Ruins of Laugharne Castle

Ruins of Laugharne Castle

Engraving of Laugharne Castle and harbourThe Wales Coast Path skirts the foot of Laugharne Castle. The sea came right up to the castle until as recently as the 18th century – as shown in the old engraving.

Norman fortifications were built by the mouths of major rivers – here the River Taf – to control sea and river trade and enable supplies, including troops if needed, to get to the castle in times of siege, by way of a postern gate. The earliest reference to Laugharne Castle was in 1116.

Local settlement, by Norman supporters who could be called upon to defend it, was encouraged, and so Laugharne town grew up by the castle entrance. However, Welsh attacks were often successful. In 1189 the Lord Rhys attacked and probably razed the wooden defences.

A deadly attack in 1215 under Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr – ‘Llywelyn the Great’) was successful, as was yet another under Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1257, when the local lord, Guy de Brian, was captured. Those attacks led to steady build-up of stronger stone fortifications.

Following a century or so of neglect the castle came into the hands of Sir John Perrot – after whom the hill opposite is named. He turned the castle into a Tudor mansion, with enlarged, square-headed and glazed window openings. After his death in the Tower of London in 1592, Laugharne Castle was rented to different tenants. Among them was Rhys ap Prydderch, who was accused of quarrying the castle for lead and possibly timber, windows and iron – perhaps to use on Island House, where there is a Tudor door lintel thought to be from the castle.

Picture of Laugharne Castle by JMW TurnerIn 1644 the castle – a Royalist stronghold – came under a week-long siege before capitulating. Damage caused by that siege, followed by deliberate spoliation, was only partly restored. In the 18th century the grounds became part of the garden of Castle House. The dramatic picture of the ruins was created by JMW Turner c.1830 and is shown here courtesy of the National Library of Wales.

Further developed in the 19th century, the visible gazebo became the writing parlour for both Richard Hughes (novelist, poet and playwright) and, for a while, Dylan Thomas.

In 1973 owner Anne Starke placed the castle in the care of the state. It is now maintained by CADW.

With thanks to Peter Stopp, of Talacharn Community History, and to the National Library of Wales for the Turner drawing

Postcode: SA33 4TS    View Location Map

Cadw website - for Laugharne Castle visitor information

Laugharne Lines website - use the ‘underground’ map to explore the town and its history

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