Ogmore Castle was one of a number of fortifications built in the late eleventh/early twelfth century to secure the Vale of Glamorgan which had been seized by Robert Fitzhamon and his retainers. Situated near the confluence of the Rivers Ogmore and Ewenny, it was attacked by the Welsh in 1116 and was one of the earliest Norman fortifications in Wales to be rebuilt in stone.
At the time of the Norman invasion, Wales was not a single political entity and instead consisted of a series of independent Kingdoms. Despite this disunity, Wales was not initially targeted by William I who, along with his sons, preferred to leave the task of expansion to the magnates along the border - the so called Marcher Lords. These men were encouraged to seize land and forge autonomous Lordships whilst building castles to secure their advance. Although personally still subject to the King's authority, they were effectively defacto rulers in their conquered lands where the 'King's writ did not run'. Such was the situation circa-1089 when William II invited Robert Fitzhamon, Baron of Gloucester 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 the area - Newcastle (built by Robert himself), Coity (raised by Payn de Turberville) and Ogmore which was constructed by William de Londres.
William de Londres was one of twelve Knights (known as the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan) who had accompanied Robert Fitzhamon on his campaign into South Wales. He was granted the lands around Ogmore and built the castle, most probably as an earth and timber ringwork fortification, early in the twelfth century. It was certainly in existence by 1116 when it was attacked by the Welsh and allegedly only held out due the efforts of William's butler who was subsequently knighted Sir Arnold Butler. This attack prompted the rebuilding of the castle in stone starting with the Keep which was probably commissioned by William's son, Maurice. The curtain wall, which enclosed an oval shape, was rebuilt in stone in early thirteenth century and the ground level within the bailey was raised at this time. An outer enclosure/bailey, located to the south-west, was given earthwork defences but this was never rebuilt in stone.
As the Norman's expanded their hold over the Vale of Glamorgan, pushing well beyond the Rivers Ogmore/Ewenny, the strategic importance of the castle declined. By the late thirteenth century, at which point Edward I had finally completed the Norman Conquest of Wales, the castle's military role had come to an end although it continued to be used as a centre of administration and justice. The castle remained with the Londres family until 1298 when their descendant, Maud de Chaworth, married Henry of Lancaster. Thereafter it was incorporated into the Duchy of Lancaster and accordingly became a Crown property in 1399 when Henry Bolingbroke seized the throne (as Henry IV). Ogmore Castle continued to serve as a residence until the sixteenth century and continued to host the Court House until 1803.
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Ogmore Castle includes the twelfth and thirteenth century remains of a Norman castle with associated earthworks. The castle is unmanned and accessible at any reasonable time.
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.
River Ewenny. Ogmore Castle was built near the confluence of the Rivers Ogmore and Ewenny. This natural barrier negated the need for a ditch on the north side of the castle and was also used to flood the moat around the curtain wall.
Keep. The Keep was the first part of the castle to be rebuilt in stone. Work started shortly after the Welsh attack on the castle in 1116 and it was originally a two-storey structure before being heightened later.
Cross Wall. The castle's ditch was divided by cross walls to assist with drainage and also to act as a sluice.