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A Guide to Oystermouth Castle

Updated on January 6, 2015

Scattered across Wales are the remnants of hundreds of castles, most of which were built in the period from c1100 through to c1350AD. It is often said that Wales is the “land of castles” with more castles per square mile than any other nation.

Most of these castles are just ruins, pale imitations of what they once were in their heyday, but nevertheless many are very picturesque, and Swansea’s Oystermouth Castle (Castell Ystum Llwynarth) is often regarded as one of the finest of ruins.

Oystermouth Castle

The Location of Oystermouth Castle

Oystermouth Castle is to be found within the boundaries of the City and County of Swansea in the village of Oystermouth, though, as the boundary between the villages of Oystermouth and Mumbles has become blurred, it is often thought of as being in the second village.

Positioned as it is up a slight hill, Oystermouth Castle overlooks Swansea Bay.

Oystermouth and The Mumbles

Oystermouth Castle Looking Down

Jennifer Luther Thomas CC-BY-SA-2.0
Jennifer Luther Thomas CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

The History of Oystermouth Castle

Construction of Oystermouth occurred c1106AD, at a time when the Normans were still trying to subdue the troublesome Welsh.

Partial success for the Normans had come when Robert Fitzhamon had managed to wrest control of Glamorgan. Legend has it that William de Londres was one of the knights to fight alongside Fitzhamon, and as reward was given control over land around Swansea. To help keep control Oystermouth Castle was constructed; construction being the typical motte and bailey design.

This control was flimsy at best, and a Welsh uprising saw the castle razed in 1116. Rebuilding did occur, but it was once again destroyed during another uprising in 1137. Once again the de Londres family, rebuilt and it is from this period that the currently standing stone keep was built. The rebuilding helped little in making it an impregnable fortress though, and in 1215 Oystermouth Castle was once again taken by the Welsh.

It was five years before the Normans could take Glamorgan again, and by then the de Londres family line had died out. Ownership of Oystermouth Castle was then given over to John de Braose by Henry III, as was the title of Lord of Gower.

Entrance to Oystermouth Castle

Nick Earl CC-BY-SA-2.0
Nick Earl CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

The Ruins of Oystermouth Castle

Dave from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire CC-BY-SA-2.0
Dave from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire CC-BY-SA-2.0 | Source

An Early History of Oystermouth Castle

The Continued History of Oystermouth Castle

The De Braose family would have ownership of a number of castles, including Swansea Castle, and large swathes of land in the Welsh Marches, and so could afford to improve Oystermouth Castle. One improvement made was a much stronger stone defensive wall. Most of what is seen today comes from the work of the de Broase family in the 13th Century.

Oystermouth castle was briefly important as the seat of the Lords of Gower, and its importance was shown when Edward I visited in December 1284. The castle must have been a comfortable residence to welcome a king.

The importance though would greatly diminish though, as the Lords of Gower moved out, and the pacification of Wales by Edward I greatly restricted any military importance Oystermouth Castle had.

The last important thing that happened at Oystermouth Castle was the improvement of the chapel, work undertaken by Aline de Mowbray (nee de Breos). This work made the chapel the finest of its kind.

The de Breose name would die out as marriages occurred, and Oystermouth Castle passed into the de Mowbray family, and then the Herberts and Somersets. The Somersets would become the Dukes of Beaufort, and 1927 it was the 9th Duke of Beaufort who passed ownership onto the Swansea Corporation; 800 years of private ownership had come to an end.

Truth be told the castle had been left to ruin centuries before, with little work having been undertaken since the late 13th century.

Oystermouth Castle Ruins

TeleD CC-BY-SA-3.0
TeleD CC-BY-SA-3.0 | Source

Oystermouth Castle Today

Oystermouth Castle is owned by the City and County of Swansea, although the effective running of the castle is in the hands of the volunteer group, “the Friends of Oystermouth Castle”.

The castle is open to the public during the summer month, and during this time, a small and very reasonable entrance fee is charged. Details of opening hours and admission charges can be found on the Swansea government website. During the summer open air events are also often hosted within the grounds of Oystermouth Castle.

In recent years, a lot of money has been invested into Oystermouth Castle to make it more accessible and to increase visitor numbers. A new viewing platform and bridge has helped open up areas of the castle to those visiting the site.

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