JUST outside Haverfordwest is the remains of another once-important Pembrokeshire castle.

Llawhaden Castle is situated in the village of the same name – which according to CastleWales.com is believed to have derived from Llanhuadain or Llanaedan, meaning “the church of St Aidan.” The church referenced still stands to the east of the castle.

Western Telegraph: llawhaden castle

Unlike many of the castles in the county, and Wales as a whole, this one was not for members of the nobility or royalty, it was instead home to bishops, notably the bishops of St. Davids.

It is believed that the castle began as an earth and timber structure at some time in the 12th century and was in the possession of the Norman Bishop Bernard who served as chancellor to Queen Matilda before being suddenly made Bishop of St Davids on September 18, 1115, after King Henry I persuaded the chapter of St Davids.

The castle was in the hands of several bishops during this time, including Gerald of Wales’ uncle bishop David Fitz Gerald around 1175, and went through a number of alterations.

The castle, which sits on a hill, has a deep ditch and earthen embankment which formed the castle’s earliest defences. Later the defences were fortified in stone after a 1192 siege led by Lord Rhys, cousin of Gerald of Wales.


The castle was destroyed and then rebuilt, with extensive works carried out on the castle during the 13th century by Bishop Thomas Bek.

The bishop began life in Edward I’s royal household by working as keeper of the wardrobe in October 1274. He was a trusted servant of the king and was custodian of the Great Seal temporarily in 1279.

Bek became bishop of St Davids in 1280 and between then and his 1293 death, worked on the castle and founded two collegiate churches and two hospitals.

His work on the castle included the complex hall block, kitchen, buttery and pantry, stone-vaulted undercrofts and the bishop’s chambers which were elaborately adorned, including latrines.

Western Telegraph: Picture: Elizabeth FitzpatrickPicture: Elizabeth Fitzpatrick

A twin-towered gatehouse was added during the 14th century on orders of King Henry IV due to fears of an Owain Glyndwr rebellion, providing an intimidating entry point to the castle.

A number of buildings were also added during this century including apartments with fireplaces and private latrines.

The chapel on the east was also impressive like the castle, with arched windows, a cruciform ceiling and plasterwork, with the chapel tower containing a fireplace, latrine, vaulted rooms and access to the castle’s battlements.

A dungeon was also contained in the basement of the chapel tower. There was also a five-story tower porch which acted as an observation tower.

In 1383, bishop Adam de Houghton authorises a major construction programme at the castle according to Castles.today, and John Fawle is constable.

The castle was abandoned in the 16th century following the dissolution of the monasteries and the changing of the roles of the bishops.

Despite being abandoned by the bishops, the castle was still in use as a prison and administrative centre.

It is said that in 1488, Bishop Hugh Pavy officiated the trial of William ap Hugyn, a parish clerk who is accused of violating a woman. He pleaded innocence and was only punished with having to pay expenses to the castle dungeon’s keeper.

Western Telegraph: Picture: Charles ColePicture: Charles Cole

In 1503, a woman called Tanglwys was said to be incarcerated in the castle and was freed when Thomas Wyiott stormed the castle.

Sadly, the castle later became a quarry for local building material which led to the further degradation of the castle, although it was saved from complete destruction when in 1616 Bishop Richard Milbourne was given a licence to demolish it, but was transferred to the diocese of Carlisle before it could be carried out.