The original Laugharne castle was established by 1116 as the castle of Robert Courtemain. The castle was also the meeting place of Henry II of England and Rhys ap Gruffudd in 1171–1172, where they agreed a treaty of peace. When Henry II of England died in 1189 the castle, along with St Clears and Llansteffan, were seized by Rhys ap Gruffudd of Deheubarth in the same year. The castle may have been burnt down at that time. It was rebuilt by the Normans, and in 1215 was captured by Llywelyn the Great in his campaign across South Wales. By 1247 Laugharne was granted to the De Brian family. In 1257 Guy de Brian was captured at Laugharne Castle by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and the castle destroyed.
It was in Laugharne in 1403 that Owain Glyndŵr's rebellion stalled. Perhaps lulled into complacency, he was tricked by an ambush and lost 700 men. When a local soothsayer then warned him to leave the area or be captured, he retreated. After this the rebellion petered out under the weight of greater English numbers; and by 1415, Owain Glyndŵr had disappeared, fading into myth. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth granted Laugharne to Sir John Perrott (rumoured to have been an illegitimate son of Henry VIII) who was responsible for converting the castle from a fortification into a Tudor mansion.
During the Civil War, in 1644, Laugharne was captured by Royalists, but then attacked by the Parliamentary forces of Major-General Rowland Laugharne. After a week-long siege in which much of the castle was damaged by cannon fire, the Royalist garrison finally surrendered. The castle was slighted to prevent any further use. In about 1730 the new Castle House was built close by, the castle itself being left as a romantic ruin. Around the start of the 19th century the outer ward was laid out as formal gardens.
The ruins of the castle as seen now are the result of much development as the building graduated from an earthwork castle to a Tudor mansion. There is little trace of the original earthwork bank or the first stone hall, which may have been taken down in the twelfth century. The two robust round towers date from the rebuilding work done in the late thirteenth century. Some curtain walling from this time also survives. The north-west tower acted as a keep and also guarded the entry gate through the curtain wall to its south. This tower has a domed roof, but the other, three-storeyed tower has partially collapsed. The two extra storeys and the circular stairway were probably erected in the late thirteenth century, and a new hall was built at this time against the south of the curtain wall. The outer ward, with timber defences, may also date from this period. Further work done in the late thirteenth century includes an additional round tower at the south-west corner of the inner ward and a new, stronger gatehouse, and the defences of the outer ward were rebuilt in stone.
In the mid-fourteenth century, the height of the curtain walling at the south-western corner of the inner ward was increased, and the round tower and the inner gatehouse were also raised in height. This process is particularly noticeable because a greenish stone was used for the alterations that was significantly different in colour from the red sandstone used in the rest of the building. In the sixteenth century, the castle was remodelled into a substantial Tudor mansion with a more comfortable accommodation block and with mock battlements added to the curtain walls. Excavation has shown the remains of the Tudor cobbled courtyard, the presence of a pitched stone kitchen floor and the ground plans of the building at the different periods of its existence.
The castle is under the care of Cadw and is open to the public from spring to autumn.References:
Kirkjubøargarður ('Yard of Kirkjubøur', also known as King"s Farm) is one of the oldest still inhabited wooden houses of the world. The farm itself has always been the largest in the Faroe Islands. The old farmhouse dates back to the 11th century. It was the episcopal residence and seminary of the Diocese of the Faroe Islands, from about 1100. Sverre I of Norway (1151–1202), grew up here and went to the priest school. The legend says, that the wood for the block houses came as driftwood from Norway and was accurately bundled and numbered, just for being set up. Note, that there is no forest in the Faroes and wood is a very valuable material. Many such wood legends are thus to be found in Faroese history.
The oldest part is a so-called roykstova (reek parlour, or smoke room). Perhaps it was moved one day, because it does not fit to its foundation. Another ancient room is the loftstovan (loft room). It is supposed that Bishop Erlendur wrote the 'Sheep Letter' here in 1298. This is the earliest document of the Faroes we know today. It is the statute concerning sheep breeding on the Faroes. Today the room is the farm"s library. The stórastovan (large room) is from a much later date, being built in 1772.
Though the farmhouse is a museum, the 17th generation of the Patursson Family, which has occupied it since 1550, is still living here. Shortly after the Reformation in the Faroe Islands in 1538, all the real estate of the Catholic Church was seized by the King of Denmark. This was about half of the land in the Faroes, and since then called King"s Land (kongsjørð). The largest piece of King"s Land was the farm in Kirkjubøur due to the above-mentioned Episcopal residence. This land is today owned by the Faroese government, and the Paturssons are tenants from generation to generation. It is always the oldest son, who becomes King"s Farmer, and in contrast to the privately owned land, the King"s Land is never divided between the sons.
The farm holds sheep, cattle and some horses. It is possible to get a coffee here and buy fresh mutton and beef directly from the farmer. In the winter season there is also hare hunting for the locals. Groups can rent the roykstovan for festivities and will be served original Faroese cuisine.
Other famous buildings directly by the farmhouse are the Magnus Cathedral and the Saint Olav"s Church, which also date back to the mediaeval period. All three together represent the Faroe Island"s most interesting historical site.