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Loughor Castle

Welsh name: Llwchwr
On the western edge of town, Swansea, Wales
SS 564 980

Map link for Loughor Castle

Text copyright 1998 by Lise Hull
Photographs copyright 1996 by Jeffrey L. Thomas

One can only wonder how many visitors Loughor Castle really sees in a given year. The location was fine for a medieval castle, as it immediately overlooks a major river link to the sea, but its present situation, alongside the busy A484 roadway, means that, unless you are actively hunting for the site, your attention will most likely be focused on the traffic and the bridge ahead. Consequently, you may even miss the castle. Indeed, Loughor's castle seems to teeter on the fringes of invisibility, for the city is almost swallowed up by the sprawling Swansea, around which visitors must negotiate, with great anxiety (the traffic can be dreadful!), to find this little-known, but interesting site.

Below: the ruins of the castle seen from the base of the steep motte
& close-up view of the keep

 

Roman soldiers from the Second Augustan Legion established Leucarum (Loughor) in about AD 75, to guard the major communications route that crisscrossed South Wales and included the River Loughor (in Welsh, Llwchwr; Leucara, in Latin). Leucarum sat along a Roman road that stretched from Viroconium (modern Wroxeter) to Moridunum (Carmarthen) and probably linked several forts and fortlets in southern Wales, including Nidum (Neath). The auxiliary fort at Leucarum was essentially rectangular, and, at one corner - possibly now covered by the castle - a tower may have stood. Evidently, Leucarum's timber structures were adorned with "fine painted plaster walls with a leaf-pattern on a striped red and yellow ground" (Heather James, 1982). Today, only the shape of the site and some earthworks mark the existence of the Roman walls that originally encompassed the fort. The Romans abandoned Leucarum in the middle of the 2nd century AD, but reoccupied the site from the late 3rd to the early 4th century before leaving it permanently.

Below: the remains of a surviving doorway at the castle.

In the early 12th century, the Normans extended their control over southern Wales and the Earl of Warwick, Henry de Beaumont, became the area's overlord. By 1116, an oval ringwork castle existed on top of the earlier fort. Its first commander was Henry de Viliers, Warwick's representative. Initially, Loughor Castle was defended with timber ramparts and contained wooden domestic buildings. In 1151, the Welsh attacked Loughor Castle and burned it. Curiously scorched Norman chess pieces, possibly dating to this event, have been unearthed at the site. The Normans promptly regained their hold on the castle, and soon made repairs to the structure, adding several stone buildings.

In the early 13th century, John de Braose became Loughor Castle's new owner. He added a low stone curtain wall, of which only foundations remain. At the end of the century, when William de Braose had the lordship, the rectangular stone tower that now dominates the site was constructed. Though greatly ruined, the two-storied tower retains enough of its original structure to give a fairly complete picture of how it was used. The fireplaces, fine windows, and garderobe (latrine chute) suggest that the tower was residential, perhaps housing the lord of the castle and his household. The gateway into the castle stood next to this tower and there is some speculation that a second tower also defended the later castle.

Little else of note took place at Loughor Castle. After Edward I's final subjugation of the Welsh at the end of the 13th century, the castle no longer occupied a significant place in the royal arsenal. Today, CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments has guardianship of the castle, which is freely accessible any reasonable time. The site remains of interest to archaeologists, who sporadically continue hunting for evidence of its past. If you are in the area, take the time to explore the ruins. You won't be disappointed.

 

Lise Hull owns and operates Castles of Britain, an information and research web site providing a wide range of information on the castles of Britain. Mrs. Hull has a Masters Degree in Historic Preservation, and has visited well over 160 castles in Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland. She welcomes any and all questions concerning the castles of Britain, and invites people to visit her web site or contact her directly via e-mail at: castlesu@aol.com.

 

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