Castleton, St Athan

Has been described as a Possible Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCastleton, St Athan
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthorityVale of Glamorgan
1974 AuthoritySouth Glamorgan
CommunitySt Athan

A two-storey, rubble built and slate-roofed farmhouse, 21m east-west by 8.0-9.0m, adapted from an early 16th century house of some quality, thought to have built following a contested inheritance, which may account for apparently archaic features. To the north of the house is an altered gatehouse (Nprn37490), amongst current farm buildings (Nprn300679), it being suggested that the intervening space formed a courtyard, about 75m square. (Coflein)

About 700m north-east of the Church of St. Athan and approached down a cul-de-sac.

The origins of this house are difficult to determine and its character now is principally of the early C16, with an overlay of a Victorian refurbishment. By tradition, it embodies parts of the C14 castle of the de Furber family, but other interpretations are possible. The immense thickness of some of the walls, and its position on the very edge of a steep bank, does suggest two building campaigns in the medieval period; and it may be that this is a C15 semi-fortified tower-and-hall which was then enlarged and improved in the early C16. This could account for the variety in wall thickness as well as some of the changes in floor heights. It is known that Castleton belonged to the Nerber family until 1528 when it came into the possession of Howell Adam, recorded by Leyland as being 'a man of mane landes' and it is certainly credible to suggest that he rebuilt the earlier Nerber house. By the later C16 it had passed to the Stradlings of St. Donat's Castle but they will not have used this house personally as they also owned the grander East Orchard (qv) on the other side of the valley to the south. This house then seems to have gone virtually untouched through the C17 and C18 and finally had a major refurbishment in the C19 which gave it the planning and appearance that it has today. Some of the ancillary buildings also date from this period, indicating a period of major affluence for the property

These, however, are not shown on the Tithe Map of 1839, so these buildings, and the improvements to the farmhouse, are probably mid C19. Since then only minor alterations have been made, mostly concerned with re-windowing.

The medieval planning is still readily recognisable with the three main rooms on each floor, although some have been given light C19 partitions at the time the house was improved by the addition of the north wing. The Service Room originally contained the cross-passage between the two now blocked doors, but it was converted to being the Kitchen in the C19 when it was also given the lean-to scullery. The house will probably have had a detached kitchen before then and there may have also been an intermediate arrangement. The Kitchen has an inserted fireplace and a winding stone stair in an outshut. This has a crossed slab roof and a plain 2-centred stone doorway. The Hall has a fireplace which has been filled in and a single very large chamfered ceiling beam with round stops. It has been suggested that this ceiling/floor is an early insertion, in which case the upper doors would have been to a gallery, but this is uncertain. A second winder stair, with modern timber treads, leads out of the north door. The Parlour has two large moulded plastered beams, and the ceiling compartments are decorated with multiple fleur-de-lys. Dressed stone fireplace with the lintel made up of two massive cantilevered stones. The northern end of the room was divided off as a corridor to give access to the north wing. This access is, however, through an existing vaulted passage with a C16 pointed arch door with broach stops, which demonstrates both that the floor has been lowered and that the wing may well have had a predecessor. The north-east corner has been partitioned off to form a cloakroom, and this goes right through the thickness of the wall into what may have been a garderobe. The first floor also shows evidence of floor height changes with the paired stone doorways showing a dropped floor, as does the similar door into the limeash floored garderobe in the north-east corner. All three first floor rooms have been divided by partitions and only the Great Chamber at the east end was historically heated. The fireplace here is blocked but the bressumer, which is elaborately carved with heraldic and symbolic figures (a lion, a stag, a fleur-de-lys and four different interlace designs) still remains visible. Nothing of the roof structure over the whole house is visible but it is believed to have been replaced, so probably as a part of the Victorian refurbishment of the house.

The exterior is wholly rendered and limewashed, probably over local lias limestone rubble, Welsh slate roofs. Three unit single depth range with a small wing added on the north-east end, two storeys, but with the east end having a significantly higher roofline. The main south elevation has three windows on each floor placed very randomly with none above the other. From the left, a projection for the kitchen stair, a late C20 2-light casement on the ground floor and a smaller similar window on the first floor. Then comes a large area of blank wall in which the outline of the cross-passage doorway can be seen, a 4-centred arch with plain surround. Another casement as before on the ground floor, a C19 2-light casement on the first floor, a C20 glazed porch with a door set into a 3-light early C16 window which retains the head with sunk chamfers and spandrels, and dripmould over with square stops carved with crosses. Finally comes the taller section with a 2-light C19 casement on the first floor set into a blocked 3-light window of which only the dripmould remains; and below a late C20 pair of small pane french doors set into a blocked 4-light window with only the dripmould remaining. Three ridge stacks, on either gable and by the cross-passage; the west gable end of the higher roof is slate hung. The east gable has a C20 window in what is probably an enlargement of an early opening below, and above a steel casement also in an opening of increased size. The north elevation from the left has an apparently C19 single bay wing projecting from the higher section. This has a 2-light casement above a door facing west and a gable stack. On the wall of the main range is a C20 2-light small paned casement above a small C19 window. To the right the lower part of the main range is seen to be narrower than the higher part and in the angle is the stair projection with a roof pent to the higher part; this is windowless. Next comes a 3 over 6 pane sash below and a C19 casement above. Then a large area of blank walling which includes the blocked cross-passage arch as before. Finally a C20 2-light casement below and a smaller C19 one above. The west gable has a C19 lean-to which hides the ground floor of the main range and includes a boarded entrance door on the north. (Listed Building Report)

Sited at the interesection of two valleys; nothing remains but an archway and some thick walls in the farmhouse. No early history. 1492 as a place-name (CMG, v, 1748). (Hogg and King, 1967) Orchard Grange appears on a Margam charter of 1208; RCAHMW conjecture that it is to be found at East Orchard or West Orchard in St Athan, more specifically at Castleton Farm (NGR given). Several house platforms and remnants of old field boundaries are visible in the area. All the earthworks are grass covered and a much decayed track bounds site. Included by Williams (2001, 306 no.90) among granges of uncertain location, with a query that it may be Castleton. (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER no00485s–ref. Edith Evans, 2003-04)

In a inquisition taken in 1262 the Nerber Family is recorded as holding 4 fees in Aberthaw, and in subsequent records the parent manor is sometimes referred to as Aberthaw, sometimes St Athan...It is fairly evident, however, that Castleton was the castle or fortified manor house of the original "fief". A 16th century house still stands upon the site, and part of a still older building is encorporated within it. (Williams, 1962)

The Manor House of Castleton stands upon the brow of a steep hill which rises about a hundred feet above two flat marshy valleys which here unite. The main or southern valley is traversed by a substantial bank intended to pen back the waters into a pool for the working of a mill, the ruins of which remain at the northern end of the bank. The northern valley is a mere combe. The two uniting, join the Tawe about a quarter of a mile lower down, close to East Orchard Castle. The house has the aspect of a very substantial farmhouse of the reign of Elizabeth or James, having on each front the ordinary three-light Tudor window of the district; each light with a round head, and the whole under a flat dripstone with square returns. On entering the building it will be seen that the greater part of it is of the sixteenth century; the old doors and thick walls, and some other details, remaining untouched. The hall, of Tudor date, is a low, long room having oak beams in the ceiling with panel-work of embossed plaster, the pattern being a fleur-de-lys. It lies north and south, and at its north end are the old doorways which led into the kitchen and offices. The east end and wall of the house are evidently the remains of a far older building than the rest, probably of the original castle of the first Norman lord. The wall is exceedingly thick, and contains a small chamber in its substance. In this wall is the carved lintel of an old fireplace, rudely executed, but apparently of early Perpendicular work. Among the ornaments is "a hart lodged," a tiger or lion couchant, a fleur-de-lys, and some curious frets or knots, all in stone. The greater age of this eastern wall is confirmed by an examination from the outside. The building has evidently formed the south and part of the east side of a quadrangular court of considerable size, the gatehouse into which is built up in a barn on the north front. There are there two arches, — one a high drop-arch of about 12 feet opening, with a plain chamfer; and on the east side of this a smaller portal, of 6 feet opening, for foot passengers. These evidently are the remains of a late Edwardian gatehouse. It would then appear that here stood originally a late Norman or Early English castle ; that it was added to, or altered, in late Edwardian times, and a spacious court-yard enclosed; and that, finally, the defensive parts were removed in the Tudor period, and the remainder converted into a farmhouse. (Clark, 1867)

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceST024683
Latitude51.4062995910645
Longitude-3.40480995178223
Eastings302400
Northings168370
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 101-108 (mention)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 111-2
  • Newman, J., 1995, Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan (Yale University Press) p. 548
  • RCAHMW, 1981, An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol. 4: The Greater Houses (London: HMSO) p. 188-92
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 46
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 163
  • Hague, D.B., 1971, in Pugh, T.B. (ed), Glamorgan County History Vol. 3 The Middle Ages (Cardiff) p. 439
  • Williams, Steward (ed), 1962, Vale of Glamorgan Series Volume Four Saints and Sailing Ships

Journals

  • Spurgeon, C.J. and Thomas, H.J., 1978, 'Medieval Glamorgan' Morgannwg Vol. 22 p. 25 online copy
  • Spurgeon and Thomas, 1975, Archaeology in Wales Vol. 15 p. 58-9
  • 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
  • Clark, G.T., 1867, 'The Family of Nerber of Castleton in Glamorgan' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 22 p. 378-80 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Clark, G.T., 1910, Cartae et alia munimenta quae ad dominium de Glamorgancia pertinent Vol. 5 p. 1748 online copy

Other

  • Edith Evans, 2003-04, Early-Medieval Ecclesiastical Sites Project (GGAT 73 Yr4)