Saturday, 29 October 2016

73 Weobley Castle

73 Weobley Castle

Castles in Gower that spring to mind might be Pennard, Oxwich or Penrice on the south of the peninsula, but there is one on the north side that overlooks the Burry estuary.  Between Llanrhidian and Landimore stands Weobley Castle, which was damaged during Glyndŵr’s attempt to attain Welsh independence, and later forfeit to the Crown after its owner was executed for treason. 

Like Oxwich, Weobley is more of a fortified manor house than a fortress, occupying a strong site with to the north a natural fall to the salt marshes and mud flats below.  The castle has a fine hall with a fireplace, private rooms and a sizeable guest chamber.  Much of it was built by the de la Bere family in the early 14th century, though it was thought that a thick-walled square tower (now only 2m high) at the south-west corner was earlier.  The simple gatehouse is on the west side, with traces of a late-mediaeval barn with walls over 1m thick east of the castle, and traces of an early limekiln.  South of the gateway is the so-called Cistern Turret, which may have contained a cistern for rainwater storage

Weobley Castle was owned at various times by the de la Bere family, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the Herberts, the Mansels and the Talbots.  At the time of Owain Glyndŵr’s rebellion, which began in 1400 and lasted 15 years, Sir John de la Bere was in residence.  His family had been stewards to William de Braose (also spelt Breos), the Lord of Gower.  Glyndŵr’s rebellion peaked around the time that his forces threatened Weobley.  Appeals to the Swansea Castle garrison for reinforcements were of no more avail than those from defenders of The Alamo, so Weobley fell to the rebels, with possibly John de la Bere himself being a casualty in 1403.  Though the castle was much damaged, it was subsequently repaired and inhabited again.

From the de la Bere family the castle passed to a major figure in Tudor times, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a supporter of Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth.  He was knighted by a grateful Henry VII, who later made him a Knight of the Garter in 1505.   Sir Rhys governed much of West Wales from Carmarthen Castle, and managed in those turbulent times to serve later Henry VIII.  At Weobley he added the porch fronting the north range, where the windows are of Tudor design.  Sir Rhys transferred Weobley and his extensive estates to his son, who unfortunately pre-deceased him – a situation that the families of Kilvrough Manor and Penrice Castle would later encounter.  So when Sir Rhys died in 1525 his estates including Weobley Castle passed to his grandson Rhys ap Gruffydd, then aged about seventeen.  Six years later while Henry VIII was scheming to divorce Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn (of whom Rhys spoke disparagingly), riots and street fighting in Carmarthen led to him being charged with treason.  It was alleged that Rhys, who claimed descent from his namesake the 12th century Prince of Deheubarth, was plotting with James V of Scotland to become Prince of Wales.  Notwithstanding his late grandfather’s high standing, Rhys ap Gruffydd was found guilty, and executed in London in 1531.

By an Act of Attainder, Weobley and the other estates were forfeited to the Crown.  The castle was let, until in 1560 it was sold to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke.  A century later a descendant sold Weobley to Sir Edward Mansel of Margam, from whose family it passed to the Talbots, until in 1911 Miss Emily Talbot gave Weobley Castle to the care of the then Ministry of Works (now Cadw).

Weobley may be the only castle remaining on the north coast of peninsular Gower, but its remoteness belies its links to important historical events.            

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