PREVIOUSLY, we looked at the early years of Cardigan Castle and left off as it was captured by Lord Rhys.

Here we take a look at life for the castle following Lord Rhys’ seizure.

The Lord Rhys captured the castle in November 1165 and made an immediate impression as it was said he destroyed the castle ‘to the ground’ according to the Brut.

Following this and the capture of Robert fitz Stephen, the Lord Rhys entrusted the castle to Hengyfraith as constable. It is believed that some form of refortification had happened by this time. It is known that there was a chapel on the castle’s grounds called the Chapel of St Peter.

In 1171, the Lord Rhys moved his court to Cardigan to rebuild the castle, with this being the first time stone was used. By this period, the Lord Rhys had become the dominant power in Wales after successfully fighting the Normans for his lands back.

Five years later, the first National Eisteddfod was held in the castle hall to mark the completion of the castle. The Brut states: “At Christmas in that year the Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd held court in splendour at Cardigan, in the castle. And he set two kinds of contest there: one between bards and poets, another between harpists and crowders and pipers and various classes of music-craft. And he had two chairs set for the victors. And he honoured those with ample gifts. And of the harpists, a young man from Rhys’s court won the victory. As between the bards, those of Gwynedd prevailed. Each of the suitors obtained from Rhys that which he sought, so that no-one was refused. And that feast, before it was held, was announced for a year through all Wales and England and Scotland and Ireland and the other islands…”

In 1188, the castle was host to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Baldwin of Forde, and Gerald of Wales, the esteemed scholar. In 1196, William de Braose unsuccessfully attacked the castle and the following year it was given to Gruffydd ap Rhys on Lord Rhys’ death.

A year later, the castle was taken by Maelgwyn ap Rhys after he handed over his brother Gruffydd to the Saxons. In 1200, Maelgwyn sold the castle to the Saxons for ‘a small, worthless price.’

The castle was regarded as a royal castle after this sale put it in the hands of King John, with Maelgwyn receiving 200 marks and the lands of Ceredigion and Emlyn.


William Marshal was granted custody of the castle in 1202 but lost it just a couple of years alter after falling out with the king. 20 marks were spent on repairs to the castle in 1205 and in 1208 it was fortified by Robert fitz Richard of Haverfordwest for a further 20 marks.

At this point, fitz Richard had been granted the castle by the king but just two years later, he repossessed the castle again and gave it to the Falkes of Breute, who in 1214 he ordered to give the castle to William Marshal.

The following year, the castle was captured by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. In 1218, he was regarded as the castle’s custodian due to the castle remaining a royal castle, which Llywelyn agreed to maintain out of his own pocket until Henry III came of age.

The castle was handed to Rhys Ieuanc in 1221 after King Henry III agreed that Llewelyn had not kept an agreement to give the castle to him. Rhys died the following year and the castle was entrusted to either Maelgwn or Owain ap Gwynedd.

Cardigan Castle changed hands again on Easter Monday, 1223, after William Marshal Jr captured the castle. In 1255, Henry de Audley was governor of the castle but the following August, Henry III took the castle from Marshal and entrusted it to his own officer John de Breos.

Walter de Clifford took over custody of the castle in 1228 and repairs were carried out. In 1229, William Marshall Jr and his brother Richard received custody of the castle and in 1231, the castle was attacked again, this time by Maelgwn ap Maelgwn ap Rhys.

Lord Rhys’ son was said to have “burned it completely up to the castle gate” and was said to have killed all the burgesses he found. Following this, he was said to have broken the bridge over the river Teifi and then laid siege for a second time to the castle, and following a few days, the garrison at the castle were forced to surrender when it was breached with catapults.

Next we will look at the later life of the castle following the capture by Maelgwn.

With thanks to Glen Johnson for the information.