WE have been running a series of articles on the history of Cardigan Castle and left off last time at the end of the 1400s.

This week, we look at life at the castle in the 1500s as the Tudors take control and during the Civil War.

In November 1501, Catherine of Aragon – known as wife of Henry VII – was given the castle as part of her dowry from marrying Henry’s elder brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. When Arthur died, Catherine was married off to Henry VIII as the first of his six wives.

Tivyside Advertiser: Catherine of Aragon was given Cardigan Castle as part of her dowry for her marriage to Prince ArthurCatherine of Aragon was given Cardigan Castle as part of her dowry for her marriage to Prince Arthur

The constable of the castle in 1514 was Sir William Tyler. He had fought at the Battle of Bosworth with Henry Tudor – King Henry VII – and remained constable until 1527. He was a servant of both Henry VII and Henry VIII he was trusted by both monarchs and had been Groom of the Chamber and Collector of Tonnage and Poundage for the Port of London.

Some small-scale repairs were carried out later that decade and on September 30, 1527, Morris Parry became constable of the castle. He took over following the death of Tyler and remained in the position until his 1541 death.

Tivyside Advertiser: King Henry VIIKing Henry VII

Henry VII granted by Letters Patent on January 5, 1541, that the constableship was to be held by himself or a deputy. It is believed William Abbot became the constable and was the last constable of the castle in 1564.


The castle began to fall into ruins as in 1610, John Speed drew the castle ruins and noted that the Great Tower appeared to be free standing but in a state of collapse. He wrote: “The castle is higher built upon a rock, both spacious and fair, had storms not impaired her beauty, and time left her carkasse a very Anatomie.”

The castle remained in a state like this until the site was assigned to Sir John Lewis in October 1633. In October 1641, the castle formed part of a marriage settlement between John Lewis and James Lewis and John Wogan the younger of Wiston and George Lewis of Cardigan. The following month, John Lewis leased the castle to his son James for four years.

Later that decade, the castle became a focus during the Civil War. It was taken by the Royalists in June 1644 by Colonel John Gerrard and during the capture, he killed or captured 200 Parliamentarians and he began to fortify the castle.

It was said in the July 14, 1644, edition of the Mercurius Aulicius: “at Cardigan, he killed and tooke Prisoners above two hundred Rebels, having beaten, cut off, and taken, all the Rebels got into that County: he strongly garrison’d Cardigan Castle.”

He set to work fortifying the castle with weapons from The Convent wrecked frigate and constructed a half-moon earthwork in the yard so that their guns could fire over the walls.

It was needed as in the December, General Laugharne reached Cardigan with his Parliamentarian forces. They took the town as it surrendered and attacked the castle. There was a two-week siege on the castle.

The attack was described as: “The town willingly surrendered and complyed, but the castle being a considerable place, ably manned, having the ordnance of the Convent frigate, there shipwrecked, most obstinately held out, until a semi-culverine [cannon] of brass belonging to the Leopard [ship], was mounted [at Pentood] and played three days upon them, forcing a breach which was gallantly entered and made good by our party, and the castle stormed, wherein were 100 commanders and soldier with their arms and good plunder, not forgetting the Convent’s ordnance, returned by Divine Providence, and works of mercy in a commander, adding honour to acts of chivalry – invited the General to give the Stewards life, who contemned quarter. The town and castle reduced and the country in the major part as conceived well affected…”

Tivyside Advertiser: Cardigan Bridge and Castle. Picture: John DaviesCardigan Bridge and Castle. Picture: John Davies

A number of notable prisoners were taken at Cardigan Castle. One was a distinguished divine and scholar called Dr Jeremy Taylor – who would die around three years after the siege. Another was one of Charles I’s soldiers Evan Gruffydd Evans of Penywenallt, known as ‘Captain Tory.

At this time, the mayor of Cardigan, David Scourlogge, turned his back on the people of Cardigan, his estates and the Royalist occupation and joined the General on the side of the Parliamentarians.

In the new year following the siege, General Laugharne sent Colonel Rice Powell to hold Cardigan. Colonel John Gerrard was released from North Wales and three days later on January 4, he arrived in Cardigan with 1,200 horse and 1,300 foot soldiers in an attempt to take back the town and castle. He was successful in taking the town and seized the boats that were supplying the garrison.

They were called to surrender but the Parliamentarians refused.

Colonel John Gerrard’s men demolished a large part of Cardigan Bridge and attempted to take the castle. This was unsuccessful and they lost 150 men.

The Royalists set heavy fire upon the castle and the Parliamentarian troops, 120 of whom had marched to the Pembrokeshire side of the river and crossed with supplies for their comrades.

On January, 22, 1645, the town was attacked and the Parliamentarians drove the Royalists out again, using faggots of wood to cross the destroyed Cardigan Bridge.

In May of that year, following the success of the Royalists in nearby Newcastle Emlyn, the garrison of Parliamentarians at Cardigan set fire to the buildings at the castle and left.

Once the war was over, the castle is believed to have returned to the Lewis family who were in possession prior to the war.

Next, we will look at life at the fire damaged Cardigan Castle following the end of the Civil War.

With thanks to Glen Johnson for the information.