It was after the Norman invasion of Wales (1093) that a knight, Odo de Barri, was given the lands on Pembrokeshire’s coast where Manorbier castle is located. The castle looks down over a beach and the water. Probably Odo built earthwork defenses and wooden buildings here.
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William, his son, began building the stone castle. William married a Welsh princess and then built the castle keep to use as a hall. Next to the hall was a kitchen and buttery. A solar was placed above the buttery. He also constructed a tower. He later built a gatehouse with two rooms and an observation tower, two more towers (the north tower and round tower), and a chapel. He raised the height of the walls and added rooms to the family section—a second chamber and solar. The castle stayed in the same family for over 250 years. During this time extensive farming was developed, and fishponds, a water mill, dovecot, and orchards were added.
During the War of the Roses the castle prepared for a battle, but it never happened. The castle was simply taken over by the crown. Standing empty, it became derelict. In 1670 it was bought by Sir Erasmus Phillips, and his family owned it until the 20th century.
J.R. Cobb, the new owner, began repairing the castle. The gatehouse and tower roofs and floors were repaired and new windows were added. He built, in the castle grounds, a modern house on the remnants of an older one by the old barn. He also developed gardens in the grounds. The present shop was once a guardroom.
The castle was used in the film the ‘Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’, but it is most famous as the home of Gerald of Wales, the eldest son of William de Barri. He became famous during his lifetime as a scholar. He was a priest, clerk, and advisor about Welsh affairs to English kings. He was a chaplain and tutor to the two princes who became Richard, the Lion-heart, and King John. His writings included 17 books. Unfortunately he got involved in political machinations involving the bishopry of St David’s which took a toll on his health. He still managed to live to the age of 77.
Manorbier is off the B4585, off the A4139 on the south coast west of Tenby.
Tel. 0 1834 871 394
Open: end March-end Sep, 10am-5pm; weekends in Oct and half term week; closed various days for private functions during open months so check website to confirm before going
Bus 349 from Tenby stops at the gate.
Shop; garden; tea-room; path to nearby beach
Web: Manorbier Castle
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and as follows:
View through castle window, pathway to castle and beach courtesy
Photo of castle courtesy Visit Wales