Following the Norman Conquest of England, William I showed little interest in campaigning to expand his control over Wales. He was however keen to influence Welsh politics and ensure no encroachment upon the English side of the border, which was broadly established along the line of Offa's Dyke and the River Wye. Accordingly William granted land to a number of key magnates along the border and over the subsequent decades these men were encouraged to seize land and forge autonomous Lordships. Known as Marcher Lords, one such individual was Robert Fitzhamon, Baron of Gloucester. Around 1089 he was encouraged by William II to attack the Welsh Kingdom of Morgannwg in South Wales. Robert advanced along the coast, built Newport Castle and then moved west to conquer the Vale of Glamorgan where he established his administrative centre at Cardiff. However the flat land of the Vale suited Norman military operations and, sometime prior to 1106, he had advanced as far west as the River Ogmore. This natural barrier became a temporary frontier between the native Welsh and the Normans and Robert and his followers built three castles to secure then area - Newcastle (built by Robert himself), Ogmore (William de Londres) and Coity which was raised by Payn de Turberville.
Payn de Turberville was one of twelve Knights (known as the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan) who had accompanied Robert Fitzhamon on his conquest of Glamorgan. Relations between Robert and Payn seem to have been fractious with the latter being granted no territory from the lands seized from the Welsh. Around 1092 Payn took matters into his own hands and moved to seize the lands around Coity. Faced with such an assault the then Welsh owner - Morgan ap Meurig - was shrewd enough to know it was a battle he couldn't win and so offered to marry his daughter to the Norman Knight. Payn accepted and became Lord of Coity and shortly after commenced work on the castle raising it in the form of an earth and timber ringwork fortification. This type of fortification was chosen over a traditional motte-and-bailey due to the geology of the Vale of Glamorgan which is a relatively flat area with a limestone base covered with just a thin covering of soil. Such terrain made it difficult to source enough material for construction of a motte and accordingly ringworks were the most viable type of castle in the area.
Along with its near neighbours at Newcastle and Ogmore, Coity Castle was upgraded in stone circa-1180 by Sir Gilbert de Turberville, Lord of Coity. The Keep was constructed first and was followed shortly after by the curtain wall of the Inner Ward which enclosed a broadly oval area. Over the next 200 years, during which time the Turberville family remained as owners, Coity Castle underwent further upgrades. The Keep was rebuilt during the fourteenth century including the addition of a projecting round tower. Around the same time the ramparts of the outer bailey, which was roughly rectangular in shape and located to the west of the ringwork, was also converted into stone.
The male line of the Turberville's failed in 1384 resulting in the Lordship and castle passing to Sir Lawrence Berkerolles. He made numerous upgrades which clearly served the castle well as the fortification resisted sieges by the forces of Owain Glyndŵr in 1404 and 1405. The castle was badly damaged during these assaults however and remained in a poor state of repair until Lawrence's death in 1411. Thereafter the ownership of the castle was disputed between Lady Joan Verney (the daughter of Margaret de Turberville) and William Gamage. The latter gathered a force together and besieged Joan in the castle. This was raised by Royal forces who imprisoned Gamage in the Tower of London. He was released in 1413 though and ultimately the castle passed to his family who made substantive repairs from the earlier Welsh rebellion.
In 1584 the castle passed into the hands of the Sydney family when Barbara Gamage married Sir Robert Sydney, Earl of Leicester. They made numerous modifications to improve the habitability and comfort offered by the structure including the addition of grand windows and additional fireplaces. However, Coity was something of a backwater for the family whose primary residence was at Penshurst Place in Kent. The fabric of the castle was allowed to decay and by the mid-eighteenth century it was reportedly ruinous.
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Coity Castle consists of the extensive remains of a Medieval castle. The castle is ruinous and access is limited to ground level only - there is no parapet walk.
Norman Penetrations Into Wales c1150. There was no centralised Norman advance into South Wales during the eleventh century. Instead Norman Barons were encouraged to seize land and so the conquest was a piecemeal affair characterised by periods of expansion (1067-1094 and 1100-1135) and contraction (1094-1100 and 1135-1154) as they vied for control with native Welsh. The Vale of Glamorgan was conquered by Robert Fitzhamon late in the eleventh century and by his death in 1107 he had extended his influence to the River Ogmore.
Coity Castle was a originally a ringwork fortification built by Payn de Turberville, a Norman Knight who was able to acquire his Lordship without any bloodshed by marrying the daughter of the former Welsh owner. Progressively updated until the fifteenth century, it withstood two sieges during the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion.
Coity Castle is found off Heol Spencer Road which is accessed from West Plas Road. There is a small car park with sufficient space for two or three cars.
Heol Spencer, CF35 6BH