Remains of Haverfordwest Castle
The ruined walls here were part of Haverfordwest Castle’s inner ward – the outer walls disappeared from the 17th century onwards as the stones were reused elsewhere. The capped well in the grassed area was hewn through the rock so drinking water would be available during castle sieges.
The picture of the ruins c1830 is shown here courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – the National Library of Wales.
It’s thought the first castle here was built c.1110 by Tancred or Tancard, one of the area’s Flemish settlers. His son Richard had inherited it by 1188, when Gerald of Wales visited Haverfordwest while touring Wales to recruit crusaders. Tancred had often sent Richard with food to a hermit named Caradog but refused to grant the holy man his wish of burial in St Davids. Tancred relented after falling ill three times.
Gerald also recorded that a robber was once held in chains in a tower here. Three boys, including the Earl of Clare’s son, would visit the criminal because he was skilled at fitting iron heads to arrows. One day, when the jailer was absent, the children asked for the robber to be released from his chains to get fresh air outside. The robber slammed the door, locking himself and the children in his cell. He was granted freedom to stop him carrying out his threat of murdering the children with an axe.
Richard’s son Robert was removed from the castle on King John’s orders in 1210. The structure was probably enlarged and strengthened before it held out against Welsh capture twice: by Llywelyn Fawr, Prince of Wales, in 1220; and by French soldiers fighting for Owain Glyndŵr, leader of a long rebellion against the English king, in 1405.
King Edward I and his wife Eleanor visited in 1284. She later acquired the castle and ordered improvements but died in 1290, before the works were finished. Her involvement is commemorated in the ancient name Queen Eleanor’s Bower for a part of the castle you can see today.
The castle, derelict by 1577, was held by the Royalists in the Civil War until the Parliamentarians took it. A jail was built on part of the site in 1779 and held French prisoners of war later that century. That jail was replaced in 1820 by a new one, which later housed the police station and still stands. The jail governor’s house is now the Haverfordwest Town Museum.
Postcode: SA61 2EF View Location Map