Southern end of Landsker Line, Amroth
The original castle at Amroth marked the southern end of the Landsker Line, a fortified Norman boundary designed to keep the Welsh from the fertile lowlands of south Pembrokeshire.
Before the Normans, Viking raiders settled here and named the place Earwear, meaning 'sand bank'. Earlier still, there was an Iron Age hillfort a little west of the existing Amroth Castle.
In the late 11th century the Normans built a motte and bailey fortification, Earwear Castle, on the site of the hillfort. They drove the Welsh from the lowlands and established a string of fortifications from here to the Newgale area.
The cultural repercussions continued for centuries after the Landsker Line became obsolete as a defence. People north of the line remained mainly Welsh-speaking. English dominated south of the line, to the degree that this area became known as ‘Little England beyond Wales’ – a terminology that even today causes division and discussion.
There remain obvious differences between North and South Pembrokeshire in place-names and spellings, building architecture, language and dialect. The spoken language south of the line was influenced by Normans, Flemish, English and Welsh, with a noticeable input from the English West Country. In 1924 a dictionary of South Pembrokeshire words ran to 27 pages!
When Amroth stood between the Norman territory and the Welsh territory in Carmarthenshire, control of this locality was bitterly contested. The castle changed hands many times. It was under Welsh control in 1102 and reoccupied by the Normans in 1115. It returned to Welsh hands in 1151 when Lord Rhys led his army silently across the sands at night for a deadly surprise attack on Tenby, where defenders had expected an overland assault.
Back in Norman control, the castle was twice attacked and destroyed by the Welsh in the first quarter of the 13th century. By 1350 the situation was more peaceful and the Earwear estate came into the hands of the Elliott family, which built a mansion east of the old castle – what we now know as Amroth Castle.
Stones from the old castle were used to build St Elidyr’s Church, at the suggestion of John Elliott of Earwear.
With thanks to Mark Harvey