My very final last ever absolutely no more post on Aberystwyth history… unless I find anything else that I just have to blog about in my last week here.
It has been established by some, dear reader, that Aberystwyth castle was entirely abandoned and has been a ruin ever since Cromwell took a disliking to it and blew it up in 1649. But, reader! I intend to topple that suggestion and instead present my tale of the last man to live at Aberystwyth Castle.
I only really thought that there was a chance someone had called Aberystwyth castle home and converted part of it out of a ruin when I came across a manuscript picture while researching whether Plas Crug had really been an ancient castle or not (sadly, reader, it is proven by contemporary accounts that Plas Crug truly was not).
Aberystwyth Castle, A Tour to South Wales by Thomas Martyn, 1801
This picture shows a window in the northern-most surviving tower (far left) of Aberystwyth Castle which looks to be mid-eighteenth century, so what is it doing there?
This is the second earliest image that I can find of the castle, the previous being drawn in about 1740. While there are other images claiming to be between 1740 and 1801, these are all copies based on the 1740 drawing, and are not original engravings. The next drawing of the castle was done by S.R. Meyrick in about 1807, but is from a different angle, and in fact no other drawings show the window.
Not long after all this, the Victorians repaired much of the ruins and tidied them up, as they had a knack of doing to so many medieval buildings and remains around the country, and any evidence for or against this curious window was lost.
I have borrowed the below image from aberystwyth.com because it illustrates my reasoning perfectly, and my phone is currently not working so I can’t take a similar photo myself.
The northern-most tower as it appears today.
The window opening is certainly completely gone, and the other rectangular opening has been half-closed up by later Victorian repairs. So where is my evidence that there might ever have been anything there?
Well, good reader, on the right hand side of the photo you can see the Victorian repairs to the curtain wall (rebuilding is a more accurate word), but only a little way into the right of the photo it stops and butts up against a stone wall of a cruder, older construction. This can’t be a wall built before the destruction of the castle, because it completely cuts through where walls would otherwise jut out from the remains of the medieval room it encloses. It also itself butts up against the external wall of the round tower.
So, this appears to be a wall built after the castle was destroyed, but before it was turned into a tourist attraction by the Victorians. Could it be, then, that this is the remnant of some mid-eighteenth century fisherman’s house, built using the remains of the ancient castle? It would explain the survival of that tower while other parts of the castle were robbed away.
Perhaps it was not some noble Cavalier or rebelling Roundhead who was the last man to have Aberystwyth Castle as his home; instead perhaps, during the storms and winters that the castle constantly faces, it was some poor Welsh fisherman, his family alongside, who dwelt in the remains of that place for the last time.
The glad reflection of conjecture.
Farewell, good reader.