Sunday, 26 July 2009

Swansea Castle

Let us begin where I began - with Swansea Castle. There only remains one corner in the centre of town, of what was known as the 'New Castle'. The very earliest castle was a motte and bailey, timber construction, of which nothing remains. It overlooked the lowest crossing of the Tawe, a good harbour, and the main east-west route in South Wales. It was also needed to guard against the Welsh, for South Wales was not part of the principality, but English, or rather Norman.

Not only was there a distinction between the lords and the serfs, but between the Englishry and the Welshry. The lordship of Gower was loyal to the king, and covered a large amount of land inland, as well as the peninsular of Gower we know today.

The stone castle which replaced the wooden one covered most of what is now the town centre. In it's heyday in the late 13th century it stretched from Welcome Lane (at the side of Argos) in the north to Caer Street (south of Castle Square) in the south, and from the clifftop in the east almost to Princess Way in the west. It adjoined St Mary's Church.

In the late 13th century it had fallen into disrepair, possibly following several attacks by the Welsh, and parts of it had been sold to raise money. It was no longer important militarily, following the pacification of the Welsh by Edward I. The New Castle was built into the south-west corner, with a new wall erected along Castle Bailey Street, which used to run across the castle bailey, and from there to the rear wall overlooking the cliff. The river used to run below the cliff, but was diverted much later to straighten the river and create land on the town side.

Although the de Breoses preferred to live at Oystermouth Castle, which they greatly improved, it would be nice to think of Alina living, at least some of the time, in Swansea Castle. I envision her wanting her own place when she married, at least when she grew up, and maybe she moved there, leaving Oystermouth to her father.

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