The castle lies on a bluff on the west bank of the river Gwendraeth where it runs into the great Towy estuary. Kidwelli probably began life as a Norman stockade in 1106 and is attributed to Roger, Bishop of Salisbury who had been granted the Lordship by King Henry1st. An interesting attempted capture of the castle by the Welsh in about 1136 was led by Gwenllian, wife of Gruffydd ap Rhys: the attempt failed and one of her sons was killed, the other was captured with her. The Normans were severe and they came to a very sticky end.
By 1139 Kidwelli could boast of the ownership by the great Norman family of the de Londres, then through a daughter’s marriage changed hands to Patrick de Chaworth. His son Payn used his experience from the Holyland Crusade to develop the fortifications at Kidwelli. He and his master builder James St George built a rectangular stone structure with massive towers at each corner creating an inner ward with gates to the north and south.
Again through marriage, the castle’s next owner Henry, Earl of Lancaster made his mark on the castle. He built the Chapel tower with its spur and buttresses and replaced the earlier semi-circular defences with stone walls creating a unique concentric castle. This wall was reinforced by three semi-circular towers, gateways north and south completed the plan. This became known as a wall within a wall structure.
The impressive South Gatehouse was restored by both Henry 1V and Henry V after extensive damage was dealt to it by the Owain Glyndwr uprising. The gatehouse was completely self-contained consisting of domestic offices as well as the machinery controlling the portcullis; murder holes were set in the walls.
In 1485 Sir Rhys ap Thomas, knighted and given Kidwelli for his role in Bosworth by HenryV11, made many changes to the castle. These were to reflect his status and create more comfortable living accommodation.
Taking a walk around the castle boundaries one can appreciate the excellent preservation. Few castles remain in this condition.
See here for the Kidwelly Castle website
16 kms south of Carmarthen town on the A484 CADW
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015