Ancient Monuments

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Dryslwyn Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Llangathen, Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

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Latitude: 51.8631 / 51°51'47"N

Longitude: -4.1008 / 4°6'3"W

OS Eastings: 255436

OS Northings: 220365

OS Grid: SN554203

Mapcode National: GBR DQ.SZBH

Mapcode Global: VH4J1.VFXL

Entry Name: Dryslwyn Castle

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 445

Cadw Legacy ID: CM030

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

Community: Llangathen

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire


This monument comprises the remains of a medieval castle dating to the 13th century which has been built over an earlier Iron Age hillfort. Dryslwyn stands prominently atop a small and steep-sided hill at the centre of the broad Tywi Valley. Barely 4 miles south-west of Dinefwr Castle, and directly overlooking the river, for much of the medieval period the castle controlled one of the few crossing points on this meandering stretch of river above Carmarthen.

The castle is divided into three defensive areas: an outer ward with gatehouse, middle ward and inner ward. The middle and outer wards which run along the ridge, were added in later phases of Welsh occupation. The outer ward would have contained the stables, stores and halls/houses providing accommodation for soldiers and officials. At the southern end of the outer ward, traces of a thick, angled wall protecting the northern corner of the middle ward are visible. Nearby, there was a gateway linking the outer and middle wards. Within the middle ward, excavation has revealed the remains of a large hall built up against the western defences of the ward itself.

The south-west end of the ridge was occupied by the inner ward – the heart of the medieval castle. A gatehouse with portcullis provided the entrance. Having passed through the gate complex, the inner ward courtyard is reached. Here the large Round Tower (Welsh Keep) can be found. The base of the walls measure some 3m thick, and access into the tower would have been by way of an internal ladder down from the first floor. In the western corner of the courtyard there is a small building in the angle between the curtain wall and the great hall. Inside, the original floor was sunk down below the courtyard level. Given the door arrangement, this building is perhaps best interpreted as the castle prison.

Running from east to west across the southern half of the inner ward courtyard is the great hall, referred to in the 14th century as the ‘King’s Hall’. Originally single storey with a basement, it was remodelled in the 1280s to accommodate two upper storeys. Further evidence recovered from excavation revealed that the roof was made of slate and in the north wall there was a fine window with cinquefoil cusps. Outside the great hall is the south side apartment block – a structure which housed rooms on two storeys. Beyond this the great chamber and chapel can be found.

Close to the castle, across the northern stretch of the hillside, are the earthwork remains of Dryslwyn’s medieval borough. In 1281 a charter was granted allowing a four-day fair at Dryslwyn around St Bartholomew’s Day, so we may assume that by this time the township of Dryslwyn, had been in existence for some time. The town walls probably stood up to 2.1m high. The town ditch was over 5m wide and 2.5m deep. Flattened terraces cut into the sloping hillside represent the burgage plots of the town.

Despite a ferocious siege at Dryslwyn in 1287, the castle came into the control of the English, and from the late 13th through to the 15th century, the castle served as a centre of royal administration and authority. Repairs and new building occasionally took place, but by the end of the medieval period the castle had fallen into decline.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval social, domestic and political life and warfare. The scheduled area comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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