AN EXPLORATION of the remains of Norman strongholds and the county’s role as an early Norman frontier was the subject of Pembrokeshire Historical Society’s latest lecture on Friday, December 6.

Charles Hill, from the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, talked of the evolution of Pembrokeshire’s stone castles from early timber fortresses, and about those which have been lost over the years.

There are more than 50 castles in Pembrokeshire, and while we are all familiar with the great stone castles such as Pembroke and Carew there are many other important early castles which are today generally unknown and uncared for. Yet they were important conquest castles of the Norman invaders.

The Marcher Lords from the English-Welsh borderlands were given semi-autonomous powers by King William I and his son to deal with the troublesome Welsh, who previously had been a long-standing thorn in the Anglo-Saxon side.

They set up strongholds as bases to conquer and subdue the native Welsh population. Earl Roger of Montgomery swept into Wales from Shrewsbury and built the first timber castle at Pembroke in 1093.

Like most armies of the period the Normans made extensive use of mercenaries. In particular, soldiers and warlords from the Low Countries and the Flemings were early collaborators looking for wealth and power in return for their military service. Thus in 1110, Haverfordwest Castle is recorded as being in the hands of the Fleming - Tancred (or Tancard), although the castle was probably founded earlier.

The vestiges of the Norman/Flemish expansion into Welsh north Pembrokeshire in particular are the place names based on Flemish personal names – Letterston, Wiston, Tancredston and Reynaldston.

The early frontier between the Norman/English settlers and the native Welsh speaking population is replicated in the linguistic divide - the Landsker line - running across the County from Roch to Llawhaden and Narberth, which persists today.

The remains of the Norman/Flemish motte and bailey castles like those at New Moat, Walwyn’s Castle, Little Newcastle (now disappeared), Wiston and Letterston are further evidence.

Mr Hill spoke of how it is probable that these strongholds were initially or sometimes solely constructed in wood.

The lecture was also illustrated with photographs, and the audience were able to ask questions at the end.

The lecture, which was held at the Picton Centre, Haverfordwest, is part of Pembrokeshire Historical Society’s annual calendar of events.

The dates and subjects for the new year lectures are:

Friday, January 3, 2014 – Patrick Jones on “Edward Evans’ Diaries – A Victorian Farmer in Pembrokeshire”;

Friday, February, 7 – Celia Thomas on “Woodlands Ancient & Modern”;

Friday, March 7 – Simon Hancock on “The Social Impact of the First World War in Pembrokeshire”;

Friday, April 4 – Sally Moss on “Graham Sutherland’s Gallery – the true story”.

Non-members are welcome but are asked to pay £3 each towards the society’s expenses. More information about the Society can be obtained from the General Secretary, by telephoning 01646 601633 or by visiting the society’s website at