Manorbier Castle is a fortified manor overlooking a sheltered beach. The lands on which it is built were granted to the Norman knight, Odo de Barri, at the end of the 11th century. He probably made his home in a wooden hall surrounded by earthwork defences, but no trace of this is left beneath the stone castle that was started by his son, William de Barri, in the first half of the 12th century. William's elder sons took part in the invasion of Ireland, and they used their newly acquired wealth to extend the castle fortifications. William's youngest son was the renowned scholar-priest 'Gerald of Wales'. His books are still essential reading for anyone studying the medieval period in Wales, and in them he shows his fondness for his birthplace, "In all the broad lands of Wales, Manorbier is the most pleasant place by far".
Manorbier was owned by the de Barri family for over 250 years. Their Irish estates provided them with an income that enabled them to develop their home at Manorbier. The first stone building was a hall-keep, built more for defence than comfort. Stone curtain walls were then added, and two towers to guard the approach to the gate. This entrance was further strengthened with the addition of a square gatetower. New domestic buildings were also built including a grand chapel block that was linked to the old hall.
The defensive properties of the castle were never really put to the test. The only violent incident that took place during the de Barri family ownership was a family feud in which the nephew of the recently deceased John de Barri occupied the castle and refused to leave. His uncle Richard removed him by force in order to claim his inheritance. The Barri line died out in 1392, after which the castle passed through the ownership of absentee landlords who benefited from the manor revenues but lived elsewhere, while the castle became little more than a farm. The only military action the castle saw was during the Civil War when the castle was prepared for defence against the Parliamentarians. However, General Laugharne easily captured the castle and it appears to have survived relatively undamaged.
In the 1880's the castle was partially restored by J.R.Cobb, who, as well as carrying out repairs to the decaying buildings and walls, also built himself a new house at the end of the Tudor barn.
- Overlooking the beach in the village of Manorbier, off the A4139, 5 miles west of Tenby
- Manorbier Castle, Manorbier, Tenby, Pembrokeshire, SA70 7TB
- Privately owned. Open to the public. Admission fee
- For further information visit www.manorbiercastle.co.uk
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