Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Swansea Castle, Past and Present

Swansea Castle (Wikimedia)
Swansea Castle (Wikimedia)
The first castle built in Swansea, on the bluff above the river, was the traditional wooden motte and bailey type. Basically a mound and a palisade. The Welsh were not happy to be invaded, and repeatedly attacked the castle. 

The first mention of a castle at Swansea dates to 1116, when the Welsh, led by Gruffydd ap Rhys, assaulted the stronghold, burning the bailey ramparts but not capturing the castle. By 1138, when Henry de Neubourgh seized Gower, the Normans were firmly back in control. 

Henry changed his name to 'de Gower' and refortified Swansea Castle, which became the lordship's caput, or capital. One of the castle's important roles was as a mint. De Gower's nephew, Earl William of Warwick, inherited the lordship and issued Swansea's first borough charter. 

In 1217, the Welsh attacked Swansea, destroyed the castle, and wrested the lordship from Reginald de Braose. Shortly afterwards, John de Braose regained control and began refortifying the castle with stone. The ongoing threat of rebellion led to the construction of more substantial defences at Swansea. 

(CADW-Wales.gov.uk)
(CADW-Wales.gov.uk)
Yet, in the next century, the financial mismanagement of the de Braoses and the continued attacks by the Welsh, saw walls and towers in disrepair and sold off. In the early 1300s William de Braose enclosed a corner of the castle, calling it the New Castle, and built a hall there. That corner is all that remains today. 

(coflein.gov.uk)
(coflein.gov.uk)
In the 18th and 19th centuries parts of the castle were variously used as a market, a town hall, a drill hall and a prison. Part of the interior of the new castle was demolished early in the 20th century in the construction of a newspaper office. The remains were then consolidated and opened up to view from the street.

(explore-gower.co.uk)
(explore-gower.co.uk)
Last year work on the castle started again. For a while I wondered what was happening, but then it became clear that the council was cutting back the ground to the medieval level and landscaping it. Seats have been installed, though the view is of a busy road junction and concrete Castle Square, not very attractive. 

I have been told that when money is available, they hope to make the castle ruins safe for visitors, leveling the floors and building staircases to access the upper floors (see this newspaper article). The castle ruins, though small, are a tourist attraction right in the town centre, and it's time the council took advantage.

1 comment:

  1. […] have often mentioned Swansea Castle and Oystermouth Castle, but there are several other castles in Gower. The stone ruins seen today […]

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