Pembroke Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Pembroke Castle.

  • Pembroke Castle is in Pembroke, west Wales.
  • The medieval castle was built on the site of an earlier Norman castle, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the estuary of the Cleddau River.

  • It was built by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger Montgomery and during the next few centuries owned by several earls and future kings. The future King Henry VII was born in the castle in 1457.
  • Defensive features of Pembroke castle included 5 metre thick walls, a deep ditch and an overhanging wooden fighting platform. It was also surrounded by water on 3 sides.

Pembroke Castle

  • Pembroke Castle is the only castle in Britain to be built over a large cave, known as the Wogan Cave. The cave served as a port for ships and was protected by a wall and arrow slits.
  • The main keep, or tower, at Pembroke Castle is almost 27 metres high. It features decorative moulding and an unusual stone dome as a roof.
  • In 1648, during the English Civil War, the castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell‘s army for 7 weeks. The garrison surrendered when the attackers blocked off their water supply.
  • The castle was abandoned from the mid-17th century to the late 19th century, when much of it was restored. A World War I veteran bought it in 1928 and carried out more repairs.
  • The BBC has used the castle as a location. It featured in a 1989 production of the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, as well as in a later television version of William Shakespeare‘s Richard II.
  • Today, Pembroke Castle offers battle re-enactments and has several exhibitions on the castle’s history, including a typical medieval banquet. It also has its own brass rubbing centre.
  • The castle has also been licensed for weddings. Couples can get married in the Great Keep or the Henry VII Tower and either location can accommodate 60 guests.

What next? Visit our castle resources page to discover more facts about castles

Concentric Castles: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about concentric castles.

  • Concentric castles are those which have two or more surrounding walls, with the inner one usually higher than the outer one. They were sometimes circular, but also square or other shapes.

  • These castles were the next big castle design after stone keep castles, and are mostly associated with King Edward I. Some of the most famous in Britain are Beaumaris Castle, Harlech Castle, Conway Castle and Caernarvon Castle.
  • This type of castle was easier  to defend. If attackers got past the outer wall and into the courtyard, they would still have another high wall and towers to face.
  • Concentric castles had other defensive features too, including circular towers which were difficult to undermine. They had battlements, moats, a drawbridge, a strongly defended entrance and arrow slits.
  • One of the earliest concentric castles was the Crusaders’ Castle at Belvoir in Israel, dating from 1168. The outer wall is 110 metres square, surrounded by a moat 12 metres deep.
  • The Crac des Chevaliers is another well preserved Crusader castle, in Syria. At one time 2,000 people lived in the castle, known for its beautiful Medieval paintings.
  • Caerphilly Castle in South Wales was one of the earliest concentric castles in Britain, built in 1268. It was a masterpiece of design and is the 2nd largest castle in Britain after Windsor Castle.
  • Caernarvon Castle was built in the late 13th century to reinforce English rule over Wales. It is known for its 12 huge towers with 5, 6 and 10 sides.
  • Although concentric castles were strong and easy to defend, they were also expensive to build. Some were started but never finished, such as Beaumaris Castle in North Wales.
  • James of St. George was one of the best castle builders of the time. He travelled to the Middle East and introduced features he saw there, including different coloured stone bands and octagonal towers.

What next? Discover some more castle facts by visiting our castles resources page.

The Key Features and Parts of a Castle

Although castles varied quite a lot and there were different types of castles, they did share many of the same features.

These are some of the key parts of a castle.

The Keep

The keep was a strong tower located at the centre of a castle. The first keeps were made of wood and were part of motte and bailey castles. These were soon replaced with stone keeps. The first stone keeps were rectangular, but later keeps were often circular (shell keeps) or based around irregular shapes.

The Keep at Trim Castle, Ireland. (Credit)
The Keep at Trim Castle, Ireland. (Credit)

Curtain Wall

The curtain wall was a defensive wall built to protect the bailey (see below) of a castle. They were made of stone (although early motte and bailey castles did use wooden palisade walls).

The Bailey

The bailey was the courtyard area around the keep, protected by the curtain wall.

Moat

Beaumaris Castle Moat

A moat is a water-filled ditch surounding a castle. It was often the first obstacle soldiers would have to overcome when attacking a castle.

Battlements

Battlements

Battlements were the series of raised sections with gaps between them running along the top of a castle wall. Defenders could fire arrows from the gaps (the crenels) and hide behind the raised parts (the merlons).

Drawbridge

Drawbridge
A simple drawbridge (Credit)

A drawbridge was a type of bridge linking the castle gatehouse to the opposite bank of the moat or ditch. It could be raised or lowered by ropes or chains. When the castle was under attack, the drawbridge would be raised.

Portcullis

Portcullis
A portcullis being lowered (Credit)

A portcullis was a heavy spiked barrier (made from metal or wood). When attackers were trying to get inside the castle, the portcullis would be lowered in front of or behind of the castle doors to help protect them.

Arrowslits

Arrowslit
An arrowslit or arrow loop (Credit)

Also known as arrow loops or loop holes, arrowslits were small gaps in the castle walls from which archers defending the castle could shoot arrows at the enemy. Arrowslits were built in a range of different shapes and sizes. The cross-shaped arrow slits are probably the most well-known design.

Find out more about castles by visiting our Castle Resources page.