Oystermouth Castle, West Glamorgan
Newton Rd, The Mumbles
Set on a hill overlooking the Mumbles of Swansea Bay is the beautiful and unusual castle of Oystermouth, which dates back to the 12th century.
When we first visted this castle back in the 1990's the castle was in the care of the voluntary group Friends of Oystermouth and was quite ruinous inside, with the interior covered in debris with limited access to much of the castle, still covered in vegitation.
Today, following emergency work in 2005 to protect its crumbling walls and a six year comprehensive restoration progress that started in 2006, the castle you now find is one of the best preserved in all of Wales, still under the care of the care of the Friends of Oystermouth.
Access to the castle is a short stroll from the town and there is limited parking near the castle.
~ History ~
1106 ~ Henry Beaumonth, Earl of Warwick, becomes the first Norman Lord of Gower who builds himself a castle at Swansea. He divides his richest farming land amongst his closest followers, with the manor of Oystermouth going to the de Londres family, who hold nearby Ogmore castle.
1203 ~ The powerful Marcher Lord, William de Braose becomes Lord of Gower and takes Oystermouth for himself. William sets about remodelling the keep and its defences.
1215 ~ Welsh rebels attack and burn the castle in retaliation against the harsh rule of de Braose.
1257 ~ Llywelyn the Great, prince of Wales attacks and burns the castle at Oystermouth, as well as much of surrounding Gower and its castles. The castle is repaired with an additional curtain wall by De Braose to improve its defences.
1284 ~ King Edward I spends two days at the castle as the guest of the second William de Braose.
1287 ~ Welsh rebels again return and attack the castle under the leadership of Rhys ap Maredudd.
1305 ~ The cost for William de Braose III and his father and grandfather's staunch support for the English King's wars against Wales in defeating Llywelyn the Last, prince of Wales and later defeating William Wallace in King Edward I's campaigns against the Scots, has left the family with huge debts. William de Braose stepmother Mary de Roos, takes him to court over a debt of 800 marks, and wins the case. In a rage, William climbs over the bar and insults the judge. He is imprisoned in the Tower of London for contempt of court and later humiliated to publicly apologise upon his release.
1306 ~ Following years oppressing his tenants for money, through extortion, imprisonment, corruption and kidnapping, in order to repay his fines and debts, William again is forced to appear before court, but this time before Parliament itself. This results in a charter of rights for the burgesses of Swansea and his tenants in Gower and Oystermouth.
Virtually bankrupt, the desperate Williams tries to sell the lordship of Gower without seeking the Kings permission to the highest bidder amongst the other Marcher Lords. The castle is brought by the notorious King Edward II favourite Hugh le Despenser.
At seeing their inheritance sold from underneath them, William's daughter, the Lady Alina and her husband John de Mowbray, lead a revolt with the support of other powerful Marcher Lords.
Initially their rebellion is successfull and the Despensers are banished, they are pardoned by the King and their lands restored.
1322 ~ Following King Edward II's recal of his court favourite Despenser, the Kings army march against the Marcher lords, with many of the barons surrendering without a fight. The King reclaims Gower for Despenser. Mowbray and other lords refuse to surrender and following the battle of Boroughbridge in Yorkshire, Mowbray is captured, condemned as a traitor and hung, drawn and quartered by King Edward II, his corpse displayed in chains for the following three years. His wife the Lady Alina and her 12 year old son escape by boat to Ilfracombe, but is pursued, captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London, where she is forced to give up her remaining inheritance to the Despensers.
1326 ~ Hugh le Despensers hold on the King is finally challenged by the King's powerful wife, Queen Isabella siter to the King of France. With the support of discruntled barons, the Kings and his favourite are forced to flee and seek refusge at nearby Swansea Castle to muster an army, which fails primarily due to the hatred of Hugh le Desepnser. The Kings is forced to abdicate in favour of his son. After a quick trial Hugh le Despenser is hanged from a 50 foot high gallows whilst wearing a crown of nettles before being lowered so as the executioners can remove his organs infront of him whilst still alive, then beheading him.
1327 ~ Upon Edward III coming to the throne, Lady Alina and her son are freed and have returned to her the lordship of Gower. Following many more trials and legal fights she regains Oystermouth Castle, remarries and spends the rest of her life there.
1354 ~ Following long legal battles the Beauchamps gain ownership of the castle.
1397 ~ The Mowbray's reclaim their lands and castle following further legal battles against the Beauchamps.
1401 ~ Whilst under the ownership of the Herberts, the Welsh again rebel against their English overlords under the leadership of Owain Glyndwr. His army capture Oystermouth castle and the surrounding lands.
1640's ~ Parliament grant Oystermouth to Oliver Cromwell, to be later recovered by the Dukes of Beaufort, decendants of the Herberts.
Over the following centuries the castle falls into decline and ruin.