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Roch Castle

Alan Reid 1973
The castle was founded in the 2nd half of the 13th century, although the lordship de Rupe (rock) can be traced back to about 1200. An earlier fortress may have existed here, but the prominent D-shaped tower on this isolated rocky outcrop is thought to have been built by Adam de Rupe. The family had played an important role in the English settlement of Pembrokeshire and owned considerable territory in the northern areas. Roch Castle was doubtless built as one of the outer defences of “Little England” or “Landsker” for it is near the unmarked border for which centuries has separated the English and Welsh areas of Pembrokeshire.

A legend told of the castle’s founder, Adam de Rupe, whose fear of a prophecy that he would be killed by a viper’s bite led him to choose this isolated site. Apparently he was unable to avoid his fate, for a viper, concealed in a bundle of firewood, found its way into the castle and fulfilled the prophecy.

The de Rupe, or Roche, family came to an end in 1420 and the castle changed ownership a number of times until it came into the possession of the Walter family, who owned it when the Civil War broke out in 1642. Although Walter saw out the war in the safety of London, his castle was garrisoned by the Royalists, and it was involved in much action in 1644 when it was taken by Parliamentarians, recaptured by the Royalists, and then fell once again to Cromwell’s forces. Walter did not return to Roch Castle, going instead to Hague, but his daughter Lucy stayed in London and became the mistress of Charles II. Their son was acknowledged by Charles, who made him Duke of Monmouth – the doomed leader of the rebellion against James II.

The castle was greatly neglected after the Civil War, but in 1900 Viscount St. David began extensive restoration, and subsequent owners have continued this. It is therefore considerably altered, but the tower is unmistakable for miles around, and traces of the old earthwork bailey can be seen at the foot of the outcrop.

The castle remained decaying until 1900, when purchased by John Philipps, 1st Viscount St Davids, who restored it with a steel frame and new concrete floors to the designs of D.E. Thomas of Haverfordwest.

The Castle was purchased in 2008 by the Griffiths-Roch Foundation who are presently restoring it for operation by the Retreats Group as a corporate retreat.

Roch Castle

Roch Castle

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