CARREG CENNAN CASTLE
Originally a fortification raised by the native Welsh, Carreg Cennen Castle was seized by the English during the First War of Welsh Independence and extensively rebuilt. It was attacked during the Owain Glyndŵr revolt and later held for the Lancastrian cause during the Wars of the Roses but was captured then subsequently demolished.
Carreg Cennen Castle was built by a Prince of Deheubarth and is generally attributed to Rhys ap Gruffudd, Lord Rhys for it shares many similarities with his other fortifications at Cardigan and Dinefwr castles. However, the first surviving written reference to Carreg Cennen Castle is dated 1248 when Matilda de Braose, an English magnate who had married one of the descendants of Lord Rhys, allegedly granted the castle to the English in order to spite her son, Rhys Fychan. Not to be deprived he took control of the castle that year and was not challenged. However, Rhys entered a protracted power struggle with his uncle Maredudd with Carreg Cennen periodically changing hands.
In 1276 the First War of Welsh Independence was fought between Edward I and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd over the latter's failure to pay homage to the English King. Edward invaded in July 1277 utilising a three pronged attack from Chester, Montgomery and Carmarthen. The army which deployed north from Carmarthen Castle was under the command of Payn de Chaworth who duly advanced and captured Carreg Cennen Castle for the Crown. An English garrison was installed, repairs were made and it was granted to John Giffard, Lord Giffard of Brimpsfield. Given Royal records do not suggest any Crown expenditure on Carreg Cennen, it was probably John or his son (also called John) who built the castle seen today.
The rebuilt castle consisted of Inner and Outer wards which were both broadly rectangular structures. The Inner Ward occupied the summit of the limestone crag and was protected by a three storey gatehouse that doubled as the Keep and was accessed via an angled barbican. Two large towers occupied the north-east and north-west corners of the curtain wall. The Outer Ward extended to the north and east providing additional protection on the castle's most vulnerable side. It hosted numerous ancillary buildings including stables and workshops.
Carreg Cennan Castle remained with the Giffard family until 1322. Thereafter it passed into the hands of various owners, including Hugh Despenser, before becoming the property of John of Gaunt and thus being incorporated into the Duchy of Lancaster. The Duchy passed into the hands of his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who was crowned Henry IV in 1399. This made it a high profile target for Owain Glyndŵr during his rebellion and it was attacked in 1403. A determined defence led by its Constable, John Skidmore, saw the initial assault repulsed but when he was besieged he was ultimately forced to surrender. Extensive damage was seemingly inflicted in the process with records detailing expenditure on repairs between 1414 and 1421.
During the Wars of the Roses the castle was held for the Lancastrian cause by Gruffudd ap Nicholas with the last major addition, a gun-port in the north tower, probably made at this time. Following the decisive Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton (1461), which saw Edward of York seize the throne, Lancastrian outposts were besieged. A Yorkist force under Sir Richard Herbert (from Raglan Castle) and Sir Robert Vaughan (from Tretower Castle) seized the castle and partially demolished it to prevent further use. Carreg Cennen was never repaired and became a picturesque ruin.
Davis, P.R (2007). Castles of the Welsh Princes. Y Lolfa Cyf, Talybont.
Douglas, D.C and Rothwell, H (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 3 (1189-1327). Routledge, London.
Gravett, C (2007). The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307. Osprey, Oxford.
Griffiths, R.A (1972). The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages. London.
Kenyon, J (2010). The Medieval Castles of Wales. CPI Rowe, Chippenham.
Lloyd, J.E (1912). A History of Wales. Cardiff.
Pettifer, A (2000). Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.
Philips, A (2014). Castles of Wales. Amberley.
Reid, A (1973). Castles of Wales. Philip, London.
Renn, D.F (1973). Norman Castles of Britain. John Baker Publishing, London.
Carreg Cennen Castle is a ruined fortification built by the Welsh but later modified by the English. The site offers superb views over the surrounding countryside.
Carreg Cennen Layout. The castle was divided into Inner and Outer Wards.
Carreg Cennen Castle. The castle occupied a prominent position on top of a limestone crag standing 90 metres above sea level. It was possibly the site of an Iron Age hillfort.
Inner Ward and Barbican. The Inner Ward had substantial defences that rivalled any Royal castle including an angled barbican (seen to the right).
North-East Tower. The tower served as the accommodation for the castle's garrison.
Ditch. The ditch between Inner and Outer Wards was carved out of the rock.
View from the castle.
Carreg Cennen Castle is located near the western edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park to the east of Trapp. The castle is sign-posted from that village and there is a dedicated car park at the site.
Carreg Cennen Castle