I am currently studying Oystermouth Castle. I am going to establish whether Oystermouth Castle was typical of castles built in Wales during the middle Ages. William de Londres a Normal lord built Oystermouth Castle in the town of Mumbles. Therefore, Oystermouth was a Norman castle, built as part of a chain of castles that controlled the Gower land and surrounding villages. In the year 1100 a Norman lord, Henry Beaumont took over Gower and is responsible for most of the building of castles in Gower. Swansea Castle being one of his castles built in 1300.
It was a very large castle but there is little of it left, except for round towers and a well. Henry Beaumont gave different parts of land to each of his followers; this was called the feudal system. It was then when William de Londres, a Norman lord, built Oystermouth. The de Londres family owned Oystermouth Castle until about 1200, and then it was given back to the Lord of Gower. The Lord of Gower owned Oystermouth Castle after 1200 until about 1330 and the family was called the de Braose family. Alionara de Mowbray was the last of the de Broase family; she married into the de Mowbray family.
The locations of castles were vital, as castles needed to be on high land, or on the edge of an impregnable cliff to give a commanding view of the surrounding area. It was important that every castle was half a day’s march from each other (approximately 3-6 miles) this was because if there was an invasion, then they could help defend the surrounding castles. Whereas, if the castles were miles away from each other, then they wouldn’t be able to have a defense system, resulting in the castles over time quickly being taken over.
William the Conqueror built castles to control his land, he realized that people would not accept foreign rule without a struggle. The Welsh were able to resist for more than a hundred years. William the Conqueror also built castles, as they provided a strong point and Norman soldiers were able to control a large number of Anglo Saxon peasants by having a castle as a base. William needed to keep control of his kingdom, which he’d just recently conquered and so ordered castles to be built to protect and defend the land from constant rebellion.
At that time Gower was on the border of Norman control, at this period the Welsh controlled parts of Wales, which made it very unsettled with rebellion and attacks. For this reason, the Normans had to built castles to protect themselves, their fertile farmland and the coast. The process of building Oystermouth was a very long one. We know this because from the 11th -13th century, Oystermouth was merely a wooden motte and bailey castle. This along with further developments over a long period of time, to make it the stone castle it is today.
From the source from “The Chronicles of the Princes” the earliest source from the C13th, we are able to see why the process of building Oystermouth castle was slow. This source is more reliable than the other sources, as this is a primary source from the time of the event, whereas the others are secondary sources wrote at a later period of time. 1093- “The French devastated Gower, Kidwelly and the Vale of Tawe; and the countries remained a desert. ” 1116-“There was a castle in Gower which Gruffudd, son of Rhys, burned entirely. ” 215- “Lord Rhys, collecting a vast army, advanced on Gower. He made for the castle of Oystermouth and he camped around it that night. The following day he captured the castle, which with the town, he burned. ” This evidence suggests that it remained a motte and bailey as in two accounts; it says that, the castle had been “burned. ” And motte and bailey castles were mainly built out of wood, which was its weakness, as it could easily be destroyed by fire. Also it had been under attack three times, twice burned, which explains why the castles building process was a slow one.
There were also several other reasons as to why the castle was built. As the castles were not only great defense systems, but also withheld large communities. Oystermouth’s prime location consists of several factors proving to be advantageous and disadvantageous. Oystermouths location Firstly, we know it was built on high ground overlooking Swansea bay. We know this from pictures showing it was located on a hill. This enabled defense from attackers coming inland form the sea. Also, this proving to be challenging to attack, as it was built on high ground.
It was also built on steep slopes, which provided a good view to the sea and the east. It is located on the western of two ridges overlooking the southern end of Swansea bay and the town of Mumbles. The eastern ridge would have provided a better view of the sea, yet wouldn’t have provided a suitable water supply. This would have been essential if the castle was to withstand siege. The western ridge provided a stronger foundation for their heavy stone building. Then, we are able to see Oystermouth was built on a hill.
The second hill had stronger foundations (limestone) and is wider than the first hill, leaving room for expansion. However, the hill in front would have been an obvious blind spot, making it visually easier for attackers. In addition, it could have been possibly been built further from the coast, making their defense system much harder. This would have made it harder to protect the coast, if built a great distance away. Moreover, the fact it was built on a large site for expansions would have been typical for further developments and it had good foundations built out of limestone.
Also, it was easy to control the surrounding area, because it was near other castles and it had a good water supply. These factors would out rule the disadvantages. We are able to see this from the “drawing of Oystermouth castle” as it may have appeared in 1400″ in Source B. This is a secondary source, and even though it’s secondary and may be incorrect, it gives us an idea of Oystermouth Castles appearance, as appeared to just text. This picture shows it built on a hill, with strong foundations on the western ridge.
Other Castles? Yet, Oystermouth Castle was not the only castle in Wales built at this time. There are infact many other castles with many great similarities as there are differences. We begin with Penard Castle. Similar to Oystermouth, as it was built on high ground to defend the Gower coastline. However, this time on a cliff, which gave it steeper slopes, making it harder to attack than Oystermouth. Swansea Castle was also built on a hill, yet it differs from Oystermouth as it was designed and built to guard the seaport.
Llanstephan Castle was also situated with steep slopes, yet built on a rocky outcrop. Harlech Castle in North Wales was built on high ground on rocky cliffs to protect the coast, once again similar to that of Oystermouth. This is evidence to suggest its location was actually typical of many castles built in Wales during the middle Ages. Yet, there are also castles with locations, which differ greatly from Oystermouth. We begin with Kidwelly Castle, in South Wales. This was built by the side of a river with a moat.
This is a very good example to show some differences in location, as it was built on low ground, and by a river with a moat. We know this because Oystermouth was natural and didn’t include a man made artificial moat, unlike Kidwelly. Yet, Beaumaris Castle was built on flat ground with a moat, however built with the same concept as Oystermouth as it was built to protect the coastline. Yet, even more dramatically different to Oystermouth Castle was Conway Castle, as it was built on solid rock between two river estuaries.
Therefore, completely different to Oystermouth, as it wasn’t even built on grass, let alone on high ground. Whereas Oystermouth overlooked the coastline, it would have had a good water supply. Throughout all these castles, they are all located by water, as Oystermouth was. This is another example, to show that some of its features were infact typical of castles in Wales during the middle Ages. This would have made essential if to withstand a siege. However most castles were located by rivers, whereas Oystermouth was located by the coast, which doesn’t make it typical of some castles in Wales.