Located in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, West Wales, the Pembroke Castle is a Grade-I historic building preserving the former family seat castle for the Earldom of Pembroke, open to the public as a living history museum for guided tours.
Though the land it occupies has been inhabited since at least the Roman period of the United Kingdom’s history, the legacy of castle structures at the present-day site of Pembroke Castle can be traced back to the 1066 Battle of Hastings, when the Norman-French Army set its sights on Wales after successfully conquering England. In 1093, Arnulf, the Earl Roger of Montgomery, constructed a simple timber palisades castle as part of promontory fortifications along the Pembroke River. A century later, the castle was passed to William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, and over the course of the next three decades, Marshal transformed the castle into a proper stone fortification, constructing its present-day Great Tower and Inner War. Further additions were constructed by Marshal’s son Gilbert between 1234 and 1241. The castle then passed hands to William de Valence, the half-brother of Henry III, who retained it in his family until 1389. Following the death of Aymer de Valence, Pembroke Castle was leased out to various short-term tenants and began to fall into disrepair by the early 13th century before coming under the ownership of Henry IV’s half-brother Jasper Tewdwr. Tewdwr is credited with many of the renovations that transformed the castle from a fortress to a private residence, including the construction of fireplaces and windows for the structure’s domestic buildings.
Throughout the next several centuries, Pembroke was used as a personal residence for the Earl of Pembroke, until the outbreak of civil war in Britain in the 1640s, when it was reclaimed for use as military fortifications. Following the American Revolutionary War, the castle fell into disuse and disrepair again, with local residents encouraged to scavenge stones from the fortress’ property for their own reuse, until initial attempts at reclamation and renovation were made in 1880 by Brecon’s J.R. Cobb. After three years of renovation attempts, the project was abandoned until 1928, when it was reinvigorated by the castle’s acquisition by Major-General Sir Ivor Phillips. Phillips accomplished substantial renovations to the castle’s towers, gatehouses, and interior walls prior to his death. Following his death, the castle was put into a private charitable trust, jointly managed by Pembroke Town Council and Phillips’ surviving family members.
Attractions and Tours
Today, Pembroke Castle is open to the public as a living history museum, owned and operated by the Pembroke Castle Trust. Honoring its place in United Kingdom history as the former seat of the Earldom of Pembroke and its roles as a fortress during multiple national and international wars, the castle has been listed as a Grade I historic building since 1951. It is the largest privately-owned historic castle in the country of Wales and has been fully restored to its historic condition, showcasing a variety of exhibitions throughout its buildings elaborating on the structure’s history, former residents, and role in the United Kingdom’s government and military.
The castle is noted for its strategic location near Milford Haven and Cleddau Estuary, which offers dramatic views of the surrounding natural areas from atop its towers. As a Norman-style enclosure castle featuring a great keep, the castle is noted for its unique location, as the only castle in the United Kingdom to be constructed over a natural cavern. All of the castle’s interior rooms are circular in shape and showcase a variety of multimedia visitor exhibits, incorporating lifelike replicas and dioramas with lighting, sound, and smartphone-integrated elements to tell the story of the castle’s former residents and recreate its Medieval appearance. Welsh history is also brought to life through a variety of living history demonstrations on select days throughout the castle’s operating season, and a cafe and brass rubbing center are open at the facility during the summer months, available for use with standard visitor admission.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to regular daily living history demonstrations, a wide variety of special event programming is offered at the castle throughout the year, bringing the Medieval and Renaissance eras to life for visitors of all ages. Family special events include ghost tours, Wee Quest children’s tours, and a Merrymaker’s Knight School event series. A Rock the Castle concert serves as the castle’s annual benefit gala, and a Christmas Market brings holiday vendors to the facility during the winter holiday months. Free guided tours of the castle are also offered twice or three times daily between March and October, with privately scheduled tours available upon request for school groups and organizations.
Pembroke Castle, Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, SA71 4LA, Phone: 0-16-46-68-15-10