Old Castle Newport

Newport's First Castle

The Anglo-Norman lord William Fitzmartin founded Newport in 1197. We think that he built Newport’s first castle next to the riverbank. All that remains today is part of the earth banks and ditches, so it’s hard to imagine.

Aerial image of Old Castle Newport

Our reconstruction is based on research into wooden castles from the Norman period. Take a look at this 360° viewpoint to see how Newport Castle might have looked inside.

Screenshot of Old Castle Newport 360 viewpoint

Newport was a transplanted Anglo-Norman town, meaning Anglo- Norman and Flemish settlers were brought in from elsewhere. Put yourself in their shoes – after a long journey by sail and oar, you are greeted by the reassuring sight of a castle standing next to the river Nevern. Laid out in a grid like pattern behind the castle are strips of fertile land called burgage plots. You will be granted one of these plots to live on, build a house, grow food and rear a few animals.

Newport offered new settlers a better life, but was it secure? Records show that Welsh forces burnt the town and castle down twice, first in 1215 and again in 1257. The stone castle up on the hill was probably built after the Anglo-Normans regained control of the area.

Three burgage plots were revealed in 1991 when Dyfed Archaeology trust excavated the site of the school, Ysgol Bro Ingli. The houses were built of earth, known locally as clom. They stood for only a short period, which means that they were probably abandoned after the attacks in 1215 or 1257. But the burgage plots continued to be marked out and farmed for several hundred years.

See Dyfed Archaeology Trust’s website for more on Newport’s medieval history.

If you notice any disturbance or damage on your visit, please report it Dyfed-Powys Police. For further information about Heritage Crime, visit Heritage Watch.

 

Timeline of Medieval North Pembrokeshire

1108     Robert Fitzmartin, an Anglo-Norman lord, captures the Cantref of Cemaes and establishes Nevern Castle.

1136     Welsh forces recapture Ceredigion after the battle of Crug Mawr. Cemaes probably also comes under Welsh control.

1155      The Welsh leader Rhys ap Gruffudd – or the Lord Rhys – controls much of West Wales, including Nevern.

1172      Nevern Castle returned to William Fitzmartin (Robert’s son) when he marries Angharad, the Lord Rhys’s daughter.

1191      Lord Rhys captures Nevern Castle

1195      Hywel Sais, Lord Rhys’s son, slights Nevern Castle to prevent it returning to Anglo-Norman hands.

1197      William Fitzmartin founds Newport, constructs castle, lays out burgage plots and transplants settlers.

1215      Llywelyn ap Iorwerth attacks and burns down Newport castle and town.

1241      Newport confirmed by charter.

1257      Llywelyn ap Gruffudd burns down Newport castle. The castle is rebuilt in stone on the hill.