Monday, 24 September 2012

Swansea Castle Tour

Swansea Castle isn't open to the public. There's limited access, the floors are uneven, and years of misuse and grime need cleaning up. The Council says they are going to do it, after finally waking up to this great piece on heritage right in the middle of town, but we don't know when. But occasionally they organise tours, and provide metal staircases up to the upper levels. I managed to go on one just a couple of weeks ago. Having written about the de Breos Lords of Gower, when Swansea Castle was the capital of the Lordship of Gower, it was lovely to be able to see inside.

The most important room in a castle is the great hall. This  was where business was carried on during the day and where the meals were served for the lord, his family, guests and leading members of his household. The main meal was at about 11am, and another in the evening when work was done.

Door to food preparation room
The small room at one end of the hall (through the little doorway) was probably for the final food preparation after it came up from the kitchen, preparing to carry it in to the lord and his guests.

At the other end of the hall is the solar, or withdrawing room. Thiswas a private room for the lord and his family, and probably also the lord's bedroom. There is a fireplace, a window seat and a private latrine.

In the 14th century, arcading was built on top of the castle walls, probably by John de Mowbray, Alina's son. St David's hospital was being built (now the Cross Keys pub) by the bishop and it is thought that John borrowed his masons, because the arcading resembles that on the bishop's palace at St Davids.

Below these rooms are five undercrofts or cellars, used for storage. The river was right below the castle, with wharves for the ships to be unloaded and goods could be brought directly into the castle, as well as into the market in the castle grounds.

Cell in the North-East Tower
The only other remaining part of the castle is the North-East Tower. It's hard to know what this was originally used for, as the main floor was converted to a debtor's prison in the late 18th century. The four rooms were three debtor's cells and the jailer's room. Underneath was another undercroft, with a sealed passage beyond.

I don't know when the castle will be open again, but I hope it won't be too long before the Council does the work and opens it to the public.


  1. The sealed passage never used to be sealed; there's a tunnel that goes from the castle in the city centre to Oystermouth Castle (on a westerly bearing, but meandering), & then further on to an outlet in the nearby Underhill Park, & further out to the coast, likely near to the beach at Rotherslade.

    1. I haven't heard of a tunnel that long, it seems a bit far. I did hear of a tunnel from the castle to St Marys Church, but I don't think they have found it.

    2. I haven't heard of a tunnel that long, it seems a bit far. I did hear of a tunnel from the castle to St Marys Church, but I don't think they have found it.

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