The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Nevern

Where is Nevern?

Nevern is a village located in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. The history and archaeology in and around this village is amazing, from the remains of a Medieval castle to early inscribed stones and stone crosses and even a sorrowful bleeding yew. If you are looking to explore an area with a rich offering of places to visit in a small area which includes walks, then Nevern may well be the village to visit for you.

Nevern Castle/Castell Nanhyfer History

Historical records suggest that the castle is on the site of the 11th-cenury Llys of Cuhelyn, captured by Robert FitzMartin during the Norman Conquest of Pembrokeshire. FitzMartin built a motte and bailey castle on the site at Nevern. From 1155, much of west Wales was under the control of the Welsh leader Rhys ap Gruffudd (the Lord Rhys). The conflict for the English meant few resources were available for Anglo-Norman lords to retake their Welsh lands. When Henry II became king he insisted that welsh lands and castles were returned to their Anglo-Norman lords. When Robert FitzMartin died in 1159 his son William was still very young and it seems following this the Lord Rhys retook the castle once again. Welsh rule returned in 1165 when the Lord Rhys recaptured Cardigan and Cilgerran castles. Nevern castle would have come under his control then, if it wasn’t already.

Remains of Nevern Castle ©heritagehiker

In the 1190s Nevern castle was involved in the final conflict between Lord Rhys and three of his sons. Nevern could represent one of the earliest Welsh stone castles to evolve from an earth and timber castle into one of stone if built by Lord Rhys. Archaeological excavation has revealed evidence of the early 12th century earth and timber castle that was substantially rebuilt in stone during the mid to later 12th century.

Where is the Castle?

The castle is situated on a spur formed by the gorge of the River Gamman/Afon Gamman. It survives as an earthwork with traces of masonry walls and rock cut ditches. Banks and ditches (double on the north and single on the west) enclose the spur in a form that suggests it might overlay an Iron Age fort. The remains of a stone tower, curtain wall and tower still survive.

The site is free to visit and there is parking at the site.

St Brynach’s Church

St Brynach’s Church is situated in Nevern, near the River/Afon Gamman. The site is thought to have once been a 6th century early medieval ‘clas’ site. The church is situated to the south-east of Castell Nanhyfer/Nevern Castle. The church and churchyard is home to early medieval inscribed and incised stones and a churchyard cross. There is also an enchanting ‘bleeding yew tree’ with the churchyard.

St Brynach’s Cross

This beautifully carved cross stands in the churchyard of St Brynach’s Church and is made up of two pieces. It is thought the cross stands in its original position and dates to the late 10th or early 11th century.

St Brynach's Cross, Nevern
St Brynach’s Cross ©heritagehiker

First mentioned by George Owen of Henllys around 1603 standing in its current position.

Bleeding Yew

Bleeding Yew, St Brynach's Churchyard. Nevern
Bleeding Yew – St Brynach’s Churchyard ©heritagehiker

The ancient Yew trees in the churchyard are believed to be around 700 years old. One of these is known as the Bleeding Yew, known for its continuous producing of blood like sap.  It is not unusual for a tree to produce sap where it may have been damaged but normally such sap dries up quite quickly.

Inscribed Stones of Nevern

Vitaliani Stone

This weathered stone stands next to the porch in the churchyard of St Brynach’s church. Records suggest it was originally used as a gatepost for a nearby farm. In 1925 the RCAHM Inventory of the County of Pembroke noted that it was placed in the church porch but that it originally stood on the north side of the churchyard.  The stone has both Ogam and Latin inscription and is dated to the 5th/6th century.

Vitaliani Stone, St Brynach's Churchyard, Nevern
Vitaliani Stone ©heritagehiker

The Latin is now barely visible but it was said to read ‘Vitallani Emereto’ – ‘to the well earned honour of Vitalianus’ and has been translated as ‘of Vitalianus Emeretus’.

Ogam Stone

The Ogam Stone is built into the window sill of the east window in the Henllys chapel. It was first noted in 1904 being used as a door lintel in the narrow passage that opens off the west wall of the Henllys Chapel. The stone was removed in 1909 and placed in its current position. It has both incomplete ogam and Latin inscriptions carved into it. The Latin inscription has been translated as `Maglocu son of Clutorius’ and the ogam inscription has been translated as `of Maglicu son of Clutar’. The carving is thought to date to the second half of the 5th or earlier 6th century.

Stone Cross

There is an additional stone Cross set horizontally into sill of the west window of the Henllys Chapel. It was noted in 1904 being used as a door lintel in the the Henllys Chapel. The stone was removed in 1909 and placed in its current position. It is dated to the second half of the 10th or early 11th century.

Pilgrim Cross or Rock Cross

Pilgrim or Rock Cross ©heritagehiker

Beautiful roughly carved cross relief set into a natural rock face. Believed to be a place for pilgrims to stop on route to St Davids from Strata Florida.

Walks in Nevern

CADW have produce a great walking guide that takes you around all the interesting sites in Nevern. Starting at the castle car park it forms a 7.5 mile loop. You can make this route shorter by taking in as much or as little of the route as you like.

If you like this article you may also enjoy The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to Cefnllys

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