Narberth Castle is a sad sight today, neglected and overgrown its ruined towers and walls forlorn and crumbling: an ancient building under threat of extinction.
Experts say it is undoubtedly of Norman origin, which tallies with its first historical mention in 1116.
Its history is unexciting. Glyndwr left it alone and it was not until the Civil War that it was slighted by Cromwell on the grounds that any fortress was a threat to the Commonwealth. Cromwell actually encouraged the locals to remove the stone from the castle to use for their own building purposes and there can be no doubt that this was done, for stone was a valuable commodity and there are many old stone buildings in Narberth which could well have come from the castle.
The ancient building, which is seen to best advantage either from the other side of the valley on the road to Templeton, or from the opposite side, looking down the street towards the De Rutzen Arms. The ruined towers are still tall enough to be see above the roofs of the houses and it would be a great shame if they were allowed to fall down. The Narberth skyline would be changed for ever.
The sad fact is that in the current recession potential custodians of such buildings, such as CADW or the National Trust do not have the money for additional projects and lottery funding has not yet recovered sufficiently from the heavy cost of the Olympic Games to be able to support major projects which do not possess significant national or regional importance.
There was some hope of a future for the ancient buiding and grounds in the 20th century. In the early 1900s the town’s annual fair held a procession, which ended in the castle grounds, with music and dancing, and this was replicated in 2005 when it was opened to the public after the council had made it safe. The ceremony was combined with the signing by the Mayors of Narberth and Ludlow of documents sealing the towns’ twinning arrangements. A dramatisation of one of the Mabinogion stories, Culhwch ag Olwen, was also played there at the time.
About 30 years ago the castle was given some care and attention when an elderly gentleman called Perrot, who claimed descent from the reputed builder of the castle, Andrew Perrot, a forebear of the famous Sir John Perrot, one-time occupant of the castles at Carew and Laugharne, took residence in the grounds in his camper van and started some painstaking amateur repairs.
He was not there long, for the work was arduous and futile. It appeared he was able only to point gaps in the masonry, seemingly with ordinary cement and not the lime mortar the work required, and inevitably made little impression on the ruins which were so far decayed.
The castle is strongly linked to The Mabinogion, in which it states that Castell Arberth was the home of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, who features in the book’s fables of enchantment and magic.