Coity – castle


   The castle was erected by the knight Payn de Turberville at the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century during the penetration of south-eastern Wales by the Norman conquerors. Payn de Turberville was one of the twelve knights accompanying Earl of Gloucester, Robert Fitzhamon in his conquest of Welsh Glamorgan. According to a later tradition, as he did not receive any territory from his senior in the lands seized by the Welsh, around 1092 he was to take action and conquer the lands around Coity. In the face of the attack, the then Welsh ruler, Morgan ap Meurig, not feeling strong enough to fight, was to offer to return his daughter to Norman. According to unconfirmed record, Payn accepted the offer, becoming Lord of Coity thanks to his marriage.
Around 1180, the castle was rebuilt by another heir of the Coity, Gilbert de Turberville, who is credited with founding a keep and a stone ring of walls. Over the next two centuries, during which the Turberville family remained the owners of Coity, the castle underwent further improvements and expansion. This happened especially in the times of Gilbert IV and his son Richard, who succeeded Coity in the 50s of the 14th century. 
The Turbervill male’s line ended in 1384, as a result of which the lordship and the castle passed to Sir Lawrence Berkerolles. He made further modernization, thanks to which the stronghold resisted sieges during the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr in 1404 and 1405. Despite the repel of the attackers, the castle was seriously damaged and remained in poor condition until Lawrence’s death in 1411. Ownership of the property then became the object of a dispute between the Margaret de Turberville daughter, Joan Verney and William Gamage, who gathered forces and besieged Joan for a month at Coity Castle. King Henry IV ordered the removal of the siege and imprisoned William in the Tower of London. He was released in 1413 after the death of the king, and eventually the castle passed into the hands of his family, who made repairs and reconstruction of the destroyed stronghold (among others, a great barn was built in the outer ward).
   In the first half of the 16th century, the castle was still well kept. 
In 1584, the castle passed into the hands of the Sydney family, when Barbara Gamage married Sir Robert Sydney, Earl of Leicester. The new owners, however, preferred to live in their estate in England, thus Coity deteriorated and eventually was abandoned. In the seventeenth century castle turned into ruin.


   The original castle from the 12th century was a timber construction, but due to the area characteristic, exceptionally for the early Norman castles, it did not have the motte and bailey form. A flat area with a thin layer of soil made it impossible to obtain enough material to build a mound (motte). There were also no proper hills in the area, and the only watercourse on the eastern side, the Nant Bryn Glas stream, was small and some distance away. 
After 1180, a stone, four-sided keep of 12 x 10 meters and a defensive wall on an oval plan were erected, closing the courtyard of the upper ward with a diameter of about 40 meters. The wall was about 1.8 meters thick and about 5 meters high. From the west to the upper ward adjacent fortified outer bailey (initially timber) on a plan similar to a rectangle measuring 35 x 50 meters. The whole castle was surrounded by a moat, which also separated the outer from the inner ward.
   The keep inside walls 1.9 thick, originally had two floors above the ground floor or basement. The entrance led to it from the east (from the inner courtyard), from the level of the first floor, although already in the fourteenth century the portal on the ground floor was pierced. The lowest floor was originally only accessible through a hatch in the floor of the first floor. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, a central, octagonal pillar was erected in the basement, which supported new rib vaults both in the lowest storey and in the upper floor chamber. A four-sided extension on the north-eastern side was also added to the keep, which contained a spacious latrine on the second floor and a slightly tighter room with a latrine on the lower floor. In the 16th century, the upper floor of the keep was rebuilt in the Tudor style, a staircase was created in the southwest corner, an additional floor was added, both to the keep and to its northern annex, thanks to which it was 18 meters high to the level of the parapet. It housed a fireplace and latrine in a keep, and was separated by a timber ceiling.
   Since the fourteenth century, the main utility and living rooms were located in the southern wing, attached to the inner face of the perimeter wall. From the side of the courtyard, the entrances led through the vaulted lobby, extended to the west in the 16th century to connect with the service rooms. The latter had an irregular shape and two rooms in the ground floor, accessible through two portals at both ends. Initially, the division into rooms was probably fulfilled by a wooden partition screen, in the 16th century replaced by a stone wall, which allowed to modernize the equipment of the local kitchen. It was located in the western room and had two fireplaces and two ovens. In the eastern chamber there was a huge lime kiln of uncertain dates, a sixteenth-century fireplace in the western wall, and a drain in the perimeter wall. Above these rooms, holes for ceiling beams indicate the functioning of two more floors. On the west side in the 15th century in the corner between the outer bailey wall and the wall of the upper ward a latrine for service and garrison was added.
   The eastern part of the southern wing was occupied by a vaulted pantry-cellar, located under the hall. Its vault was supported by two central octagonal pillars and numerous wall corbels, and lighting was provided by three small windows. From the basement, the stairs led to the half-round latrine tower, protruding entirely in front of the perimeter (probably before its construction to the postern gate). The interior of the tower on the lower level was quadrangular and served as a pit for waste. The three upper floors were already oval, separated by vaults set on the eastern and western corbels. Good lighting was provided by three window openings on each floor, in addition, on the first and second floor there were latrines, and on the third floor a fireplace. The great hall, although small in Coity (9 x 7 meters), was the center of life in the castle: feasts and important ceremonies were organized and guests were welcomed there. As the most important room since the fourteenth century, it was accessible through a large staircase on the north-east side. From the north,
they were adjacent on two upper floors narrow chambers, both heated with fireplaces. Another private living room (solar) was above the hall. 

   In the first half of the fourteenth century, the outer bailey was surrounded by a stone defensive wall, reinforced with four-sided towers on the north, south and in the south-west corner, and a gatehouse. The castle walls were thicker on the more vulnerable west and north sides, while the southern curtain was only 0.9 meters thick. The castle’s builders predicted that the potential attacker would attack from the higher north side. Near the north-west corner a small postern gate was created, closed with a drawbar placed in a hole in the wall. Perhaps it was originally obscured by a rectangular building added to the curtain wall, but it is uncertain in what period it was erected.
   A new gatehouse was added in the first half of the fourteenth century at the entrance to the upper ward, replacing the earlier passage from the end of the twelfth or thirteenth century. From the west it was preceded by a moat towards which it advanced in front of the perimeter of the walls. The drawbridge was most likely placed over it. The gate passage itself was conducted in the northern part of the building, only a short fragment of the wall was added to the wall of the old keep to form one whole. Inside the passage there was a pit into which the rear part of the drawbridge hid when it was lifted. After about 3 meters, the passage was closed with a portcullis, and then with a wooden door, behind which by turning right you could enter from the gate passage to the guard’s room. In the thickness of the eastern wall of this room, there was a portal leading to the courtyard and stairs leading to the first floor of the gatehouse. The ground floor guard’s room also contained a quadrilateral water tank at the west wall and latrines with chutes facing south towards the moat.
   After the destruction of the early fifteenth century, the northern wall of the upper castle required reconstruction. During this work, a new gatehouse on the north-east side and a chapel were erected. Although the works on the latter began in the fourteenth century, it was not completed at that time. The gate tower received a four-sided form measuring 7 x 6.3 meters, entirely extended before the perimeter of the 12th / 13th century perimeter wall with a gate passage in the ground floor and the upper two floors. The passage was originally vaulted, closed with a drawbridge, a portcullis situated close to it and a doors approximately in the middle of the length. The raised portcullis was located on the upper floor, also vaulted, well lit and connected to the crown of the perimeter wall. There was no place for a fireplace, but the guards could use the latrine. Better living conditions were provided by the top floor, where there was a fireplace, large windows and a latrine. The staircase (probably built in a slightly later period) ensured the connection between floors and the possibility of entering the upper defensive gallery, protected by a battlement based on the parapet with machicolation. Even there, in the southeast corner, a latrine was placed for the guards.
   The chapel building had two floors with an entrance to the ground floor directly from the courtyard. From there, one could go through the ogival portal to the southern wing or, using the corner staircase to the first floor of the chapel. The corner staircase was added after the building was completed, and initially it was possible to enter its first floor only through the stairs in the southern wing. Also shortly after finishing the ground floor, the chapel was divided into three rooms by inserting two partition walls with central portals and side openings. Most likely, these rooms served as pantries and storage rooms. Stone wall corbels suggest that the ground floor was originally planned to be vaulted, the chapel itself was also to be much longer and protrude from the east in front of the perimeter of the walls, but these intentions were never realized. The upper chapel was placed on a wooden ceiling and illuminated by a large ogival window.

   At the beginning of the 15th century, the west gatehouse was rebuilt and a new tower was erected in the south-west corner of the outer ward. The west gatehouse was not a very strong and sophisticated structure. It was erected as a four-sided structure with a vaulted gate passage closed with a portcullis, centrally placed door and preceded by a drawbridge over the moat. The room on the upper floor of the tower was illuminated by a window in the eastern wall, directed to the courtyard of the outer bailey, while from the opposite west side there was no opening. The room was covered with a flat, wooden ceiling mounted on stone corbels, above which was yet an attic. The entrance to the gatehouse led from the south, through the 14th-century stairs at the inner face of the perimeter wall. There was no connection between the gatehouse and the north curtain. In the fifteenth century, the southwestern corner tower was dismantled to give way to the postern gate pierced in the wall, while a new narrow rectangular tower was erected on its west side, strongly protruding towards the moat and flanking the west gate. A hole was created in its lower part suggesting that the moat was originally filled with water that flowed under the tower, perhaps also acting as a mill. The last change was the transformation of the southern tower into a gatehouse and the addition of a new wall fragment to it, reaching the upper castle, pierced by eight loop holes directed towards the southern section of the moat. These holes received an unusual form similar to a cross in which the horizontal slit was divided by two small stones. At that time, the south gatehouse received a passage in the ground floor, above which a chamber illuminated by two windows crowned with trefoils and a parapet with a battlement based on protruding corbels was formed.
   At the same time, a large barn was built in the courtyard of the outer ward, which used the southern curtain as one of its walls. On the outer west side, this wall was reinforced with buttresses, just like the wall from the courtyard side. The entrance to the barn led through the northern vestibule with two entrances on the sides in the ground floor. On the first floor there was a room, probably used by a official supervising the storage of goods. The erection of the barn meant that inside it there were 14th-century stairs leading to the crown of the defensive wall and to the south gatehouse.

Current state

   The castle has been preserved to modern times in the form of a ruin. In the best condition has survived the north-east gatehouse of the upper ward, a lot has survived from the south range, two walls of the keep are also visible. There is a clear layout of the outer ward with a defensive wall practically on the entire length and relics of a large barn. The ruins of the castle are under the care of the Cadw government agency and are open to the public.

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Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Kenyon J., Spurgeon C.J., Coity Castle, Ogmore Castle, Newcastle (Bridgend), Cardiff 2001.

Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Salter M., The castles of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.