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Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire

Featured Location Guide

The first castle on the site was built around 1106 by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, to help the Normans maintain their hold over the area. It was constructed of earth and timber. It was constructed on a steep ridge overlooking the River Gwendraeth at its upper tidal limit. The semicircular bank and ditch formed the defences. During the 12th century it fell in and out of Welsh hands, but by 1201 it was back in Norman hands and remained English from then on.

Kidwelly Castle from Ger Y Castell     Anthea

Click on image to see larger version

Following the Bishop of Salisbury its next owner was Maurice de Londres, who had earlier helped put down a Welsh rebellion, after Roger had fell from favour from the new king and lost his lands and castles. By the 13th century the castle had been rebuilt in stone following the half-moon shape popular with the Normans. and in 1220, Hawise de Londres inherited it. Her third husband was Patrick de Chaworth, and their two sons also inherited it and during their time extensive building work took place. They transformed it into a military stronghold by adding a compact inner ward with an outer stone curtain wall with open-backed towers along its length. The inner curtain wall had 3 massive circular towers in each corner which were used for accommodation.

By the time Henry, Earl of Lancaster, inherited it, the inner ward had extensive apartments including a large hall and solar, a new kitchen and a chapel tower. The outer curtain wall and its towers had been increased in height, and walls built across the rear of the open-backed towers to create a wall walk. Three of the inner ward towers were also heightened, to the level of the south-east tower.

The castle eventually passed, by marriage, to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and on to his son, Henry IV. It become the centre of administration for the Duchy of Lancasterís vast estates, from where payments were collected, justice dispensed and where Duchy officials and their staff were accommodated.  Whilst in the care of the Lancaster's, further work took place including the building of the Great Gatehouse which began in the late 14th century and took a whole century to be completed, in 1422.

The Great Gatehouse

It became an impressive accommodation block which included a kitchen, a separate stair turret leading to all floors, additional fireplaces, wider and more decorative windows and a grand staircase from the courtyard up to the first floor. All intended to provide impressive and comfortable accommodation for the constable and his household.

The gate passage has a tower on either side with basements which could have been used as store rooms or as prison cells as their doors are secured by draw-bars on the outside only. The ground floors may have housed porters or guards in the front rooms, while one of the back rooms has a large, bare, dark prison. On the first floor, over the gate passage and tower rooms, there was a massive hall, well appointed even though it had to accommodate the inner portcullis and murder hole, the slots for which may still be seen in the floor. The private apartments were on the second floor above the hall.

Further modifications and building work on the castle took place during the remainder of the 15th century including a larger hall, a sturdy building that might have been a stable with accommodation above, and an extensive bakehouse with ovens.

During the 16th century the castle continued to be maintained but by the early 17th century it had started to fall into disrepair and was sold to the Vaughan family in 1630. Many of their family continued to repair parts of the castle between between 1793-1803, mainly for the benefit of the increasing number of wealthy tourists coming to South Wales, including artists such as Turner, who sketched the castle in 1795. Eventually the castle passed to the Earls of Cawdor, who carried out further repairs before eventually placing it in the care of the State in 1927 and is now looked after by Cadw.

A walk around the exterior of the castle is a must, as its dominating position within the town is best appreciated from outside. Kidwelly retains the street pattern of the medieval walled town, and though the walls have disappeared, the early 14th-century South Gate of the town still stands on the main street opposite the castle.

Further information Grid



Kidwelly Castle, Carmarthenshire

Ceremonial County: Carmarthenshire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo: Multimap Aerial       Google Aerial



Best Times to Visit:






Other useful websites:

Castles of Wales       Wiki      Castle Xplorer

Castle UK       ecastles

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Castles of Wales

How to photograph a castle



Planning Grid


Kidwelly Castle, Carmarthenshire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

From the A48 at Carmarthen take the A484 to Kidwelly. Take the B4308 to the centre of Kidwelly. At the end of Casueway Street take Bridge Street over the river into New Street and turn right into Castle Street.


Path from pay desk to gatehouse and wooden bridge across moat.


Free car park near castle grounds


Gift shop, site exhibition, toilets

Things To Do, See and Photograph:


What to take:


Nature highlights:



5 Castle Street,




SA17 5BQ


01554 890104

Opening times:

Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 9.30am-4pm and Sun 11am-4pm
Apr-Oct Daily 9am-5pm.             Closed 24-26 Dec and 1st Jan.


Adult £3;  Concession £2.60; Family £8.50
Free to Welsh residents 60+ and children under 16 with valid pass
See this link for details.

FREE to CADW members and free to English Heritage members in their 2nd plus years of membership, 50% off in first year.

Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access: Path from pay desk to gatehouse has a slope. Wooden bridge across moat. Internal and external wards are grass with solid level paths.
Special Needs Facilities: RADAR key toilet outside the entrance
Children Facilities:  
Dogs Allowed:  

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Classification from the Grids above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Castles Key:
Page Ref: kidwelly Topic: Castles Last Updated: 03/2009


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