Culver Hole

Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower, and also as a Possible Uncertain

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCulver Hole
Alternative NamesCulvers Hole; Smugglers' Hole
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan
CommunityPort Eynon

Medieval Dovecot in cave in cliffs. A natural cave has been closed off by 16m high wall, 3.6m thick at its base and tapering upwards, the width of the cave mouth being from 3.0m to 6.0m; two round-headed windows and a circular opening pierce the wall, which has c.30 tiers of nesting boxes and a narrow stairway within. Discussion of this site has tended to concentrate on the search for a parent manorial house, there is a quasi-legendery connection with the Salt House and Culver Hole itself has been suggested as a medieval stronghold. (Coflein)

On the west side of Port Eynon Point, facing the open sea; only accessible from the sea.

The structure within the Culver Hole rock cleft is now generally referred to in authoritative sources as a dovecote, but its primary purpose has been debated for many decades and cannot be regarded as settled. The presence of a large number of nesting recesses integral to the structure in the interior, and the traditional name of the site ('culver' may signify pigeon) are evidence in favour of this as at least a secondary purpose; but its massiveness, its unsuitable location, its inappropriate window or door openings, and its inaccessibility in winter, make use as a dovecote unlikely as a primary explanation. The openings seem to imply the presence of lost internal floors and the hoisting of goods. The impracticality of the stone stairs in the lower part of the interior also implies the presence of floors, though beam sockets have not been noted. It is probable that it had an original purpose for which massiveness, storage, defensibility and inaccessibility apart from connection to the sea were desirable. No evidence of alteration has been noted

The structure has been hypothetically associated with the lost Port Eynon castle, mentioned in documents in the late C14, the location of which is unrecorded but might have been on the nearby cliffs. This assumes a lost upper access at the Culver Hole, enabling it to have served some storage, defence or escape function. If the Culver Hole structure was related to a clifftop stronghold, a very good precedent exists in the 'cave' of Carreg Cennen castle (Carmarthenshire), a rock-face structure linking the castle ward to a water cistern beneath it, also secondarily used as a dovecote.

The inner face of the wall has a narrow staircase in three irregular flights near the foot and about 30 tiers of nesting boxes in the manner of a dovecote.

A masonry structure about 20m in height, built across a natural cave, with possible evidence of associated quarrying to improve sea access or make land access more difficult. The wall is about 3m thick at base, narrowing as it rises. Axe-dressed limestone masonry with five surviving door or window apertures arranged roughly vertically following the incline of the cave. The lowest opening, about 4m above the beach, is about 1.5m in height, with segmental stone arch, capable of use as a doorway; above this is a smaller and narrower opening of similar form and above that a circular opening about 1m diameter. Another circular opening exists at high level where the natural cleft of the rock opens out, and one straight side of a top opening remains with part of its segmental head. The top of the structure is lost. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Culver house is another name for dovecote. But the house is big and has stairs and floors inside. Some believe, it was a smugglers hideout, and legend tells about a tunnel, connecting it to the nearby Salt House. King writes this was not part of the defences of Port Eynon castle. Classification of this unique building is difficult. If it was an independent dwelling then it arguably most fits into a classification of small, gentry status, tower house on the bases of size and status but hardly on the bases of form (although it does have several floor levels).

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS465845
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 70
  • RCAHMW, 1982, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol. 3 Part 2: Secular Non-defensive Monuments (London: HMSO) p. 362-3
  • Morgan, 1910, Culver Hole and the Salt House (Swansea Scientific Society)


  • Lucas, R.L.T., 1980, 'The Pirates of Porteynon' Gower Vol 31 p. 11-22 online copy
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Watkins, A., 1891, 'Pigeon houses in Herefordshire and Gower' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 48 p. 31-2 online copy