One of Britain’s longest running field projects has been the excavation of Dolforwyn Castle. In Powys, by the River Severn six miles west of Montgomery, it was built in 1273 by the last independent prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Perhaps conscious of the need to counterbalance the domination of the great castles of Edward I in the public mind, Welsh Historic Monuments (Cadw) decided on an extensive excavation of one of the less well known Welsh castles. We reported on the work at the halfway stage in 1990 (CA 120). Now, after twenty seasons, the digging is done, the castle is fully conserved and is open to the public. Lawrence Butler brings us up to date.
Dolforwyn occupies a prominent rectangular hilltop site on the north bank of the River Severn near Abermule. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd began building his castle in
1273, and his intention was to control the river valley, along which ran the old Roman road from Forden Gaer (Lavobrinto) to Caersws. Dolforwyn was a frontier outpost facing not only the English royal castle of Montgomery 6 miles (10 km) to the east but also the castle of the rival Welsh ruler Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn at Powys, 10 miles (16 km) north-east down the Severn. Deep trenches were cut into the rock on the west and the east, and the hill slopes were scarped more steeply to the north and south, making it a position of great strength. In the early 20th century the castle ruins were held by a gentry family, the Lloyds of Montgomery, but in 1955 the antiquary J.D.K. Lloyd gave them into the care of the Secretary of State for Wales. When Dolforwyn’s present owners, Welsh Historic Monuments (Cadw), decided in 1980 to undertake the total excavation, conservation and display of the castle, only a few fragments of masonry poked through the turf and brambles. Even the castle plan was unknown and its interior wholly unexplored.
The purpose of the excavation was to understand the various phases of construction, occupation and decay. We knew from documentary records that the archaeologycurrent 228 197