Loughor Castle was built by Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick as one of a series of fortifications designed to secure control of the Lordship of Gower. Built within the remains of a Roman Fort, it was attacked on numerous occasions and was rebuilt in stone in the mid-thirteenth century.
Loughor was first fortified by Roman forces around AD 75. Elements of the Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta) built a fort here to control a fording point across the River Loughor over which ran the main land route between South West Wales and Wroxeter (at that time home to the Twentieth Legion). Occupied by Auxiliary forces rather than Legionaries, Loughor Roman Fort was known as Leucarum, from which the modern name derives, and the outpost may also have supported elements of the Classis Britannica, the British arm of the Roman Navy. This fleet would have used the rivers and inlets of the Bristol Channel to support garrisons who were dispersed around the region to suppress and control the Silures tribe. The fort was abandoned in the mid-second century AD as Roman forces in Wales were reduced but it was re-activated briefly in the late third century perhaps to support operations against Irish pirates.
No further military activity at Loughor is known until the twelfth century when the Normans started to exert their influence in South Wales. In 1107 Henry I granted Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick the Lordship of Gower which included Loughor Castle. At this time Wales was not a single political entity and was instead a series of independent Kingdoms whose power and influence fluctuated depending upon the strengths of their respective rulers. Magnates such as Beaumont, who were known as Marcher Lords, were encouraged to seize land within the Principality and in return were given near regal powers within their new territories. Given the hostile takeover, numerous fortifications were required to suppress the area. Beaumont's main base was at Swansea Castle but Loughor, as it had in Roman times, controlled key lines of communication and trade. Accordingly he built Loughor Castle soon after being granted the territory.
Given the opposition to the Normans, Loughor Castle was needed in haste and accordingly it was originally raised in the form of an earth and timber ringwork fort located in the corner of the earlier Roman structure. The castle was burnt by the native Welsh in 1151 and, although rebuilt, the forts of the Gower peninsula came under attack again in 1189 and 1192 (on both occasions by forces of Lord Rhys of Dehebarth). The first stone component of Loughar Castle, a tower positioned adjacent to the entrance, was commenced shortly thereafter.
Loughor Castle was taken into Crown ownership towards the end of the twelfth century in lieu of debts owed by the Earl of Warwick. In 1203 it was then granted, along with the rest of the Lordship of Gower, to the de Braose family by King John. They made Oystermouth Castle their main residence on the peninsula but nevertheless Loughor continued to be maintained. However, as relations between the de Braose family and King John deteriorated, William de Braose entered into a alliance with Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince of Gwynedd. John's death in 1216 led to reconciliation with his successor, Henry III, although this in turn prompted a Welsh attack on Loughor Castle in 1218 by Rhys Gryg. The castle was taken and not returned to the de Braose family until 1220.
Following a further Welsh attack in 1251 the then owner - William de Braose, Baron Braose - built the rectangular Keep. William was a powerful magnate within Edward I's court and hosted the King at Oystermouth Castle in December 1284. He also served with Edward's forces in both his Welsh and Scottish wars with his notable achievements being the capture of the Welsh rebel William Cragh in 1290 and participation in the Battle of Falkirk (1298) where Royal forces defeated William Wallace. He used his Royal influence to triumph in a dispute with the church, in particular the Bishop of Llandaff, and upgrades made to Loughor at this time may well have been intended to send a message about de Braose's status.
Following the Welsh Wars of Independence (1276-7 and 1282-3), which saw Edward I conqueror Wales, the importance of Loughor Castle declined. In 1302 it was granted to one of the de Braose family retainers and in 1322 seized by John de Mowbray. He was executed in 1322 for involvement in the Earl of Lancaster's plot to overthrow Edward II but his son was restored to his inheritance following the King's own downfall in 1326. The castle saw no uplift in its fortunes however and by the late fourteenth century it was ruinous. It played no part in either the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion, during which the Gower peninsula was overrun between 1403 and 1405, nor during the seventeenth century Civil War. Loughor Castle passed into State care in 1946.
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Loughor Castle survives as a small rectangular medieval Tower built upon earthworks that were formally part of an earlier ringwork fortification. Previously the site had been a Roman Fort.
Gower Peninsula. The Norman invasion of Gower was led by Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick in the early twelfth century. He and his followers built multiple castles on the Gower peninsula most notably at Swansea, Loughor, Oystermouth, Penrice, Penmaen and Pennard.
Mound. The thirteenth century stone tower was built on top of the earlier earthworks. Despite its appearance this was not a motte. Instead the interior of the ringwork defences was filled with debris following the 1151 rebellion.
Keep. The rectangular keep was built by William de Braose in the mid-thirteenth century.
River Loughor. Like the Roman Fort before it, the castle controlled a fording point across the River Loughor.