In the village of Mumbles on the Gower peninsula are the ruins of Oystermouth, a Norman Castle. With far-reaching views across the water and the peninsula, Oystermouth castle’s hilltop position guarded the landward approach. King Edward I was entertained here in 1284. By the 1600s the castle was a ruin, and later became a popular subject with Georgian and Victorian artists.
Go Back: [Top of Page] [Articles
The Normans built Oystermouth castle. The earliest part is thought to have been built in the early 1100s by William de Londres or his son Maurice. It was probably just a stone keep, rubble rampart, and stone or timber gate tower. Later the keep was enlarged and a stone wall and new stone gate tower were added. In the 13th century two large buildings were added to the west of the keep, and in the 14th century new curtain walls and a tower with chapel were more additions.
In the 12th century the castle became part of the demesne manor of Oystermouth, that is, it belonged to the lords of Gower. At this time it came into the hands of the Earl of Warwick. In 1203 it went to the de Breos family. This family was reputed to be “a licentious clan of freebooters, who appear to have been so habituated to duplicity and chicanery as to render it impossible to be straightforward and honest in their dealings with their neighbours.” The de Breos family held the castle until the 1320s, when a daughter married John deMowbray. The castle later passed to the Beauchamp family, then the Herberts, and later still the Somerset family, ending up in 1927 being given to the Swansea Corporation.
A castle tour:
Enter the castle through the gateway, which was once flanked with two round towers. As you go in look for the vertical grooves in the walls of the gate passage where the portcullis was once raised and lowered.
Inside the courtyard there are external steps as well as a spiral stair that leads to the wall walk and rooms above the gateway. There are views over the countryside from the top.
The ruins of a large building, one of three, which were once here, are located on the east curtain wall. There is a chapel block with 14th century traceried windows. The chapel itself was on the top floor of three.
A porch leads to the central block of the castle. Here is located the oldest building, the keep, which housed the great hall. In the northern half of this central block is a preserved fireplace. The floor above was a solar. Next to the west wall are steps leading to a basement.
A northwest block is the highest of the surviving floor levels. A passage here leads back to the keep. Against the keep wall is a guardroom. Further along is a room with a barrel vaulted roof—this is the middle floor of the northwest block. Along the open corridor in this west area is a flight of steps leading to fireplaces and privy chambers.
Still in the west range is a flight of steps leading to the upper floor of a building with a window at either end. There are two more barrel vaulted rooms underneath. They were used for storage. On the south-west curtain wall was a kitchen, noted for its three fireplaces.
Mumbles, on A4067 at head of Gower peninsula
Open: April-Sep, 11am-5pm, but phone the tourist information centre or check locally for changes.
Tourist Information Centre
Mumbles Methodist Church
Mumbles SA3 4BU
Tel. 01792; 361302 Fax. 01792 363392
Open: Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5pm in summer; 10am-4.30pm in winter