The present site of Nevern Castle – Castell Nanhyfer (SN 082 401) was identified by Richard Colt Hoare in 1802 as Llanhyfer castle, the 12th century castle of the barony of Cemais and the site visited by Gerald of Wales in 1188. After the Second World War, King and Perks rediscovered and surveyed the site, briefly describing its history and producing a characteristically reliable plan of the surviving earthworks [Archaeologica Cambrensis Vol CI 1951 pp155-160]. The site was scheduled as an Ancient Monument in 1948 and acquired by Nevern Community Council in 1980 to preserve it as an amenity for the people of Nevern.
Nevern castle is of interest to archaeologists since it was only constructed and occupied in the 12th century, and thus potentially preserves evidence of the earliest forms of castle construction in Wales.
A magnetometer and topographic survey carried out in 2005, followed by a resistivity survey in 2007, provided little new information about the remains present on the site. Consequently, a two-week exploratory excavation was undertaken by Chris Caple and Will Davies in 2008. This demonstrated that there were substantial surviving stone buildings and occupation deposits of a late 12th century castle as well as earthworks of the preceding early 12th century earth and timber castle.
A partnership of Nevern Community Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and the Dept. of Archaeology, Durham University was formed in 2009 to research Nevern Castle and develop the site as an informative local amenity and visitable ancient monument. This partnership, led by Phil Bennett and Chris Caple, secured funding from the Welsh Assembly and European Union. This supported archaeological excavations in 2009 & 2010 as well as research, recording and analysis of the excavated material (2008-2010), educational visits for local schoolchildren, information boards, the web site and a programme of conservation for the two most significant towers of the castle.
Since 2011, excavations on the site have continued, undertaken by local volunteers and archaeology students. At the conclusion of every excavation season, the finds have been cleaned and conserved by students at Durham University and a detailed interim excavation report has been issued. Excavations continued until 2018, at which point we began to write up the findings for publication. All the Interim reports (2008-2018) are available to download.
The remains of an early 12th century earth and timber castle and a mid–late-12th century stone castle were uncovered by the excavation. However, these fragmentary remains had been badly damaged by later ploughing and most of them have been reburied to preserve them.