stone buildings in the castle
Stone buildings in the bailey about 1190

Banks and ditches

Aerial photo of a grassy mound of earth topped with remains of a round tower, surrounded by trees
The motte and Round Tower [PCNPA]

The first part of the castle to be built was the motte, a mound of earth with a lookout tower on top. Defensive banks and ditches surrounded the motte and the bailey. Later in the castle’s life, this round tower was rebuilt in stone and used also as living quarters.

Now only the base of the tower can be seen.

Drawing of the stone tower on top of the motte

Latest news and articles

  • Talk: Keeping a Castle
    & Friends’ AGM 12th July
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    12th July 2024 7pm ~ Trewern Arms
    Dr Chris Caple will talk about recent work to conserve the castle, including rebuilding the base of the walls of the Square Tower.

     

  • Craft fair 2nd March
    admin
    There will be a craft market at the village hall on 2nd March, with the church bells as an acoustic backdrop. Information and tours of the castle will be on offer.
    The village hall is at the end of Nevern nearest the bridge. From the Trewern Arms (SA42 0NB), cross the bridge and look to your right.

     

  • Nevern before the Normans
    Rhiannon Comeau
    Dr Rhiannon Comeau
    In the area around Nevern Castle, the estates of Robert FitzMartin’s knights very likely originate in the pre-Conquest lands of Nevern church. Dr Rhiannon Comeau investigated Bayvil as part of her PhD research into pre-Norman Cemais.

     

  • Making Sense of the Fragments
    Chris Caple
    A talk given in July 2023 at the Trewern Arms, Nevern, by Chris Caple, chief archaeologist at Nevern Castle.

     

  • Scrub clearance at Nevern Castle
    Clearing the scrub
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    Scrub clearance at Nevern Castle
    On a sunny and cool morning in November 2023, nine volunteers and a very enthusiastic spaniel helped PCNPA ranger Richard Vaughan and community archaeologist Tomos Jones to hack at brambles and saplings near the paths at Nevern Castle.
    Several came from different parts of Pembrokeshire to lend a hand, and stories were exchanged of digs and clearances on all sides. Lunch was very pleasant at the picnic tables, and we went home well exercised and, if not exactly sun-tanned, nevertheless having enjoyed time in the fresh air.

     

  • Nevern Show 2023
    Nevern Show 2023
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    Nevern Show 2023
    Once again, Friends of Nevern Castle took a stand at Nevern Show, to promote knowledge of the castle and connect with visitors and local residents who might not know of it. Gaynor, Mick, Kath and Alan chatted to people who'd turned out on a very pleasant day to enjoy the competitions, crafts, and exhibitors at the lively Show.
    We talked to lots of people! Of the 35 conversations we made a note of:

     

  • Castles come to Wales
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    A devastating innovation
    The castle was an important tool of conquest. Initially built quickly in wood, it served as a base for the invading soldiers, a place to protect their equipment and provisions, and a place to defend from counter-attacks.

     

  • Throne and motte
    AGM
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    Throne and motte
    The first Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Nevern Castle was held at the Trewern Arms on 12th July.
    During the past year, we have:

     

  • Talk by Chris Caple
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    Dr Chris Caple, the archaeologist who led the digs at Nevern Castle for ten years, gave a popular and fascinating talk at the Trewern Arms on Wednesday 12/7/2023.
    Since its destruction in 1196, ploughing and weathering have obscured what remains of the castle. Only fragments remain - and the task of the archaeologist is to piece them together, to reveal the dramatic events of the time, and the life that people led.

     

  • PCNPA tour
    Friends of Nevern Castle
    Tomos Jones, PCNPA Community Archaeologist, led a group on a tour of Newport Castle, St Brynach's Church, and Nevern Castle.
    Early Purple Orchid seen at the Castle today

     

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Images © Dr Chris Caple except where noted otherwise.

[PCNPA]: © Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority