Laugharne Castle famously '...brown as owls' (Dylan Thomas) stands where a Bronze Age fort, then a Roman fort, then a Celtic fort once stood. It has always been a fortified place and the eminent administrative unit in the Kingdom of Dyfed, when Laugharne was known as Abercorran.

There were 8 commotes (secular divisions of Wales) in the 'hundred' (Cantref) of Gwalhaf held by the Princes of Dynevor. According to the French Abbot and Historian, William of Saint-Thierry (c.1080-1148), 'The Welsh in the Middle Ages were the most intellectual people in Europe.'

The cantref was made part of the Norman March in 1093, and the structure we see today was built by the Normans in c.1116. Henry 11 stayed here in 1171-1172 to negotiate a truce with Rhys ap Gruffudd, ruler of Deheubarth, and an opponent of Norman authority. An uneasy peace lasted until the king's death in 1189 when Rhys seized the castle, before the crown seized it back.

The castle was destroyed by the Prince of South Wales, Llewellyn Ab Iorwerth in 1215, and King John give it to Sir Guy de Brian, the Lord High Admiral of England, and anciently the Lord of Talycharn, who rebuilt it.

A period of calm ensued as Sir Guy married the daughter of Lord Dynevor, but extensive damage was caused by the last true Prince of Wales, Llywellyn Ap Gruffudd in 1257. It was Sir Guy's son, also called Guy, who signed the Laugharne Charter in 1297 which continues to today (see Town Hall), the last surviving medieval corporation in the UK.

Laugharne Castle in the snow in 2013

As an aside, this eccentric enclave has more aliases than a Victorian villain: Larn, Lacharn, Abercorran, Talavan, Tallagharn, Tal-lachar, Thallacharne, Tullungharne, Talacharn, Talacharne, Talycharn, Tallaugharne, Tal Llacharn, Tal-la-Corran, Abercorram and Laugern... But latterly known as Laugharne: pronounced Larn. Even the word Laugharne is curious - nine-letters, one syllable. There are a few one syllable words in English longer than that, the longest is the 11-letter word 'broughammed', which means to travel by brougham, as in bussed (bus), or biked (bike), created by the 20th century US poet, William Harmon.

So why Laugharne?

Well, whilst it sounds similar to some of the Welsh names above, Sir Guy de Brian Snr. bequeathed the castle to his daughter, Elizabeth, who married Owen Laugharne of St Brides, and so maybe the current name of Laugharne was settled upon. If anyone can clarify when Laugharne started being called that, please let us know!

Here's a pic from the 1930s(?)

Another pic from the same location
and below the same view today

The castle was transformed into a fortified house by Sir John Perrot (1528-1592) - hence the large sea-facing windows. Perrot was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I (and rumoured to be an illegitimate son of Henry lll), but had enemies both in London, Ireland (where he was Lord Deputy) and South West Wales.

Perrot was a callous figure who hung over 800 Irish rebels as the President of Munster. His undoing came when his enemies accused him of insider information regarding a 1589 Irish rebellion, but perhaps more damaging to him (yet strangely humorous) was how he described Queen Elizabeth 1 in a private letter:

'God's wounds, this it is to serve a base bastard pissing kitchen woman, if I had served any prince in Christendom I have not been so dealt withal.'

In 1591 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, charged with treason and condemned to death. However, ill health, or possibly poisoning, finished him off before the executioner could do his job.

The Castle frequently changed hands following Perrot's demise, until Sir Sackville Crowe conveyed it to Sir William Russell in 1627. Russell, a Royalist, picked the wrong side in the Civil War, and Laugharne was captured by Major General Rowland Laugharne's Parliamentarian troops in 1644 following a five-day siege.

General Laugharne then swapped sides, leaving 'the people' for the king, which drew Oliver Cromwell to Laugharne. Under his watchful eye (Gosport House), cannon fire from the hills of Glanymor and Orchard Park did the main damage. Victory was assured by cutting off the water supply. The huge breaches in the walls that we can see today were made during this time.

The siege ended Laugharne's importance as a military stronghold. Partially dismantled to prevent it becoming a stronghold for Welsh bandits, the Castle declined into a romantic ruin and became the subject of a dramatic watercolour (see below) by JMW Turner.

Probably a fanciful interpretation of the view as Laugharne is basically a cove on an estuary, and even on stormy days doesn't see waves like that.

It was then owned by Sir John Powell (1632-1696), a Welsh judge who built Broadway Mansion just outside of Laugharne, and whose grand-daughter sold it to Penoyre Watkins, whose grand-daughter became wife of Colonel Richard Starke Esq who modified Castle House in 1810. His descendants remained there until the early 2000s.

The pic above is of the Tudor Garden, and by the start of the 20th century Castle House, the castle and the garden was owned by Miss Anne Starke.

Author of 'A High Wind in Jamaica', Richard Hughes rented it from them and drew inspiration writing in the Gazebo overlooking the estuary. Dylan wanted to move into Castle House in 1949 but Ms Starke declined as Dylan was known for running up debts, and maybe she had had enough of literary types being on the property.

In 1973 Miss Anne Starke passed the Castle into the guardianship of the Secretary of State for Wales and restoration work began, which included stripping back the cloak of ivy, which was to continue until 1993.

Today the Castle is maintained by CADW and open to the public from April until Autumn each year. Those brave enough to climb to the top of the Tower and look down upon the township will be treated to one of the most spectacular views around.

And also over 'upstreet', and below looking north-east with Sea View clearly visible. And below that, Laugharne from the air.

The castle has origins going back at least 2500 years, to a time well before the Romans. When we talk of Laugharne as ancient and timeless, it is not an idle boast. Indeed, there is evidence that people lived in Laugharne around 70,000 years ago.

Just over the hill on the road leading to Pendine is Coygan Quarry. As this map doesn't extend to it, this is as good a place as any to record this information. In the 1960s, excavations in Coygan Caves found evidence of Neanderthal people dwelling there around 40,000 years ago.

Other items included a mammoth's molar (above) from 100,000 BC, bones of sabretooth tigers, hippos, bears and hyenas (a hyena's jawbone below), arrowheads from 12,000 BC, flint tools from 10,000 BC, human bones from 3000 BC, evidence of an enclosure from 500 BC, defensive banks from 250-300 BC, pottery owned by Gauls from 300 AD, and even in the dark ages there is evidence of spasmodic occupation. Some of these items are in Carmarthen Museum.

Sadly, the caves were overwhelmed by the quarry in the 1960s.

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