Wales is a small country with a huge number of castles. Many of these are spectacular stone structures built by the invading Normans and also by the Welsh princes to protect their lands. However, not all are impressive remains many are just small lumps in the landscape. And Castell Meurig just outside Llangadog is one of those lumps, but is only one of a number of castles in a very small area, Castell Dryslwyn, Castell Care Cennen, Llandovery and Dinefwr are just a few that Aunty and I have explored. For a little lump it has a number of names, Castell Meurig (no idea who Meurig is, but I do know it’s not referring my my school friend), Castell Llangatog (makes sense, it is in Llangatog after all) and Castell Pridd (almost a literal description, pridd means soil in Welsh). But how cool it would be to have a castle in your back garden.
Perhaps I am being a little ungenerous describing Castell Meurig as a lump. It is quite an imposing motte with a surrounding bailey, now hosting a farm house slap in the middle. In its prime the motte would have looked impressive sitting on a it’s isolated knoll in the wide river valley, providing control over movement along the east west route between Llandovery and Llandeilo. It consists of a massive ditched mound or motte, at the north-east end of a pointed oval embanked enclosure or bailey. The bailey was quite large and measures approximately 120m on its north-east axis and 88m south-west. There are also traces of a ditch surrounding the site providing extra defence1. It has been suggested that the castle was built to defend an important ford across Afon Sawdde.
There is little documented about who and when it was first built, but it is thought to belong to the early, initial phase of Anglo-Norman campaign. There is a reference to a Castle Canterbohan the Pipe Rolls for 1160 when £17 5s was spent on the building. However, this may have been reference to Castell Llandovery. But this was deep into Welsh territory and a stronghold of the Princes of Deheubarth, and was subject to regular raids by the Welsh over the years as Lord Rhys gained hegemony over the area bringing a period of Welsh dominance. However, the dynasty was very much a dysfunctional family and when Rhys died the sons fought each other. In 1203 the castle was attacked and taken by Maelgwn ap Rhys and Gwenwynwyn. The castle was burnt by Rhys Parvus (cant find out who he was) in 1205. Then in 1208 is was captured by Rhys Fychan who was also the owner of Castell Dryslwyn before eventually it was destroyed by the sons of Gruffydd in 1209, never to be repaired and it fell out of influence. If the Welsh had concentrated their efforts on confronting he Normans instead of each other history could have been different.