There isn’t 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Latest news and articles
Podcast: Tomos Jones, PCNPAPembrokeshire Coast National Park AuthorityThe Archaeology of Nevern Castle
Tomos Jones, Community Archaeologist at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, talks about the archaeological excavations at Nevern Castle between 2008 and 2018.
The Lord Rhys’ OathRob AnthonyThe broken oaths of the Lord Rhys would have put him at risk of eternal damnation, according to the tenets of the 12th century.
Dr Robert Anthony
Was Nevern really a borough?Rob AnthonyWere there really 18 burgage plots within the castle? Can we believe the claim by George Owen, 16th/17th century antiquarian and lord of Cemais, that Nevern was once a borough, with special privileges?
Dr Rob Anthony explains, and examines the evidence.
A decorated keyChris CapleAn object that has come up recently in the research on Nevern is the shaft of a key, a slide key for a padlock, with inlaid spiral decoration.
Keys like this only turn up on 12th century sites such as York, Winchester, Castle Acre. Unnecessarily decorated and expensive, they were probably mainly owned by aristocratic ladies safeguarding things which they wanted to keep safe: perhaps documents, jewellery, clothes or shoes.
Archbishop Baldwin 1188Rob AnthonyDr Robert Anthony
Monday, 28 March 1188: it is not often in medieval history that an event can be dated with such precision, especially when concerning Wales, and we have Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), scholar, canon of St David’s and Archdeacon of Brecon, to thank for this. The event in question is described in his book: The Journey Through Wales (1191), an account, almost in diary form (although with lavish digressions), of the six week mission to south and north Wales by Baldwin Archbishop of Canterbury to preach the Cross in support of the Third Crusade.
Images © Dr Chris Caple except where noted otherwise.