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:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.