Swansea Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Palace (Bishop)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSwansea Castle
Alternative NamesNew Castle; Abertawe; Seinhenydd; Gower; Goher; Sueineshea; Suenesel; Senghenydd
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan
CommunityCastle

Swansea Castle lies at the centre of the enclosed and ultimately walled borough and occupied an overall area of around 1.85 hectares (4.6 acres). Denied the evidence which would have been furnished by surviving fabric, it is only possible to discern two broad phases between its foundation, in or soon after 1106, and the building of the largely surviving 'New Castle' in the late thirteenth century. During the first phase, from 1106 until the early thirteenth century, the original castle (nprn 275871) was of earth and timber; in the second phase, probably between 1221 and 1284, masonry defences replaced the timber palisades of the inner castle and its bailey. The surviving remains are primarily thirteenth and fouteenth century in date. Constructed of coursed Pennant sandstone blocks, they consist of a roughly L-shaped residential block to the southeast with a tower to the north and a section of surviving curtain wall running between the two. The residential block comprises a semicircular garderobe turret to the west, a rectangular garderobe tower to the south-east with a hall and parlour range between. The entrance to the interior is through the northern side and gives access to five basement rooms with pointed tunnel-vaults. Although the tower may represent the earliest surviving work, it has been substantially altered and evidence remains of its later use as a debtors' prison. The most prominent feature of the castle is the arcaded parapet, probably added by Henry Gower in the fourteenth century. (Coflein)

In the centre of the city, on the curving W bank of the former course of the River Tawe.

Largely dating from C13 and C14, during possession of the de Braose family, reused and built against in post-medieval period.

The remains consist of 2 separate blocks, a small square tower (later used as a debtors’ prison) on the N, which may contain the earliest surviving work, and a larger residential block forming the SE angle

The most distinguished feature is the arcaded parapet associated with the work of Henry Gower, Bishop of St David’s (d 1347) in the episcopal palaces at Lamphey and St David’s. (Listed Building Report)

Established by Henry I's friend Henry de Beaumont, first earl of Warwick, as the seat of administration of the marcher lordship of Gower, which Henry bestowed on him in about 1106. This first castle was of motte and bailey type, and nothing of it remains above ground. The west side of its deep ditch has been excavated to the north of the present remains. It was rebuilt in stone on the same site, probably after being razed by the Welsh in 1217. Nothing remains above ground of this stage either, but the west side of the curtain wall has been found, together with a mural tower. To the south-west of this small castle a large roughly rectangular outer bailey was walled in stone late in C13. The 'New Castle', primarily C13 and C14, represents a stone phase of the castle. Constructed of coursed Pennant sandstone blocks with dressed Sutton stone. Consists of a roughly L-shaped residential block to SE and a tower to N, with a section of surviving curtain wall running between the two. The residential block comprises a semicircular garderobe turret to W, a rectangular garderobe tower to SE, with a hall and parlour range between. Entrance to the interior through the N side, giving access to 5 basement rooms with pointed tunnel-vaults. Although the tower may represent the earliest surviving work, it has been substantially altered. Evidence remains for its later use as a debtors' prison. The most prominent feature of the castle is the arcaded parapet.

The identification of Swansea, Glamorgan (as a bishops palace) is based on a comment by John Leland, who said that Bishop Henry Gower (1328-47) was responsible for some building work at Swansea Castle. However, there is no proven connection with the bishop of St David's (pers. comm. Rick Turner) and the architectural evidence does not support Leland's comment (Emery 2000: 644). (Payne, 2003)

Gatehouse Comments

May be the 'castle in Gower' mentioned in 1116 and 1214, otherwise identified as Llandelio Talybont. It is possible that some authors may have rejected Swansea as this recorded castle on the false bases that Swansea was a bishops seat.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceSS657930
Latitude51.6203689575195
Longitude-3.94114995002747
Eastings265710
Northings193080
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 273
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 139-140
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 264 (1116 siege)
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 160-2
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 85-6
  • < >RCAHMW, 2000, An Inventory of Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan Vol. 3 Part 1b: The Later Castles (London: HMSO) < >
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 109-10
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 644, 645
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 131-2
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 183
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 71
  • Pugh, T.B. (ed), 1984, Glamorgan County History Vol. 3 p. 225, 231, 247, 249
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 170
  • Evans, Edith, with contributions by Spurgeon, C.J., 1983, Swansea Castle and the medieval town (Swansea: Swansea City Council; Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust)
  • Davis, Paul R., 1983, Castles of Glamorgan (Alun Books) p. 8
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 380
  • GGAT, 1978, 'A salvage excavation at Swansea Castle' in Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Annual Report 1977-78 p. 33-4
  • GGAT, 1977, 'Swansea Castle' Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Annual Report 1976 -77 p. 18
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 317
  • Hague, D.B., 1971, in Pugh, T.B. (ed), Glamorgan County History Vol. 3 The Middle Ages (Cardiff) p. 436 plate XXIII
  • Grenfell, Harold E. and Morris, Bernard, 1970 (Revised 1985) The Castles of Gower (Merthyr Tydfil) p. 4-5
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 174
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 297-8 online copy
  • Morgan, W. Ll., 1899, Antiquarian Survey of East Gower (London) p. 85-110
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 409

Journals

  • James, C.W., 2013, ‘Out and about in Swansea Castle’ The Historian Vol. 118 p. 37-39
  • Smith, C.E., 2011, 'Swansea Castle, Swansea' Morgannwg Vol. 55 p. 95-7
  • Higgins, J. and Sherman, A., 2010, ‘Swansea Castle’s western ditch and Goat Street: archaeological excavation in 2007’ Gower Vol. 61 p. 65-71
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Fluctuating Frontiers: Normanno-Welsh Castle Warfare c. 1075 to 1240' Château Gaillard Vol. 17 p. 119-126
  • Evans, Edith, 1988, 'Swansea Castle' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 28 p. 73
  • Spurgeon, Jack, 1987, 'The Castles of Glamorgan' Château Gaillard Vol. 13 p. 217-8
  • Williams, G., 1981, 'Henry de Gower (?1278-1347), bishop and builder' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 130 p. 1-18
  • Knight, J.K.., 1980, 'Swansea Castle' Programme of the 127th Annual Meeting, 1980, CAA p. 35-7
  • Sell, S.H., 1979, 'Swansea Castle' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 19 p. 43
  • Morris, B., 1976, 'Swansea Castle Defences - The Western Ditch' Gower Vol. 27 p. 14-19 online copy
  • Morris, B., 1975, Archaeology in Wales Vol. 15 p. 61
  • 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
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Hague, D.B. and Williams, G., 1957, 'Swansea Castle' Gower Vol. 10 p. 3-14 online copy, [online copy > http://welshjournals.llgc.org.uk/browse/viewobject/llgc-id:1273396/article/000066587]
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • Morgan, W.Ll., 1912, 'The castle of Senghenydd' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 67 p. 383-90
  • Capper, C., 1886, 'Swansea Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 41 p. 302-7 online copy

Guide Books

  • Williams, Diane M., 1998, Gower: A guide to ancient and historic monuments on the Gower peninsule (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Evans, Edith, 1983, Swansea Castle and the Medieval Town (Swansea)
  • Morris, B., Swansea Town and Castle
  • Morgan, W.Ll., 1914, The Castle of Swansea (Devizes)
  • Jones, 1879, A Short History of Swansea Castle (Swansea)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1116, 1215, 1221 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Jones, T., 1952, Brut y Tywysogion (Peniarth MS 20 version) (University of Wales, History and Law series 11) 1217
  • Giraldus Cambrensis, c.1188, Journey Through Wales view online transcription
  • Williams (ab Ithel), John, (ed), 1860, Annales Cambriae (444 – 1288) (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts)1192, 1215, 1287 online copy
  • Pipe Rolls 1188, 1190, 1193, 1194, 1208-10 (see Pipe Roll Society for references)
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli litterarm patentium in Turri londinensi asservati (Record Commission) p. 87b, 109b, 157b online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1225-32) Vol. 2 p. 490 online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 61 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1910, Cartae et alia munimenta quae ad dominium de Glamorgancia pertinent Vol. 3 p. 860 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 296 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 213-4

Other

  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via [http://ethos.bl.uk])