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Perched high above the Nant Gamman stream with a steep-sided natural gorge to one side and views over the surrounding countryside, this site has been an important defensive location for centuries. While the remains of the motte and bailey castle visible today probably date from Norman times, it is possible that the site has been occupied since the Iron Age over 2,000 years ago.
Today archaeologists are trying to uncover more of the secrets of the castle. With the benefit of a grant from the Welsh Cultural Heritage Initiative excavation has been taking place to unlock the secrets of the site.
Nevern Castle is owned by the Nevern Community Council and working with the National Park Authority and archaeologist Chris Caple from Durham University ongoing excavations have just completed their fourth stage.
The site was acquired by the Norman lord, Sir Robert FitzMartin, in the early 12th century when he took it from the local Welsh aristocracy. He built the motte, which is the large grassy mound that you can see today, on top of which would have been a timber then stone tower. From here the lord had good views of the surrounding area as well as the goings-on in the bailey.
The bailey, which is the flat area below, was probably where the hall and buildings of the lord were sited. At the opposite end of the site to the motte are the remains of a stone tower separated from the rest of the site by an impressive rock cut ditch. Look for the marks in the exposed stone which were made by the tools used to cut this ditch nearly 1,000 years ago.
The castle changed hands several times during the course of the 12th century as the Welsh and Normans battled for supremacy in the area. By 1191 it was back in the possession of a local Welsh nobleman, the Lord Rhys, and his sons.
However, they were not a happy family and Rhys himself was imprisoned in the castle by his sons Maelgwyn and Gruffydd. He was later released by another son Hywel, who reportedly destroyed the castle to stop it falling into the hands of the, by now, Anglo-Normans again. By the end of the century the site was abandoned and fell into ruin.
Download Nevern Castle Audio Trail here.
Click here to download the map to accompany Audio Trail.
Explore the castle and learn more about the area on the Nevern Castle website.