Kenfig Castle was built in the mid-12th century by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, as an important Norman seat for the conquered lands, next to which a borough grew up until 1183. Kenfig was attacked by the Welsh at least six times: in 1167, 1184, 1232, 1257, 1294, and in 1295 by Morgan ap Maredudd, during the Madog ap Llywelyn rebellion. The last of these attacks resulted in the capture and burning of the castle. Another invasion took place in 1316 during the revolt of Llywelyn Bren, this time, however, the castle was not captured despite the damages. The unlucky building experienced yet another attack in 1321, when the town and the castle were devastated by the army of the Marcher Lords during the campaign against the king’s unpopular favorite, Hugh Despenser. At the beginning of the 14th century, the castle was thoroughly rebuilt and fortified, but by the end of the 15th century, both the town of Kenfig and the castle were abandoned due to sand dunes covering both centers. In the sixteenth century, the castle was already in ruin.
The main element of the castle was a four-sided keep with 14 meters long sides and massive walls up to 3.7 meters thick in the ground floor, situated on an artificial earth mound. The edges of the mound were originally fortified with wooden fortifications. The corners of the tower’s base were reinforced with buttresses or pilasters. The entrance to the interior was from the south-west, at the level of the first floor. Also from this side, there was an outer bailey or a settlement, surrounded by a moat and an earth rampart. It occupied a roughly square space with sides 200 meters long.
After the damages at the end of the 13th century, the keep was rebuilt, but with a much thinner southern wall. At that time, a barrel vault was also installed in the lowest storey, which covered one of the two slit openings. These openings were pierced around the mid-13th century, when two latrines were inserted into the northern wall.
At the end of the 13th century or at the beginning of the 14th century, a stone defensive wall was erected around the keep, about 1.2 meters thick, separating a courtyard with a diameter of about 37 meters. At the base, this wall was battered, while the lower parts of the keep were reinforced with material from demolished wooden and earth fortifications. The gate to the courtyard was located on the south-west side, after 1321 it was placed in an elongated gatehouse protruding in front of the curtains both from the outside and inside. To the east of it, a small building was attached to the wall on the side of the courtyard, and the keep was equipped than with an entrance directly from the ground.
The castle has not survived to the present day. Only the relics of the keep are visible, located among the mounds of earth and sand, which hide the relics of the collapsed walls. Admission to the ruins is free.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Salter M., The castles of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.
Website coflein.gov.uk, Kenfig castle.