Ancient Monuments

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Pembroke Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Pembroke (Penfro), Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

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Latitude: 51.6769 / 51°40'36"N

Longitude: -4.9205 / 4°55'13"W

OS Eastings: 198173

OS Northings: 201612

OS Grid: SM981016

Mapcode National: GBR G8.WD14

Mapcode Global: VH1S6.N3KS

Entry Name: Pembroke Castle

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 3013

Cadw Legacy ID: PE005

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)

Community: Pembroke (Penfro)

Built-Up Area: Pembroke

Traditional County: Pembrokeshire


The monument consists of the remains of a castle, dating to the medieval period. Pembroke castle is sited on a high ridge between two tidal inlets, a strategic position located on a major route-way chosen early in the first Norman incursions into south-west Wales, when the castle was founded by Roger of Montgomery in 1093, the castle was never to fall to the Welsh. It was from here that the Normans embarked upon their Irish campaigns. In 1189, the castle came into the hands of William Marshal, who, over the next 30 years transformed an earth-and-timber castle into a mighty stone fortification. First to be built was the inner ward, within which is a magnificent round keep over 22m in height possessing a remarkable domed roof. The keep had four floors, connected by a spiral stair which also led to the battlements. Large square holes at the top on the outside could hold a timber hoard, or fighting platform. The original entrance was on the first floor, approached by an external stair, the present ground-floor entrance is a later insertion.

Enclosing the keep was the inner-ward curtain wall, to the south-west stood a large horseshoe-shaped gate of which now only the footings survive, and to the east a strong round tower with a basement prison. Along the cliff edge only a thin wall was required, this had a small observation turret at the apex, a square stone platform to the north of it supported a huge medieval catapult for defence against attack from the sea. Domestic buildings were on the west and east of the inner ward including William Marshal's hall and private apartments. These were improved and further buildings added in the later 13th century, when a new Great Hall was built with walling projecting over the south-east corner to enclose the mouth of a large cavern in the rock below which may have served as a boathouse. At the same period, a large single-storey building was added near the keep to serve as the county court. By this time, the castle had passed to the de Valence family; the Hastings family then held it from 1324 to 1389, after which the castle passed into the hands of the crown.

Much of the building work in the outer ward may also belong to the early 13th- century and to William Marshal, and the main plan of the present defences remains as originally constructed though the end result of a systematic programme of restoration in the 19th and early 20th century. Much of the north-eastern defences, most of the curtain wall, the outer parts of the gatehouse and barbican, and most of the Westgate and Henry VII towers have been rebuilt from footings. Around the outer ward are a fine series of four round towers, the St Annes’s Bastion on the north-east and a southern Great Gatehouse. Postern gates on either side were defended by the bastion and the Monkton Tower respectively. The Great Gatehouse had two portcullises, stout doors, and three machicolation in the vaulting as well as a series of arrowslits, it is one of the finest and earliest of its kind. The gatehouse western Bygate Tower has a prison in its basement. Each gate tower has a ground and two upper floors reached by stairs spiralling in opposite directions. Doors lead from the upper rooms on to the wall-walk. The gatehouse is in essence a double-towered gate, with one of the towers moved along the curtain wall to clear the oblique entrance approach; its outer parts are further defended by a fine semi-circular barbican.

The castle was granted out by the crown with a series of short-lived tenancies, and fell into considerable disrepair. In 1405 Francis Court was hastily given munitions to hold the castle against Owain Glydwr's uprising. The castle later passed into the hands of Jasper Tewdwr, earl of Pembroke, and was apparently the birthplace of his nephew Henry, later King Henry VII.

Pembroke declared its support for Parliament at the beginning of the Civil War, but in 1648, the town's mayor, John Poyer, disgruntled at his lack of reward, joined a disaffected group of Roundheads unwilling to be demobilised. Cromwell himself came to besiege the castle which only fell after seven weeks when the water supply was cut off and a train of siege cannon arrived to start a bombardment. After this defiance Cromwell blew up the barbican and the fronts of all the towers to prevent the castle ever being used again militarily.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of medieval defensive 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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