#33 & #155-7 Kidwelly Castle
Carmarthenshire, Dyfed, Wales
1106 and 1277-1300 and 1389-1410
This is NOT an official Lego site

At the end of the 11th century, the Normans finally had a foothold in southwest Wales, and Henry I, King of England and son of William the Conqueror, passed the territory of Cydweli to Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, who soon constructed a timber castle on a prominent ridge overlooking the river Gwendraeth (see conjectural painting on the left) beginning about 1106. This wooden palisade was probably extended by Rhys ap Gruffudd (Lord Rhys) during an extended period of Welsh control during the 12th century.  Maurice de Londres [of London] held Kidwelly for a time after 1139. The Anglo-Normans again retook Kidwelly soon after Lord Rhys death in 1197, and some stone structures were built.
In 1220 Hawise de Londres, granddaughter of Maurice, inherited Kidwelly, but it was captured by the Welsh in 1231. Twelve years later, Hawise and her new, third husband, Patrick de Chaworth, recaptured Kidwelly.  When Patrick's son Payn returned from the Crusades with King Edward I, he began to transform the family property into the magnificent masonry structure we see today. Begun in 1277, Kidwelly became a powerful semi-concentric castle. The stone inner castle was a square courtyard with three round and one kidney bean-shaped corner towers, all on the same footprint, with a Great Hall and solar overlooking the river. Upon Payn's death in 1279, his brother Patrick inherited Kidwelly.  When Patrick died in 1283, Kidwelly passed to his daughter Matilda (Maud) who was just 1 year old. King Edward thus granted the castle to William de Valence, lord of Pembroke, but Kidwelly reverted back to Matilda upon his death in 1296. In 1298, at the age of 16, Matilda married Edward's nephew, Henry of Lancaster, age 17. Henry became earl of Lancaster in 1327 and soon bestowed Kidwelly and other Welsh estates on his son, also named Henry.  With no male heir, Kidwelly passed on the Henry's daughter Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt, who became duke of Lancaster (1362-99). John and Blanche's son became the first Lancastrian king of England, Henry IV, in 1399.  Kidwelly was in the hands of the crown.
In 1389 construction of the Great Gatehouse and adjoining higher curtain walls began, with completion of the work in 1402.  The timing could not have been better, for by 1403 the great Owain Glyn Dwr rebellion was gathering pace, with a major offensive expected in south Wales. Kidwelly was beseiged by Henry Don, a supporter of Owain. The walled town was taken and burnt, but despite a small garrison of seven archers and 14 burgesses from the town (others apparently fled when the seige began), Kidwelly withstood a five month seige. Unrest continued for three more years.  During the peaceful period that followed, the gatehouse was modified and roofed in lead, and further halls, stables, kitchens and other buildings were added as needed. Kidwelly was an administrative center for the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1630 Kidwelly passed to the Vaughan family, and was spared any part in the Civil War of the 1640's. Despite some repairs, the castle gradually fell into disrepair until rescued in 1927 by CADW, the Welsh Assembly Government Historic Environment Service.

Plan of the Castle
Painting of the Castle
(with key)
Great Gatehouse
(cutaway view)
Great Gatehouse
(ground floor plan)
Great Gatehouse
(first floor plan)

Photos of the Lego Model
Built April 1990
West View Southwest View South View Closeup View


Photos of the Lego Model of the 1106 Norman Castle
Under construction Fall of 2016
I was intrigued the first time I saw Geraint Derbyshire's 1990 impression of Henry I's rendition of Kidwelly about 1106
as a timber fort.  The site did not suggest a typical motte and bailey castle, and a well was apparently considered
unnecessary due to the navigable River Gwendraeth adjacent - which also allowed for a possible raid by my 22-oar Viking longboat,
 the crew of which has been itching for a fight for several years.  And thank you, Cadw, for your patience, for this project, originally
planned instead of the wonderful Rhuddlan video, would never have worked as a video project.  Enjoy!

On Oct 11 construction begins with
the first 3 days spent laying out the
project and working on the river.
By Oct 17 the rising river
bank allows an outline of
the palisade fort to be built.
Five days later work on the
NE end has resulted in a bridge
 across the wet ditch and a bit
of courtyard.
 On Oct 26 general progress
...as the ditch extends along the entire north
curve of the castle.
On Nov. 1 the courtyard is
completed, including the
vegetable garden.
While much work remains, the
palisade is beginning to look
formidable from the river...
...and the Viking long boat is
back to check on progress.
This project has needed a huge
number of 1x2 & 1x4 "log" bricks,
plus log panels, so lots of waiting
for parts to arrive...
...but by November 22, landscaping
is completed, with a ditch newly
dammed by Henry I.
The courtyard features a hall,
chapel and kitchen, with more
structures to come...
Finished castle next! See below.


Photos of the Lego Model #155
Built October - December, 2016
On December 11 the castle is
finally finished.
The half-timber gatehouse is to
be the last vestige of the timber
fort as the castle is converted
to stone.
The dry ditch which initially protected
the great arc around three sides of
Kidwelly has been dammed to create
a moat.
From the west the moat can be best
Six wooden towers augment the
gatehouse and timber palisade.
The north gate has it's own
The view from the northeast shows
the modest supply dock and steps
up the hill to the bridge.
Finally the east view across the River
The garrison is fed by the
castle's well-tended garden...
...as well as sheep and pigs. The small chapel is the finest
building constructed by Henry
I's men.
The lumberman not only
supplies wood for the
continuing construction,
but clears the area near
the ditch.
Construction of a second
barracks for the garrison
seems to be the center of
...allowing the returning Viking
longboat to slip up the river
unnoticed.  Olaf leads his
squad along the river bank...
...while Harold takes the bulk
of the Northmen to storm the
main gatehouse.
Will be sentries notice the
attackers in time?


Photos of the Lego Model of the 1300 Castle
Under construction January, 2017
As noted in the history above, in 1277 Payn de Chaworth, returned from the crusades, undertook major strengthening of
Kidwelly Castle in stone. The inner castle was built and the outer wooden curtain was replaced with a stone wall, four towers
and a north gatehouse, though the walls were heightened later. This model represents the castle just after the great hall
and solar were added, but before the chapel was built.

On December 20 the wooden palisade
is removed - everything except the
half-timber gatehouse and the church.
Hopefully the new stone castle will
fit reasonably well into the landscape.
 On December 21 the inner
castle is laid out - and we're
off for Christmas in Minnesota.
 On December 31 work has
begun in earnest, with the
inner castle beginning to rise...
...and the outer curtain with its towers
nicely inserted into the ditch banks.
By January 8 a great deal more
building has occurred, with towers
nearing their full height...
...and the outer curtain also
rising nicely.
 You'll find the finished 1277 +
castle in the section below!


Photos of the Lego Model #156
Built December, 2016 - January, 2017
A little additional explanation
is necessary: The final castle
was built in at least 7 major
The decision to keep the half-timber
gatehouse for almost 300 years,
when the rest of the castle had been...
...converted to stone apparently
remains an enigma. Perhaps it
was significantly more complex
and/or sumptuous than the
Derbyshire drawing suggests.
The north gate was moved
and thus the remnants of
the old bridge footings can
can seen if you look closely.
Mural towers in stone were inserted
into the ditch face in about the
same location as the old wooden
The towers of the inner castle
are most impressive, including
the mural stairs to the roofs.
I do not know when the ditch
was dammed to create a wet
moat, so I made it an early
feature of the landscape.
And we've arrived back at the
main gate...
Here's a closer view of the
main entrance to the inner
This view highlights the new
stair to the wall walk and the
Here is the Great Hall with the
Lord's Solar at the left end.
This view shows the mostly
decorative corbelling both
along the wall walk and
small gatehouse.
The steps up to the
wall walk of the
outer curtain.
Here is a view of the north
end of the courtyard, where
a stable will eventually
reappear.  Now on to
Kidwelly 1400!


Photos of the Lego Model of the 1400 Castle
Under construction January - February, 2017
For this model, built into the same landscape, the 1106 half-timber gatehouse, the little chapel and the slide-out section of slope beneath the SE tower were removed.
I then outlined the new stone gatehouse, which I subsequently built, necessitating a new stone bridge next to the old wooden one.  Then construction of the chapel
tower began.  The chapel is very close to the riverbank, suggesting a very rainy spring, with the Gwendraeth quite swollen.

Here is the new stone gatehouse
outlined. The entry passage must be
moved, and the stone outcrop rebuilt.
Soon the new gatehouse is taking
shape.  No minifig entries how-
ever: the bridges don't match yet!
 By February 1, the massive
gatehouse is ready for its
roof and battlements.
And construction of the new
chapel begins. SEE BELOW!


Photos of the Lego Model #157
Built January - February, 2017
Here is my final version of
Kidwelly from the south.
After 1422 only a stable,
bakehouse and probable
courthouse build were
added to the castle.
The outer curtain wall is
neither as tall nor as decor-
ative as the final, but I ran out
out of...
...both Lego and patience.  And
the doorways at both ends of the
lengthy structure matched the
The castle as a whole is certainly
an impressive fortress.  Note the
tree line continues to recede.
The north entrance is busy
this day as dozens of empty
barrels are loaded on a
waiting cog.
The water filled ditch and
swollen River Gwendraeth
indicate recent rains.
The new chapel tower makes a fine
addition to the view from the east.
Here's the new stone
bridge into the Great
...and a closer look
at the Chapel Tower.
Here is the back of the
Gatehouse, with elegant
quarters for the
This view shows the Gate-
house from the west,
with its impressive watch
The steps still lead up
to the outer curtain,
which does have new
taller towers.
The towers were
partially roofed and
taller, but how those
melded is unclear.
Here's my take.


Build Your Own
The 2016 Lego plan is too large for me to scan, even in
sections, but here is an elevation of the 1106 version I've pieced together.

 1990 Lego Plan
2016 East Elevation of the ~1106 palisade castle

Other Kidwelly Castle pages:

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Castles created by Robert Carney
Page designed & maintained by
Robert Carney