Wexford visit to Castle

Friends of Nevern Castle showed round a group of visitors from Ireland on Sunday 23/10/2022. The visit was a first trial of a guided tour round the castle. We told the story of the main characters in its 90-year history, while explaining the visible remains and showing artists’ impressions of what it looked like at the time. While there are commercial guided tours that come to the Castle, there is scope for us to guide smaller tours and school groups, as part of our aim of promoting knowledge and awareness of the castle. The Irish group were also shown around St Brynach’s Church and the Pilgrims’ Cross. During the weekend, they also visited Dyfed Shire Horses, Tafarn Sinc, Castell Henllys, and several sites around Aberystwyth. They visited Wales as part of the CUPHAT project run by Aberystwyth University, which aims to develop types of tourism that respect culture and heritage. It focuses on West Wales and County Wexford, areas with long traditional links across the Irish Sea. Part of the project takes people involved in places of cultural and heritage interest to visit each other’s sites, to compare notes and with a view to developing some resources in common.

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BBQ Aug 29th

We had a great time at the barbecue in the castle bailey on bank holiday Monday. Good company in lovely surroundings, and delicious barbie food! £240 was collected in donations towards the work of the Friends of Nevern Castle.

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Nevern Show

Friends of Nevern Castle had a stand in the craft tent at Nevern Show on 10th August. Gaynor, Mike, Kath and Alan chatted to show goers about the castle. The aim was to raise awareness of the existence of the site and the importance of the castle in the 12th century. We told visitors how the castle’s history, with its alternation between Norman and Welsh control, encapsulated that pivotal period in the history of Wales. A surprising number of people said they’d lived in the area for many years but never visited the castle, or even known it was there. We collected a dozen new members for the Friends mailing list. We handed out this leaflet about our work.

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Trail guide update

Nevern Trail Guide leaflet was published in 2016 by Nevern Community Council and Pembrokeshire National Park Authority. It’s now due for a reprint, and so there’s an opportunity for updates and improvements. Friends of Nevern Castle recently had a meeting with other residents of Nevern to discuss changes to the leaflet. We’ve also had discussions with representatives of St Brynach’s Church, the Village Hall, and the Trewern Arms. The resulting revision has a number of improvements over the 2016 version: Paths and roads show up more clearly on the map/aerial view. The guide shows paths and places of interest, but doesn’t mandate a particular route around the village. Paths navigable by wheelchair are shown in a different colour from the steeper and rougher paths. The very small parking spots near the castle site are noted as “Limited parking”, while the Trewern Arms is shown as the main parking space. QR codes for the websites of the castle, church and Pembs Coast are included, so that those who want to can find more detailed information about the places they’re visiting. Loos and defibrillator are included on the map. The draft revised leaflet can be seen here. Comments are welcome! Thanks to… Continue reading Trail guide update

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Nevern’s Apotropaic Slates

Apotropaic symbols scratched into the building’s stones, designed to ward off evil spirits, are rare glimpses of images made by the common people of the time.

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Friends’ Meeting – Trewern 30/3/2022

Inaugural meeting of the Friends of Nevern Castle Enthusiasts for Nevern Castle met on Wednesday 30/3/2022, kindly hosted by the Trewern Arms. We created a formal association, with a constitution and the usual officers. We’ll be able to open a bank account, apply for grants, etc. Friends of Nevern Castle is being set up as an association with the purpose of informing visitors and local residents – particularly young ones – about the Castle and the important history and heritage it represents. The meeting included a wide representation from St Brynach’s Church, Pembrokeshire County Council, Nevern Village Hall, the Trewern Arms, Nevern Community Council, local residents, and history enthusiasts. Current and planned activities include: Refresh the display panels, website, and leaflets Organise school visits and guided tours Run events like last year’s barbecue. Help with the maintenance of the site as a place for peaceful enjoyment by all. These activities are complementary to the professional work done by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority in maintaining the grounds and the remaining fabric of the Castle. The site is owned by Nevern Community Council – that’s you and me, if you live in Nevern or Moylgrove. Click here for a short presentation… Continue reading Friends’ Meeting – Trewern 30/3/2022

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The Great Hall

What do the physical remains of the Great Hall at Nevern Castle tell us about its appearance and use at the time of Archbishop Baldwin’s reputed visit in 1188?

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My Dig Memories

Gaynor Bussell, Volunteer at Nevern Dig 2009-2018 After working over 30 years in London, in June 2008 I decided to give it all up. I was not sure what I wanted to do with the rest of my life; I was not quite 50!  But I had developed hiraeth for the lands from where my family had come and where many of my relatives still lived. I had already moved to Fishguard for the last year and a bit and had been commuting backwards and forwards to London and partially working from home.  An old friend, Paul Harris, told me that there was to be a dig that summer at Nevern Castle. I first discovered the Castle in my school holidays, when Paul and I used to work in the restaurant of the Trewern Arms. (Although my family lived in Cardiff, we spent every holiday in a caravan in Dinas Cross. My Dad was from farming stock there.) I remember Nigel Reed, the son of the then owners of Trewern, showing me the site of an old castle up the road on a hill. Honestly, you could not tell there had been a castle there, but there was certainly something… Continue reading My Dig Memories

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The Lord Rhys’ Oath

The 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 In 1191, Gerald of Wales, man of God, was outraged by the behaviour of his kinsman, the Lord Rhys: After besieging [Nevern Castle] with a force of armed men, Rhys ap Gruffudd captured [it] from his own son-in law … William FitzMartin … in direct contravention of a whole series of oaths which he had sworn in person on the most precious of relics to the effect that William should be left in peace and security in his castle. In Gerald’s eyes, the offence was made worse, and another oath broken, by Rhys handing the Castle to his own son Gruffudd, ‘a cunning, artful man’ who, Rhys had sworn, would never be permitted to hold it. Gerald makes it plain that these oaths were sworn by Rhys in person following the accession of Richard I in 1189—Henry II’s death having marked the end of an interlude of peace maintained between Rhys and the old king. The oath-taker was Rhys’s son-in-law, William FitzMartin, and it is likely that the oath was sworn at Nevern… Continue reading The Lord Rhys’ Oath

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Was Nevern really a borough?

Were 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. “The town of Nevern, being some time a borough & having a portreeve & courts belonging to it, is now decayed & become rural and the privileges discontinued. It consists of 18 burgages & takes the name of the river Nevern that passes by the town.” Even although no modern historian to date has been able to identify the manuscript on which he based his claim, George Owen of Henllys, antiquarian and lord of Cemais, in his Second Booke of the Description of Penbrokeshire (1600), seemed to be certain of his facts. In his Description of Wales (1194), Gerald of Wales was unimpressed by the Welsh practice (he claimed) of not living in towns or villages, but only in huts of wattle in the remote countryside. This may be an exaggeration but it is true that, in 12th century Wales, houses of stone were vanishingly rare: the construction, by the Lord Rhys (Rhys ap Gruffudd, Prince of Deheubarth) in the… Continue reading Was Nevern really a borough?

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A decorated key

An 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. This one comes from the 1195 destruction levels of the castle—so possibly it belonged to Angharad FitzMartin.  It’s so very rare to find something which has the possibility of being related to a specific individual from the past. But that is the value of Nevern Castle: prominent enough in the 12th century to have recorded history, but without later 13th and 14th century contamination, so that a decade of archaeology allows us to see the physical evidence—the reality of a 12th century past.    Dr Chris Caple

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Family feuds

Delun Gibby tells the story of Rhys’ imprisonment in his own castle. (Delun was Community Archaeologist for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.)

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Archbishop Baldwin 1188

Dr 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. Baldwin & Gerald Archbishop Baldwin, of humble origins, was a scholarly ex-monk from Exeter. According to Gerald, he was an eloquent preacher but not an effective leader of the Church. Baldwin enjoyed the company of the tall, handsome, extrovert, self-confident Gerald – and recognised the advantage of being accompanied by a man who had been born in Manorbier Castle (1145/6) of Anglo-Norman William de Barri and Angharad, daughter of Nest and granddaughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of south Wales. In short, Gerald knew, or was related to, everyone – Anglo-Norman or Welsh – who might be of consequence in furthering Baldwin’s efforts… Continue reading Archbishop Baldwin 1188

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The Throne

It is said of the bleeding yew tree in Nevern churchyard, “The Yew will bleed until a Welsh King sits upon the throne in the Castle!” The saying goes back a long way. We don’t have a Welsh king yet, but in 2008, Nevern Community Council took the first step by providing a throne. On the back of the throne, you can see the coats of arms of the two families that alternately held and extended the Castle: The red and white bars of the FitzMartins, who were the Norman colonists; and the lion of the Welsh prince Lord Rhys, who led the local resistance. The panels at the sides of the throne are views of the Castle as it might have been. One side shows it around 1136, when the buildings and fences were made of wood. The other is around 1190, when it was a much more grand place, with impressive stone walls, towers, and halls. It was burned to the ground not long after that in 1196. The throne was conceived as a piece of fun that children of all ages can enjoy, while their grown-ups contemplate the dramatic 12th century history of the Castle and enjoy… Continue reading The Throne

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Barbecue

About 50 people attended the barbecue in the bailey in the August bank holiday 2021. We’re looking to hold more events in the future.

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