Kidwelly Castle - Sarah Woodbury

Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle was built by the Normans in the 12th century to control the Welsh of Deheubarth and south Wales.

the castle was built above the River Gwendraeth and the town of Kidwelly. Today it consists of a square inner bailey defended by four round towers. It is further protected by a semi-circular outer curtain wall on the landward side, with a massive gatehouse next to the river. A jutting tower protects the riverside walls, making the castle an impenetrable fortress.

You might have seen Kidwelly Castle in the opening scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail but it had a long history before that. Initially, it was a motte and bailey castle, meaning it was built in wood on top of a man-made hill and surrounded by a wooden palisade. In the early 12th century the castle was converted to stone.

During the 12th century, there was extensive conflict between the Welsh and the invading Normans. In January of 1136, the Welsh were in full revolt. They took Gower Castle and defeated the Normans at the Battle of Llwchwr. With these victories, the King of Deheubarth, Gruffydd, who was married to Gwenllian, daughter of the King of Gwynedd, went to Gwynedd to elicit support from her family for the war. While he was gone, the Normans attacked. Gwenllian led her forces into the field against the Normans. She was captured and executed at Kidwelly Castle.

To this day she is remembered as a Welsh folk hero.

It took another twenty years for Kidwelly Castle itself however to finally fall under the rule of the Welsh. In 1159, it was attacked and taken by Gwenllian’s sole surviving son, the Lord Rhys, now ruler of Deheubarth. He rebuilt the castle, but after his death, the Normans took it back. In 1231, the castle was captured and razed by Llywelyn Fawr, but after his death it was rebuilt by the Chaworth family, who are responsible for much of what the castle looks like today.

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