Site of Dunraven Castle

Site of Dunraven Castle, near Southerndown

Aerial photo of Dunraven Castle in 1947
Dunraven Castle in 1947, courtesy of the RCAHMW and its Coflein website

Here the Wales Coast Path passes the site of Dunraven Castle, demolished in 1962. The aerial photos, courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales, show the castle in 1947 (upper) and 1929 (lower). They are from the Aerofilms Collection of the National Monuments Record of Wales.

The castle replaced a 16th-century mansion (also sometimes known as a castle). Earlier still, during the Iron Age there was fort on Trwyn y Witch promontory. Some of its defensive ditches and banks remain, but many were destroyed by castle construction and coastal erosion. Erosion on the promontory’s south side led to the discovery of ancient human burials, including the bones of someone apparently afflicted with multiple sclerosis.

Dunraven Castle was built in 1802-1806 for Glamorgan MP Thomas Wyndham. After his death in 1814 the castle became the seat of his descendants, the Ladies and Earls of Dunraven. Visitors included Count Munster, Germany’s Ambassador to Britain, in 1880. In the late 19th century Lady Dunraven held fetes at the castle for the Primrose League, a renewal movement for the Conservative Party.

Aerial photo of Dunraven Castle in 1929
Dunraven Castle and walled garden in 1929,
courtesy of the RCAHMW and its Coflein website

In September 1898 Major Wyndham-Quin MP ventured out from the castle to net prawns in Dunraven Bay but fell into the sea. He was lucky to survive, having become entangled in seaweed as he swam in the rough sea.

Between the coast path and castle site is the castle’s walled garden, dating back to the 16th century. The lower aerial photo shows some of its Victorian and Edwardian structures. . They included an ice house, where ice was stored for food preservation before refrigerators were invented.

Deer were kept here for centuries. The name of Durval Farm, inland of the castle site, probably means ‘deer fold’ or ‘deer park’. When the castle’s red deer herd was rounded up in 1908, five of the animals panicked and rushed over cliff edges to their deaths.

Most of the castle and grounds were used as a Red Cross hospital in the First World War. The first 55 patients arrived in November 1916, when 80 hospital beds were available. The Red Cross again had a hospital here in the Second World War. Patients and staff, and later visitors, reported seeing the ghost of a woman dressed in blue at the castle.

With thanks to Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust. Also to Richard Morgan of the Welsh Place-Name Society

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Copies of the aerial photos and other images are available from the RCAHMW. Contact: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk