Friday, 2 February 2018

142 Penlle'r Castell

142 Penlle'r Castell
The Gower Way is a 56km (35 mile) linear footpath that runs from Rhossili in the south-west of the peninsula to Penlle'r Castell in upland Gower, north of Swansea.  It was set up by the Gower Society as a millennium project, inaugurated twenty years ago when H.R.H. Prince Charles unveiled the Gower Way stone on Cefn Bryn in July 1998, marking also the Society’s 50th birthday.  Pennant sandstone blocks originally from Cwmrhydyceirw Quarry near Morriston were donated by Welsh Water/Dŵr Cymru having been used as coping stones at Townhill Service Reservoir.  Carved with the Gower Society’s portcullis logo, these were placed as marker stones approximately every kilometre along the route.  The first marker stone is by the look-out station on Rhossili cliffs, and the fiftieth is in upland Gower (Gower Wallicana), at remote Penlle’r Castell, near the Clydach to Ammanford road.
Wales has a considerable number of castles throughout the land, several having been built in North Wales during the thirteenth century to reinforce Edward I’s conquests, such as the impressive Caernarfon, Harlech and Conway Castles.  Peninsular Gower contains notable stone castles at Pennard, Oxwich and Penrice in the south, and Weobley in the north, as well as earlier sites of motte and bailey castles.  One might assume that to the north of Swansea upland Gower lacks such symbols of strife and conquest, until one finds the remote earthen Penlle'r Castell, meaning literally “the summit of the place of the castle”.  This earthwork is in a commanding position standing 1,213ft (370 metres) above sea level, the highest point in Gower on Mynydd y Betws.  It consists of a rectangular mound over 100ft long, divided unequally by a broad ditch, with traces of three dry stone huts on top, which were probably intended for only temporary occupation.  There could have been two stone towers of dry stone walls, since there is no evidence of mortar having been used.  The entire monument is surrounded by a V-shaped ditch, though any thoughts of Iron Age or Roman origins can be discounted.  From Penlle'r Castell there are fine views in each direction of the Black Mountain, the Amman Valley, the Lliw Valley reservoirs and peninsular Gower, with Carreg Cennan castle prominent eight miles away. 
In his 1899 Antiquarian Survey of East Gower, W. Llewellyn Morgan gave his opinion that “absolutely nothing is known about this Castle, when or by whom erected, or what it was called”.  However, Penlle'r Castell is documented in historian Rice Merrick’s 1584 Booke of Glamorganshire Antiquities, where he mentions the “old castle…now in utter ruin”.  It may have been the “novum castra de Gower” (new castle of Gower) that was attacked and destroyed in 1252, and possibly called Castell Meurig.  It would have been a purely military fortification, rather than a permanently manned settlement - possibly the earthwork was hurriedly erected in the late thirteenth century by William de Breos II, the Norman Lord of Gower, as a defence against the Welsh.  Rhys ap Maredydd, descendant of the Lord Rhys, had sided with the Normans when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd was slain near Cilmeri in mid-Wales in 1282, only to rebel against the English King Edward I five years later.  After a large army was mobilised to crush this uprising, Rhys was defeated and captured, sharing the brutal fate of many of Edward I’s victims - being hung, drawn and quartered, in York in 1292.  Penlle'r Castell is unusual because of its assumed limited purpose - that of sheltering a detachment of mounted men engaged in policing the disputed border area.
By contrast with such violent events linked to marker stone number 50 of the Gower Way, events near stone number 1 at Rhossili might appear far more civilised, although that stone is in shipwreck country - with the possibility that deliberate wrecking occurred!

No comments:

Post a Comment