Built on the site of an earlier fortification, Oxwich Castle was a fortified manor house constructed by the Mansel family around 1558. They had risen to prominence through service to the Tudor monarchs and had grown rich from the dissolution of the monasteries. This wealth funded lavish upgrades to Oxwich Castle which, by the 1580s, was one of the most luxurious homes in Wales.
Whilst the present Oxwich Castle dates from the sixteenth century, the site was fortified long before with a Norman era castle owned by the Penrice family and by 1459 it was in the possession of Philip Mansel. In 1487 Sir Rhys Mansel was born in the castle and, like many of his contemporaries, benefited from the pro-Welsh policies of the Tudor monarchs. He served Henry VIII and prospered from the dissolution of the monasteries which saw him acquire the lands and wealth of Margam Abbey. His rise to prominence continued during the reign of Queen Mary (1553-8) and it was at this time when he commenced re-building Oxwich Castle into a grand mansion.
Work started on the castle in 1558 and, although the relatively peaceful sixteenth century meant the focus of the rebuilding was comfort rather than defence, its remote location meant light fortifications were a necessity. This was no doubt influenced by the ‘Oxwich Affray’, a violent skirmish between Sir Rhys Mansel and Sir George Herbert over the rights to the cargo of a wrecked French ship, fought in vicinity of the old castle on 28 December 1557. This attack resulted in the death of Sir Rhy's sister, Anne Mansel. Accordingly the new Oxwich Castle was surrounded by a curtain wall with its entrance protected by at least one D shape turret.
Sir Rhys died in 1559, long before his new castle was finished, but the work was continued by his son, Sir Edward Mansel. In 1580 he added the massive East Range which was one of the largest and most impressive buildings in sixteenth century Wales and clear evidence of the wealth of the family. However, it was not enough and the Mansels soon outgrew Oxwich and moved their main residence to Margam Abbey. The castle was rented to tenants but was soon in a state of decay. By 1631 part of the East Wing had collapsed and was never repaired although the older South Range continued in use as a farmhouse until the early twentieth century.
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Oxwich Castle is a ruined Elizabethan Manor House. The oldest part of the castle, the mid-sixteenth century house, is the best preserved section. The remains of a D shaped turret was probably originally one of a pair.
Oxwich Castle Layout. This castle was initially raised as a courtyard fortification with its main range on the south side. A vast East Range was added in 1580.
Oxwich Castle. The castle as viewed from the west.
Entrance. The castle's entrance was flanked by a D shaped tower. Originally a further tower may have been located on the other side.
South Range. The South Range was built circa-1558.
East Range. The East Range was built in 1580 by Sir Edward Mansel.