Loughor Castle, Swansea


★★

East side of the castle
Fallen masonry

Small but interesting and photogenic castle remains overlooking the Swansea coast; a 13th century tower and earlier earthworks, on the site of a Roman fort
Management
Entry
Free
Location
Along Castle Street (A4240) in Loughor, 7 miles west of Swansea
Loughor Castle is a small, coastal installation, on a low ridge about 50 feet in elevation, still high enough to overlook a large area of land around the estuarine mouth of the River Loughor, and the smaller River Lliw to the south. The main river is narrow hereabouts, just 700 feet across, but widens significantly both upstream and seawards, so this has long been recognised as an important crossing point, the waters fordable for several hours around low tide. The Roman fort of Leucarum was built at the river confluence and although no visible trace remains today, some of the foundations have been uncovered by archaeological investigations.

The earthen remains of the fort were however still quite evident at the start of the 12th century, when the Norman nobleman Henry de Beaumont (died 1119) built a small castle on part of the site an oval ditch around an inner embankment topped by a fence, probably with a timber building at the centre. The defences were improved during the next century, first by addition of a stone wall on the embankment and then a stone tower, after raising the central area to form a motte, and the place was occupied for around the next 300 years, seeing action in a number of military campaigns.

Today, the outer walls are almost completely missing, but a good proportion of the tower survives, and the site, while small, is photogenic and interesting, now partly lined by modern buildings but still within sight of the great expanse of Loughor Bay, and the north edge of the Gower Peninsula beyond. The motte, ringed by a few large trees, rises quite high above the adjacent residential street, and adjoins an area of parkland to the east.

The castle is free to visit, open all the time and has parking right opposite, along Castle Street (A4240), which was the main road through Loughor before construction of the A484 to the south. This latter route, like the adjacent railway, cuts right across the site of the Roman fort.



History


Loughor Castle was constructed to support the Norman expansion across south Wales, and helped secure the newly acquired territory of the Gower Peninsula. The position was naturally protected by boggy ground to the south, bordering the Lliw river, as well as the estuary to the west. The fortification had been in use for several decades before being captured and burnt around 1151; when rebuilt the ringwork embankment was filled in to make a raised platform supporting new timber defences. The castle later passed to the Crown before being captured by Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great (died 1240), then given to his son-in-law John de Braose (died 1232), and it was he who replaced the wooden structures with stone; curtain walls, the three story tower, and two smaller buildings. The subsequent history was relatively uneventful and the castle was abandoned sometime in the early 15th century, surviving relatively undamaged until the collapse of the southeast corner in the 1940s. One huge part of this section, including several steps from a spiral staircase, remained intact and has been left in place.



The Ruins


The castle is approached from the north, climbing the grassy back to the square-based tower, which sits on the west side of the oval, 120 foot-wide earthwork. About half of the tower walls survive to the second floor level; the reminder is at least one story high apart from the ruined southeast corner. Entry is through the remains of an arched doorway, into what was originally a basement, illuminated only by a single arrow loop. Above, on the first floor level, once entered by the now fallen staircase, are two windows, a fireplace, and a garderobe (latrine chamber), while the uppermost level, though rather incomplete, seems to have had identical features, in the same positions. The majority of the structure retains its outer cladding, carefully constructed using many small, thin stones.

Courthouse and limekiln
River Loughor estuary, south of the castle