Decorative Arcading. The decorative arches were added in the mid-fourteenth century. The style is similar to ecclesiastical buildings in Pembrokeshire suggesting a possible link with the church.
Car Parking Option
Notes: The castle is located in Swansea city centre. Numerous parking options in the immediate vicinity with the nearest dedicated car park shown above.
De Braose Hall. The twelfth century fortress was remodelled in the late thirteenth century with a lavish new hall replacing the former interior. This became known as the ‘New Castle’.
Swansea Castle was built by Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick shortly after he was granted the Lordship of Gower in the early twelfth century. With Norman control hotly disputed by the native Welsh, it witnessed multiple attacks before being remodelled into a comfortable residence in the late thirteenth century.
HISTORY OF SWANSEA CASTLE
The early twelfth century saw the Normans starting to extend their influence into South West Wales and around 1107 Henry I granted Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick the Lordship of Gower. He built an earth and timber castle, most probably a motte-and-bailey, at Swansea to function as his primary stronghold. Overlooking the River Tithe the castle was soon augmented by others across the Gower peninsula including Loughor, Oystermouth, Penrice, Penmaen and Pennard. These fortifications were all needed as Norman occupation was hotly contested - Swansea itself was attacked in 1116 and the outer defences destroyed. After it was rebuilt, the castle does not seem to have been attacked again for over seventy years despite continued hostilities in the region. Indeed in 1136 it provided a safe haven for Normans who fled a Welsh led massacre.
The death of Henry II in 1189 saw renewed hostility between the Normans and the native Welsh. That King had agreed a peace with Lord Rhys, Prince of Deheubarth but this fell apart when Richard I (the Lionheart) came to the throne. The outposts of the Gower peninsula came under attack again in 1189 and 1192 although in both instances Swansea resisted the assaults.
The Lordship of Gower, including ownership of Swansea Castle, was granted to William de Braose in 1203 by King John but was later confiscated when he was suspected of disloyalty. Famously his wife, Lady de Braose, and eldest son were starved to death (either in Corfe or Windsor castles) by King John. This harsh treatment was indicative of John's fractious relationship with his senior magnates and, coupled with the failed continental policies of the reign, caused widespread instability in England. In Wales it saw the de Braose family enter into an open conflict against the Crown in partnership with Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. On his behalf Rhys Gryg, son of The Lord Rhys, attacked Swansea Castle in 1212. John's death in 1216 and the subsequently policies on reconciliation pursued by Henry III and his regent - William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke - led to de Braose returning his loyalty to the Crown. But this change of allegiance prompted yet another attack on Swansea in 1217 by Rhys Gryg. The de Braose family recovered control of the Lordship of Gower in 1220 and they rebuilt much of the fortress in stone.
Following the Wars of Welsh Independence in 1276-77 and 1282-83, the political landscape in Wales became markedly different. Edward I had soundly defeated the last native Prince of Wales and conquered the Principality. In light of the reduced threat associated with this conquest, Swansea Castle was substantially rebuilt as a comfortable residence. The new structure, built in a corner of the previous castle's bailey, consisted of a number of substantial towers connected by a curtain wall. One of these structures - the South Tower - was an elaborate building that housed the Great Hall on the first floor. However the castle retained functional defences and in 1287 successfully repelled an attack by Rhys ap Maredudd although the town itself, and nearby Oystermouth Castle, weren't so lucky. He was later captured and held at Swansea prior to his execution.
The Lordship of Gower passed through marriage into the hands of John de Mowbray in 1320. He took part in the rebellion of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and was with him when he fought the King's forces at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. Captured after the battle, he was executed at York the same year and his estates forfeit. After the accession of Edward III, the Lordship was restored to the Mowbrays although they rarely visited. The impressive parapet level arched walkway was added around 1330.
The early fifteenth century saw a major rebellion against English rule by Owain Glyndŵr with the Gower peninsula overrun between 1403 and 1405. Nevertheless Swansea Castle seems to have avoided attack during this period with no action nor damage having been recorded. The castle continued to be maintained, now in the hands of the Herbert family, and minor upgrades were made to support artillery during the Wars of the Roses although the castle ultimately saw no action. Likewise, by the time of the Seventeenth Century Civil War, the castle was in a poor state of repair and was not used as a defensive site by either side. Along with the rest of the Lordship of Gower, it was owned by Oliver Cromwell from 1647 through to his death in 1658 but was thereafter returned to the Herberts, who by then held the title Earl of Worcester.
The castle's final role was as a drill hall for local militia and a debtors prison - it performed both until the mid-nineteenth century. Of note the path of the River Tithe, which used to run at the foot of the castle, was diverted in 1878 to make it easier to navigate.