Ancient Monuments

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Llansteffan Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

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Latitude: 51.7655 / 51°45'55"N

Longitude: -4.3909 / 4°23'27"W

OS Eastings: 235112

OS Northings: 210132

OS Grid: SN351101

Mapcode National: GBR DB.ZZFZ

Mapcode Global: VH3LT.VW2F

Entry Name: Llansteffan Castle

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 1439

Cadw Legacy ID: CM004

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Carmarthenshire (Sir Gaerfyrddin)

Community: Llansteffan

Traditional County: Carmarthenshire


The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period situated on a high promontory ridge overlooking the Tywi estuary, a location first defended in the 6th century BC when a double bank and ditch were thrown across the neck to form a promontory fort. These earthworks were refurbished early in the 12th century when a ringwork and bailey of earth and timber was constructed within them. Built by the Norman Marmion family this castle passed to the de Camvilles and is first mentioned in 1146 when it was captured by the princes Cadell, Maredudd and Rhys of the royal house of Deheubarth. After returning to English hands it fell again to Rhys in 1189, and then again in 1215, when Llywelyn the Great invaded south-west Wales. The first masonry structures dating to the late 12th and early 13th centuries are probably associated with these attacks. When south Wales was overrun by Llywelyn ab Iowerth prince of Gwynedd in 1257 following the English defeat at the battle of Coed Llathen the castle was captured once more. When the de Camvilles regained control a major remodelling to strengthen it took place. The death of the last male de Camville in 1338 led to a decline in importance and in 1377, it passed into the hands of the Crown. During the Glyndwr uprising in 1405-6 the tenant, Sir John Penres was ordered to strengthen the castle and it may have been captured and held by Glyndwr for a short period. Later, Henry VII conferred it on his uncle Jasper Tewdwr who held it until his death in 1495. After this, the castles history becomes obscure; parts were in use as an agricultural building as recently as 1860, in 1959 it was taken into state care.

The castle consists of an inner Upper Ward and outer Lower Ward. The curtain wall of the Upper Ward dates from the first phase of construction, it has a well-preserved square gatehouse on the north which was defended by portcullis and doors. Some time after this curtain wall was heightened, and in places provided with a wider wall-walk supported on vaults. The lower courses of a small round tower and remains of other buildings in the ward also date to this 13th-century work. The bailey was fortified in stone in the mid 13th century to form the Lower Ward. This was protected at its most vulnerable points by the building of two strong D-shaped towers on the north and west along with a complex bastion on the east, all inter-linked via a wall-walk. The North Tower was strengthened and being relatively spacious with fireplaces, separate stair and latrine turrets this is likely to have provided the private accommodation for the lord. A hall may have stood on the north-east, though nothing now remains. A little later the separation of the castle into two wards altered with the partial demolition of the inner ward wall. This was followed by the construction of the impressive double-towered gatehouse which dominates the northern side of the castle. Modelled on the East Gate at Caerphilly Castle the gate passage was defended by both front and rear portcullises , two sets of five murder holes in the vault above and conspicuous outer machicolations, a guardroom is situated either side. Each of the upper floors forms a single great room, both spacious and well appointed despite the lower one having to accommodate the portcullis in its raised position. The upper of the two rooms probably served as the new private apartment of the lord, the fine, large fireplace on the south wall having decorated 'sconces', one of which retains its carved female head. Later in Tudor times the gatehouse passage was blocked as is seen today and a smaller gate inserted alongside as part of the conversion from a military structure into a comfortable residence.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive and domestic practices. The monument is well-preserved and an important relic of the medieval landscape. It retains significant archaeological potential, with a strong probability of the presence of both structural evidence and intact associated deposits.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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