Weobley Castle, Swansea


★★

Frontage
Courtyard

Substantial remains of a 14th century fortified mansion on the Gower Peninsula, in a rural location overlooking the wide estuary of the River Loughor
Management
Entry
£4 adults, £2.60 children
Location
Along a country road off the B4271, 1.5 miles west of Llanrhidian
Photo Tour (21 images)
Weobley Castle is a medieval fortified manor house, one of several well preserved examples in south Wales, also including Old Beaupre Castle and Oxwich Castle. The mansion was largely built in the early 14th century, with occasional later additions over the next 200 years, after which use declined, and the site has been ruined for several centuries, though the majority survives intact and part is still enclosed, with a replacement roof and floors.

Although briefly captured early in the 15th century as part of a rebellion led by the Welsh leader Owain Glyndwr, the house was not significantly damaged and was not involved in any other campaign. The building has only limited fortifications, reflecting its design as a grand residence rather than a military base, though in other aspects it resembles true castles from the medieval period, with thick, high, battlemented walls, narrow windows and a secure gatehouse, and it contained similar rooms including a chapel, great hall, solar (the main bedroom) plus a sturdy tower, comparable to a keep.

The house has a particularly remote and impressive location, built on an outcrop of white, carboniferous limestone on the north edge of the central plateau of the Gower Peninsula, not part of any village, overlooking the extensive mudflats of the Loughor estuary, the views extending to the hills north of Llanelli on the far side. An old farmhouse is the only other building in the vicinity, expanded in recent times and now encroaching on the southern edge, but in all other directions the land is as empty and undeveloped as it was in the middle ages.

Weobley Castle is managed by Cadw, and is unstaffed, though an entrance fee is required, paid into a box in a room of the adjacent farmhouse. The site is reached by a narrow lane on the west side of Llanrhidian, parking beside the farmhouse drive. A nearby footpath descends a slope then runs along a field at the edge of the estuary, passing directly below the castle and offering some limited views of the northern walls, though trees obscure most of the building. The first part of the trail passes an old, overgrown quarry, presumably the source of building materials for the manor. A good if more distant view of the castle is obtained by walking further north, along an old causeway that runs for over a mile across the marshy flats.



History


The manor of Weobley is first mentioned in a charter of 1306, as one of the 12 lordships of the Gower. The castle was built by David de la Bare, a member of an ancient if relatively little known family, and the first phase of construction is thought to have been between 1304 and 1327; also involved were his sons Adam and Peter, and later a nephew, (Sir) John. The house was originally planned as part of a larger fortified enclosure, as shown by toothing blocks along the northwest and northeast corners, intended to link to curtain walls, but these were never constructed. The de la Bare family held the manor until the late 15th century, with only a short interruption following the attack by Owain Glyndwr, after which it passed briefly to Sir Rhys ap Thomas (died 1525), before being taken over by the Crown during the reign of Henry VIII. The castle was later owned by the Mansel family of Llanrithrid, and saw use as a tenant farmhouse.



The Building


The manor is centred on an approximately rectangular courtyard, with buildings on all sides. The most complete section is to the northwest - a two floor block with a two-room cellar below the solar, this still waterproof, and currently housing a small exhibition about the history of the castle, and of other medieval sites on the Gower Peninsula. The south side adjoins the roofless gatehouse, formerly containing an upper floor living area, while beyond are a tall turret and the remains of the southwest tower, a rectangular structure with particularly thick walls, resembling a keep. It is thought that this was never completed to the intended height, perhaps only rising one storey. The north range contains two main rooms, a kitchen on the ground floor and a great hall above, the floor of which has long since disappeared. The south side of these two rooms adjoins a thick-walled, two storey porch, which was the last significant addition to the castle, completed around 1500 by Rhys ap Thomas. Passageways link to several residential rooms including a large guest chamber on the east side of the castle, which is served by a square latrine tower at the northeast corner. Part of the upper level of the north range is accessible, including via a wooden walkway along the east end of the great hall, leading to a doorway that accesses the north tower, an entrance that is usually locked. Remains of the south range, which include a chapel, are less complete and also probably only single storey. The limestone bedrock is most evident along the south side of the building, where it merges seamlessly with the similarly-coloured masonry. Part was excavated to create a pit used as a limekiln.

South side of the courtyard
South side of the courtyard