Originally an earth and timber ringwork fort, Penrice Castle was rebuilt in stone following Robert de Penrice’s marriage to the wealthy heiress of Oxwich. Welsh uprisings prompted further upgrades but the castle was later overshadowed by more comfortable residences and was allowed to drift into ruin.
In 1107 Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick was granted the Lordship of Gower by Henry I. Warwick rewarded his supporters with gifts of land from his new territories on the peninsula and the area around Penrice was given to a Norman Knight who took the name de Penrice (contemporary documents record a number of different spellings including "de Penris" and "de Penres"). It was either he or Warwick who built the first castle here in the form of an earth and timber ringwork fort. Known as Mounty Brook Castle and also Brough Castle, it was situated in modern day Penrice village near St Andrews Church. It was one of numerous fortifications built around the Gower peninsula with other key castles being established at Loughor, Oystermouth, Penmaen, Pennard and Swansea.
Around 1237 Robert de Penrice married the heiress of Oxwich which brought him significant wealth and probably prompted construction of a new stone castle. This structure, the ruins of which are seen today, was built on the other side of the ravine from the former ringwork fort. The first element constructed was the Round Keep coupled with a curtain wall but the latter was soon enhanced following Welsh revolts in the mid-thirteenth century. In particular the entire site was enclosed by a stone curtain wall with unusually small flanking turrets built along its length. A Solar Tower was added in the late thirteenth/early fourteenth century by Robert de Penrice to offer enhanced accommodation but it seems likely that around this time the castle was eclipsed by other properties held by the family including Oxwich and Llansteffan.
The family briefly forfeited Penrice Castle in 1377 when the then owner of the castle, Robert de Penrice, was convicted of murder at Llansteffan. His son was able to buy back the property in 1391 but when he died in 1410 he left no male heirs and the castle passed through marriage to Sir Hugh Mansel. He made Penrice Castle his main residence but his great-grandson, Philip Mansel, returned the castle to Richard Penrice in 1463; the reason for this is unknown but it is suspected this was an attempt to avoid forfeiture of the castle for his support for the House of Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses. In 1485 Philip Mansel's son recovered his father's estates including Penrice Castle. The Mansels continued to live at Penrice until the mid-fifteenth century when they moved to their new fortified manor house at Oxwich Castle at which point it was let to new tenants.
By the time of the Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, the castle was in a poor state of repair although it was still occupied by a William Benet at this time. It is possible Parliamentary troops inflicted additional damage on the ruins to render it defenceless. Either way by the end of seventeenth century Penrice Castle was nothing more than a ruin. In 1770 the mansion was built immediately to the south with the remains of the castle becoming a landscape feature in the gardens of the new house.
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The (inaccessible) ruins of a thirteenth century castle. The south curtain wall is clearly visible from the public path as are the unusual small flanking turrets. Regrettably the public right of way only exists on the footpath with visitors not allowed to get closer than shown on the photographs.
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.
Penrice Castle. The remains are visible from the adjacent public right of way.
Penrice Castle is not sign-posted so follow signs to Penrice village and take an unnamed road off the A4318. There is a small car park at Millwood with adjacent access to the footpath that leads towards the mansion house and castle.
Millwood Car Park
Mounty Brook Castle