Laugharne Castle was raised by the Normans in the early twelfth century to control the crossing over the River Taf. It was captured and burnt by Lord Rhys, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd but on each occasion was rebuilt. By the late sixteenth century it was in the hands of Sit John Perrot who converted it into an Elizabethan mansion. It was destroyed during the Civil War.
The Normans had arrived in south-west Wales in the late eleventh century when Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury had seized Pembrokeshire and Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick had conquered the Gower peninsula. Over the subsequent decades the Normans sought to expand their territory in the region and did so by building castles at key nodal points. In particular Carmarthen Castle had been raised no later than 1094 and, when this evolved into a major Royal fortress under Henry I (1100-35), it prompted further castle building in Carmarthenshire. Laugharne Castle was one of these new outposts and was built to secure the crossing over the River Taf. This early castle was a relatively simple structure - the south and west sides were protected by the river whilst the landward side had a ditch and earth rampart topped with a timber palisade. A ringwork within this site consisted of a rampart and ditch which enclosed the Inner Ward. Although this was a Norman military site intended to ensure control of the region, the first recorded reference in 1116 lists the custodian as Bleddyn ap Cedifor, a native Welshman who had sided with the invaders and was clearly sufficiently trusted to take charge of such a key outpost.
Henry I died in 1135 without leaving a male heir and England descended into a civil war, known as the Anarchy, which shifted Norman focus away from Wales. This resulted in a Welsh uprising which led to the re-emergence of the Kingdom of Deheubarth ultimately resulting in the rise of Rhys ap Grufford, Lord Rhys. Laugharne Castle remained in Norman hands during this turbulent period but even after the Anarchy ended with the accession of Henry II in 1154, Lord Rhys remained dominant. After fifteen years of uncertainty and tension between the two factions, an agreement was reached between Henry II and Lord Rhys where the latter agreed to hand over his Pembrokeshire estates but his entitlement to the lands of Deheubarth was confirmed. Some of the negotiations for this treaty were held at Laugharne Castle but the carefully crafted agreement broke down in 1189 with the death of the English King. Lord Rhys embarked on a full-scale assault of English held castles in South West Wales with Laugharne Castle being captured and burnt. Only two castles, Carmarthan and Pembroke, withstood the onslaught.
Laugharne Castle was substantially rebuilt in the latter half of the twelfth century, presumably as a result of the destruction of the original timber castle in 1189. The Inner Ward curtain wall was rebuilt in stone and a large rectangular hall block was added within. However, in 1215 it was attacked by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and again burnt. The ruined structure then remained in the hands of the Welsh until it was recovered by William Marshal, Second Earl of Pembroke in 1231.
At some point prior to 1247, Laugharne Castle passed into the hands of Guy de Brian. His family had extensive estates in the South West of England but in the early thirteenth century Guy had ventured into Pembrokeshire where he built Walwyn's Castle and acquired Laugharne Castle thereafter. He commenced a complete rebuilt of the Inner Bailey with the two large round towers being constructed connected by an enhanced curtain wall which itself was protected by a ditch. A new hall block was also constructed. Guy's tenure ended in disaster as the Welsh once again united under a powerful and effective leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, which saw many English strongholds fall. Laugharne Castle was one of them and, worse still, Guy de Brian himself was captured and ransomed in 1258.
Guy died in 1268 when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was still at the height of his power but in 1276 relations between the Welsh Prince and Edward I broke down leading to the Wars of Welsh Independence. During these conflicts Wales was overrun by the English and Guy's son, also called Guy, recovered Laugharne Castle and commenced a rebuilding programme. A new gatehouse and additional round tower were added to the Inner Ward along with enhanced accommodation. The defences of the Outer Ward, which had remained in timber up until this point, were rebuilt in stone and included an Outer Gatehouse.
In 1349 Laugharne Castle was inherited by Guy de Brian, great grandson of the original builder, who was a prominent member of Edward III's court serving as Admiral of the Fleet and appointed as a Knight of the Garter. He embarked on numerous upgrades at the castle including heightening several of the towers and building a new one in the south-east corner of the Inner Ward. When he died in 1390 he clearly left the castle in a good state of repair for it withstood the rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr without incident. However, it then became the subject of a protracted legal dispute over ownership which was eventually settled in 1488 with Laugharne Castle becoming the property of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
Laugharne Castle was acquired by Sir John Perrot, owner of Carew Castle, in 1575 who held it as a tenant of the Earl of Northumberland before being granted ownership outright in 1584. He commenced a wholesale conversion of the site into a Tudor mansion although the work was not quite complete by the time of his death in 1592. His modifications predominantly focused on improving living conditions within the castle with large Elizabethan windows being added to the medieval towers and Inner Gatehouse.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Laugharne Castle was owned by Sir William Russell. He was a Royalist but Laugharne's position by the sea, coupled with Parliamentary control of the navy, meant the castle was held by them. This changed in June 1644 when a Royalist army under Sir Charles Gerard swept through south Wales capturing the Parliamentary strongholds at Kidwelly, Carmarthen, Cardigan and Newcastle Emlyn as well as Laugharne Castle. However, the Royalist defeat at Marston Moor in July 1644 led to Gerard's force being withdrawn from Wales leaving Laugharne vulnerable to a new assault. This came in October 1644 when Major-General Rowland Laugharne besieged the castle. A bitter five day campaign followed during which the castle was bombarded by artillery, the town seized and the Outer Ward stormed. On Sunday 3 November 1644 the Royalist garrison surrendered and was allowed to march away to join the garrison at Carmarthen. Laugharne Castle was left in ruins and never rebuilt.
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Laugharne Castle was raised in the twelfth century to serve as a fortress and was regularly upgraded in the subsequent two centuries. Elements of this early castle survive including the large Round Towers of the Inner Ward, the Outer Ward Gatehouse and portions of the curtain walls. Much of the rest of structure dates from a substantial rebuild in the late sixteenth century when the castle was converted into an Elizabethan mansion. The remains seen today reflect the substantial destruction inflicted during the Civil War.
Laugharne Castle. The castle was built on the east bank of the River Taf and consisted of Inner and Outer Wards. Although the site was substantially rebuilt in the sixteenth century, its general layout remained very similar.
Outer Gatehouse. The two storey gatehouse seen today dates from the thirteenth century although inevitably replaced an earlier (probably timber) structure. The front of the gatehouse was destroyed by artillery fire during the 1644 siege.
Inner Gatehouse. The gatehouse was originally built in the late thirteenth century but completely restyled in the 1580s. This included adding the large windows and entrance arch.
Towers. The two round towers of the Inner Ward were built by Guy de Brian in the thirteenth century. The north-west tower (left in both pictures) served as the Keep. The north-east tower was originally smaller but it was heightened in the sixteenth century.