Built by the Normans during their invasion of West Wales in the 12th century, Tenby castle has had a colourful history.
Mentioned in historical annals as early as 1153, it suffered attacks from the Welsh princes and was besieged and starved into submission during the second Civil War. The present day ruin dates from the 13th century and its position on the headland at Castle Hill, which is separated by a narrow isthmus from Tenby town, clearly indicates why it was sited there.
It commands a panoramic view of Carmarthen Bay with the monastery island of Caldey in the middle distance and the jut of Worms Head, Gower, on the horizon. On clear days the view includes Lundy Island and the distant coast of Somerset and North Devon, offering a clear view of any enemy approaching to seaward.
But the Welsh warrior Maredudd ap Gruffydd the future ruler of the south-eastern pertty kingdom of Deheubarth, his brother Rhys ap Gruffydd, did not approach from the seaward side. In 1153 they succeeded in capturing the castle and destroying most of the original structure. It was besieged by the Welsh again in 1187 and in 1260, when the Welsh Prince, Llywelyn the Last sacked the town during his campaign to retake South Wales, but he failed to capture the castle. Shortly afterwards, Tenby became part of the feudal property of the First Earl of Pembroke, William de Valence, whose name is perpetuated in the town in the De Valence Pavilion. He it was who initiated the stout town walls, most of which can still be seen by visitors as they enter Tenby. These high walls, strenghtened by D-shaped barbicans in the 14th century, diminished the role of the castle, which was virtually abandoned as a defensive fortification by the end of the century and fell into disrepair. During the second Civil War the castle was held by the Royalists under the Command of Rice Powell, whose men withstood siege for 10 weeks before Cromwell’s Parliamentarians starved them into submission.
Close to the castle is the national award-winning Town Museum where much of its history is recorded, together with exhibits eching the archaeology, art, pre-history and other facets of Tenby’s past. Standing sentinel nearby is a statue of Edward V11 and a large cannons points out towards Carmarthen Bay.
Museum President, author, broadcaster and TV presenter Jamie Owen has given the Museum the ultimate accolade: “The world’s most perfectly located museum,”
and few pople would argue with that.