Haverfordwest Castle is located in a naturally defensive position at the end of a strong, isolated ridge. Pembrokeshire Records indicate that there was an Iron Age hill fort on the site of the castle although there is no physical evidence to suggest this on the present location. Haverfordwest was believed to have been a Danish settlement prior to the Norman conquest of West Wales in 1093/94. The Flemish settled in the area in 1108 to protect the main Norman stronghold at Pembroke Castle from Welsh raiders from the north.

The castle was established during Norman times in 1120 but much of the architecture remaining today is dated to 1290, including the extensive curtain wall. For centuries the castle was an royal English stronghold.

The castle was owned by the crown from 1381–85, who paid for restoration works of the castle. These works proved important later, as in 1405 the castle was strong enough to fend off an attack during Owain Glyndŵr's War of Welsh independence. The town walls around the high ground near the castle also did much to protect the castle from invaders, although nothing remains of these town walls today. Over the centuries the castle was visited by numerous nobles and monarchs such as King Richard II and Oliver Cromwell.

By the 16th century, however, the castle had become dilapidated and subsequently was re-fortified during the English Civil War. In 1644 Haverfordwest Castle is documented as being occupied by the Royalists, but they abandoned it on misinterpreting the noises of cows for a Parliamentary army. It was recaptured and held for the king for a year, who finally surrendered after the Battle of Colby Moor nearby. Oliver Cromwell sent letters to the castle, ordering it to be destroyed in July 1648 and threatened to imprison the townsfolk unless it was demolished. These letters were only unearthed in 1986 and are currently on display in the town museum.

The derelict medieval castle was converted to a prison in 1779. In 1820 a new prison building was erected within the castle grounds, mainly within the inner bailey. Today the castle is operated by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and is open to the public.

Architecture

The original entrance to the castle lay on the west side, guarded by a gatehouse but no trace of this survives. Round towers are located on the north-west and south-west corners, and in the south-east corner there is a square tower with an additional projecting turret. The south-west and south-east towers have three storeys, with the south-east tower possessing a basement and postern gate which could serve as a counter-attack during a siege. A large hall lies the south of the castle with great, high windows and scaling ladders. Little remains of the original medieval defences in the outer ward of the castle, although the extensive curtain wall has been upkept and still remains along with a considerable part of the north side, including a semicircular turret and a square tower to the east.

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