Medieval court house, Caerphilly
This building, now The Courthouse pub, dates from the 14th century. Previously court sessions were held in the gatehouse of Caerphilly Castle but a new building was ordered after a Welsh attack on the court in 1316. See the footnotes for more about that period.
Accounts from 1429 record how the court house was repaired at a cost of over 30 shillings. Hywel ap Gruffudd Fychan (or Vaughan) was contracted to haul timber to the site using his oxen. Carpenters rebuilt the roof beams and 1,000 earth tiles were fitted. The job needed 1,000 laths (wooden beams) and 2,000 lath nails. Dafydd ab Ieuan Hen (hen = old) was paid sixpence for a day’s work using his horse to carry sand to the site.
Prisoners continued to be kept in the castle. The 1429 accounts record that two iron fetters for the castle (for clamping around prisoners’ feet) were also supplied.
The building was enlarged in the 17th and 19th centuries. It was used as a house by members of the Price family, which had used proceeds from ironmaking interests to build a mansion known as Plas Watford (near the southern end of Watford Road) in the 18th century.
Inside The Courthouse you can see two large fireplaces, back to back, beneath ancient beams. There is also a display of cheese-making equipment. When the building first opened as a pub, a farmer named Tegwen Evans used to make Caerphilly Cheese here.
Postcode: CF83 1FN View Location Map
With thanks to John Owen, of the Caerphilly Local History Society, for the footnotes. Other sources include the National Library of Wales
Footnotes: Why the courthouse was built
John Owen writes: In 1315 the young Gilbert de Clare was killed at Bannockburn, leaving his vast estates under the guardianship of King Edward II. The inheritance was shared among Gilbert`s sisters. Pain de Turbeville of Coity Castle was appointed administrator and treated the Welsh population harshly. Coupled with this, the years 1315 and 1316 suffered badly from a volcanc eruption in New Zealand – huge dust clouds affected the European climate and food production (“a year without a summer”).
This double whammy drove the Welsh of Glamorgan to revolt aginst Payn and his English administration. Llywelyn Bren, descended from the Welsh lords of Senghenydd, led an an attack on the court held at the entrance to Caerphilly Castle on 13 January 1316. Some of the officials were killed, part of the English town of Caerphilly was burned and many of the inhabitants slaughtered.
The revolt ended after three months, and the authorities decided to erect a new court house. They took over a burgage plot, which included a well, near the castle’s southern gate. The court house was erected post-1316 and was a single storey building on the footprint of the current pub.