Ancient Monuments

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Oxwich Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Penrice (Pen-rhys), Swansea (Abertawe)

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Latitude: 51.5555 / 51°33'19"N

Longitude: -4.1683 / 4°10'5"W

OS Eastings: 249776

OS Northings: 186298

OS Grid: SS497862

Mapcode National: GBR GT.2SQ7

Mapcode Global: VH3N3.P5RC

Entry Name: Oxwich Castle

Scheduled Date:

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 2856

Cadw Legacy ID: GM043

Schedule Class: Defence

Category: Castle

Period: Medieval

County: Swansea (Abertawe)

Community: Penrice (Pen-rhys)

Traditional County: Glamorgan


The monument comprises the remains of a courtyard house. It is located on the headland overlooking Oxwich Bay. Built by the Mansel family in the 16th century, this impressively large courtyard house is now ruined. There was probably a medieval house here, referred to in 1459 as being owned by Philip Mansel, but the 16th century rebuilding has mor or less obliterated it. The new house was constructed in two stages. First the gateway and south block were built by Sir Rice between about 1520 and 1540. Next the huge and more sophisticated east block, opposite the gateway, was added at right angles to it by his son Sir Edward before 1580.

The early part of the house lies on the west and south sides of the courtyard, the north and part of the west sides of which have gone. The mock military gateway is a simple arch between solid drum turrets. Over the arch is a heraldic panel bearing the arms of Sir Rice. Next to it, to the south, is part of a round staircase tower which was probably originally matched by a similar one on the north side. The curtain wall has a wall-walk and a ruined parapet. The gateway and curtain wall were anachronisms, for show only, and had no serious defensive function. The two storey south block is much altered. The mullioned windows are Tudor, and there is doubt as to the position of the original entrance.

When Sir Rice moved to Margam in about 1540 his eldest son Edward took over Oxwich. His ideas were much more grandiose, but he may have overstretched himself, as within 50 years of its completion Oxwich was leased out. Sir Edward's east block is E-shaped, the arms of the E being three tower-like wings, each with six floors and numerous rooms. Now only the south-east wing stands above ground floor level. The other two wings are largely ruinous except for two barrel-vaulted basements beneath the middle one. At each end were uptodate stairs in square stair wells around central piers. The bases of both are still visible. The block was entered through a projecting porch in the courtyard, which is now gone but which stood to the south side of the present entrance. On the first floor was a grand hall lit by two huge windows on the courtyard side. The northernmost one, of 18 lights, survives but is blocked up. Only vestiges remain of the other even larger one, of 24 lights. The window openings of the east block demonstrate the luxurious nature of this part of the house: they were rebated for glass.

At the second floor level, to the south of the hall, was an important chamber, perhaps Sir Edward's, with a fireplace and two tall windows. Above, occupying the whole length of the wing, was that essential ingredient of the grand Tudor house, a long gallery. To the north of the house, and almost certainly contemporary with it, is a ruined circular dovecote.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of 16th century secular architecture. The monument is a well-preserved example of its type and forms an important element within the wider 16th century context. The structure itself may be expected to contain archaeological information in regard to chronology, building techniques and functional detail.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and areas around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.

Source: Cadw

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