In Welsh Pembroke Castle is know as Castell Penfro.
A Norman Lord, Roger of Montgomery founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, it resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years, the castle establishing itself at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.
In the 12th century Robert of Bellême, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury, eldest son of Roger de Montgomerie, was forced to forfeit his British lands and titles after he rebelled against King Henry I. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as a base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.
In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, Gilbert de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who later received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive stone castle with a massive round stone keep - only royal towers of the period are comparable in scale. Marshall was succeeded by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.
All of Marshal's sons died childless. In 1247, the castle was inherited by William de Valence, a half-brother of Henry III who became Earl of Pembroke through his marriage to Joan, William Marshal's granddaughter. The Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern.
Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes, during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.
On the death of Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (son of William de Valence) the castle passed through marriage to the Hastings family. In 1389, 17-year-old John Hastings died in a jousting accident ending a line of inheritance stretching back 250 years.
The castle reverted to Richard II. Short tenancies were then granted by the Crown. By 1400 Owain Glyndwr had begun a rebellion in Wales, but Pembroke escaped attack because the castle's Constable, Francis а Court, paid off Glyndwr.
Eventually the castle and the earldom were presented to Jasper Tudor by his half-brother Henry VI in 1452. Tudor brought his widowed sister-in-law, Margaret Beaufort, to Pembroke where she gave birth to her only child, the future King Henry VII of England who was born in 1457.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the castle saw a period of peace. At the outbreak of the English Civil War most of South Wales sided with the King but Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops and saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven.
In 1648, when the war was at its close, Pembroke's leaders changed sides and led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were encouraged to dismantle the fortress and re-use its stone for their own purposes. The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay.
Pembroke Castle remained in ruins until 1880 when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle in 1928 and started an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses and towers. After his death a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke Town council.
William Marshall's inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with a domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside it, a spiral stairwell connected its four storeys. The keep's domed roof has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoards allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.
This drawing illustrattes the concentric natureof Marshall's castle,
with the river protecting three sides
The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. Only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were sited within the inner ward.
In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral stairwell was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which had been created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred in and out of the castle.
The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres (16 ft) thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.
Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with Great Keep, it can also be classified as a linear fortification or spur castle because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rock promontory surrounded by water. Attacking forces could only assault a narrow front.
Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are concentrated on its landward side facing the town, the river creating a natural defence around the rest of its perimeter.
Pembroke Castle painted by Turner