Notes: The castle is found to the north of Nevern off an unnamed road off the B4582. There is a small lay-by next to the gate that leads to the castle.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of a motte-and-bailey castle including some masonry and extensive earthworks. The pleasant woodland setting conceals the imposing position occupied by the castle but nevertheless the site is an excellent example of an early Norman fortification in Wales.
Round Keep. The round keep on top of the motte was rebuilt in stone by Robert FitzMartin. Due to the lack of limestone, the tower was constructed with slate bonded with clay.
Nevern Castle was built on the site of an earlier Welsh Court in the early twelfth century by Robert FitzMartin. It later came into the hands of Lord Rhys but was occupied for less than one hundred years before being abandoned in favour of nearby Newport.
HISTORY OF NEVERN CASTLE
Nevern Castle was raised by Robert FitzMartin, Lord Cemmaes around 1108 as part of the Norman conquest of Pembrokeshire. His castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification intended to be the administrative centre. Nevern itself had previously been an important settlement, possibly occupied as early as the fifth century AD, known as Nanhyfer. At least one native Welsh ruler, Cuhelyn, held court on the site and it is likely FitzMartin choose to build here to make a clear statement about regime change. His castle was dominated by a substantial motte, topped with a timber tower, and surrounded by a double moat system. It was a naturally strong position occupying a spur of land formed by the gorge of the Gamman, a small stream.
Norman control of the area faltered in 1136 when the Welsh re-captured northern Pembrokeshire following their victory at the Battle of Crug Mawr (1136) near Cardigan. Nevern Castle remained in Welsh hands and passed to Rhys ap Grufford, Lord Rhys in 1156. He forged an agreement with Henry II confirming his entitlement to the lands of Deheubarth but was required to hand over his Pembrokeshire estates. By this time Robert FitzMartin was dead but his son, William, married Angharad - daughter of Lord Rhys - and Nevern Castle was seemingly restored to him at this time. It was William who substantially rebuilt the castle in stone. The lack of readily available limestone meant the work was completed with slate bonded together with clay – a common building method in southern Wales during this period.
In 1191 Lord Rhys exploited the absence of William FitzMartin, who was fighting in the Third Crusade, and seized Nevern Castle from his son-in-law. The reasons for this action are unclear but it certainly caused family difficulties as in 1194 Lord Rhys found himself imprisoned in Nevern Castle by his own sons, Grufydd and Maelgwn. Although later released by another son, Hywel Sais, the following year the same individual destroyed Nevern Castle to prevent it falling into the hands of the Anglo-Normans. It was never rebuilt with nearby Newport Castle, also owned by the FitzMartins, becoming the regional stronghold.