Remains of Swansea Castle

Remains of Swansea Castle

The stone castle here replaced an earlier structure, probably built in the early 12th century, using wood and earth.

Gerald of Wales and the Archbishop of Canterbury stayed one night in the original castle in 1188 while touring Wales to recruit for the third crusade. Many local men enlisted after mass the following morning. A man named Cador wept as he explained he was too old to enlist but placed a tenth of his worldly goods in the Archbishop’s hands as a contribution to the crusade. He asked for half of his penance to be remitted. Soon he came back to promise another tenth, for remission of his whole penance.

Photo of Swansea Castle in 1967
Swansea Castle in 1967, courtesy of the RCAHMW and its Coflein website

The stone castle’s construction in the 13th century was organised by the de Braose family. Much of it was destroyed in later centuries as other buildings encroached on the site. It’s thought that the tower is the oldest surviving part, and that the parapet with the rows of small arches was added by Henry Gower, Bishop of St David’s, in the 14th century.

Gower man William Crach was imprisoned in the castle for attacking Oystermouth Castle in 1287, during a Welsh rebellion which also damaged Swansea Castle. In 1290 the public witnessed him being hanged until dead near the castle. However, Lady Mary de Braose had prayed on his behalf to Thomas de Cantilupe, the late Bishop of Hereford.

After being removed from the gibbet, William’s body began to breathe and move! Lord and Lady de Braose saw this as a miracle and allowed William to go free, provided he walked barefoot to Hereford to pay his respects to the dead bishop and then stayed away from the Swansea area. The bishop was declared a saint in 1320, after William’s resurrection and many other miracles were ascribed to him. William himself gave evidence to the papal authorities.

A glassworks was built on part of the castle site in the 17th century. A section of the castle itself was turned into a prison in the following century.

The photo, courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Wales, shows the castle in 1967, before the adjoining buildings were cleared. It is from the D.O.E. Photographic Collection of the National Monuments Record of Wales. The main building visible is the offices of the Evening Post and Herald of Wales newspapers, built in 1912.

Sources include ‘The Mystery of William Crach’ by Andrew Dulley, 2014

Postcode: SA1 2AH    View Location Map

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

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