THE remains of the fortress that is Dinefwr Castle in Llandeilo still look grand to this day, but do you know the history behind this 13th century building?

Here we take a look.

Dinefwr Castle wasn’t just a castle for a Welsh noble to live in, it was the principal court of the kingdom of Deheubarth in the 13th century according to Welsh lawbooks from the medieval period.

It is believed that the castle was built around the 12th century, with the earliest written reference coming from the period of Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd, who withstood the power of the Anglo-Norman lords and was able to rebuild the kingdom of Deheubarth during the 12th century, particularly when King Henry II intervened.

South Wales Guardian: Dinefwr Castle. Picture: Wendy StephensDinefwr Castle. Picture: Wendy Stephens

He was able to rebuild the kingdom into a stable authority by taking advantage of the king’s conciliatory policy after 1171. During this period of peace and harmony, the kingdom was able to thrive, with Welch culture, religious life and legal and administrative affairs benefiting from Lord Rhys’ governance.

He spent two decades re-establishing the single power across the lands of Ystrad Tywi, Ceredigion and parts of Dyfed, recapturing Cardigan Castle and rebuilding Llandovery, Rhayader and Nevern castles.

By 1180, he was ruling over the premier Welsh kingdom under the overlordship of the English monarch.

But how does this relate to Dinefwr?

Dinefwr was the primary residence of Lord Rhys during this period of time. It is unclear exactly what the castle looked like at this point in time, however, it is believed that it did look somewhat like what remains today.

It is believed there was an inner ringwork and outer ward with two gates and most likely a masonry defensive wall.

Unfortunately, following the Lord’s death in 1197, the castle had a more turbulent time as his sons fought over the ownership of the castle. The most likely inheritor of the castle and kingdom should have been his eldest legitimate son, Gruffyd ap Rhys, but his other sons Maelgwyn ap Rhys and Rhys Gryg, with the three capturing and recapturing the castles from each other.

When Gruffydd ap Rhys died four years after his father, his sons Rhys Ieuanc ap Gruffydd and Owain ap Gruffydd became involved in the conflict.


During this period of time, the Anglo-Norman lords of the March and the king took advantage of the conflict to begin to regain the power they had lost to Lord Rhys.

In 1216, a settlement was made with thanks to the prince of Gwynedd, Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, who got the claimants to accept a division of Deheubarth, which allowed them all to rule but this diminished the status of the kingdom.

South Wales Guardian: Dinefwr Castle. Picture: CadwDinefwr Castle. Picture: Cadw

It is believed that Lord Rhys may have been the one to do the first masonry wall construction and that there were masonry walls and a tower by 1213 that were strong enough to withstand the siege that took place that year.

It is also believed that Rhys Gryg removed a section of the primary wall to placate Prince Llywelyn in 1220. Rhys Gryg is also believed to have created the circular keep and adjacent Welsh gate due to the keep resembling the structures at Bronllys, Skenfrith and Tretower, which are dated back to the 1230s.

Rhys Gryg ruled over a period of peace in his later years so it is believed he had ample time to carry out this scale of building.

The lands around Dryslwyn were also owned by Rhys Gryg and the styles were incredibly similar which adds to the possibility of him carrying out the work.

His 1233 death saw the lands split between members of his family. In the 1280s, following Edward I’s conquer in 1277, repairs were carried out on the castle and a new gate was created. Further building work was also carried out on the castle during this period.

In 1310, the castle was given to Edmund Hakelut and it was held in his family until 1360, with a short break where it was under different ownership. It is believed that the castle’s hall, western building and the remodelling of the windows and rectangular chamber block were done during the Hakelut years, roughly dating to 1326.

The castle was besieged in 1403 during Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion and was later granted to Hugh Standish but it is said he had little interest in south Wales and the castle declined.

The castle was abandoned in the 15th century but late in the 17th century, the top of the keep was rebuilt to form a summer house and the southern turret was given a roof and tiled floor.

A fire destroyed both roofs by the late 18th century and the castle was again abandoned, although the Dynevor estate would carry out sporadic repairs to the castle until the 20th century.