Morgraig castle was built between 1243 and 1267 by the Anglo-Norman de Clare lords or the Welsh rulers of Senghennydd. Relations between them were peaceful until the Second Barons’ War of 1264-1267, which was a civil war in England between the lords under the leadership of Simon de Montfort and the supporters of King Henry III. Initially Gilbert de Clare and Gruffydd ap Rhys, lord of Senghenydd, were allies, but in 1266, after Gruffydd ap Rhys and the Welsh ruler Llywelyn ap Gruffudd teamed up with Simon de Montfort, Gilbert de Clare imprisoned lord of Senghenydd. In 1267, de Clare temporarily lost control of the lands near Morgraig Castle when Llywelyn ap Gruffudd destroyed Llangynwyd Castle. Lord of Senghennydd would then be able to obtain the stone needed to build the castle, known to be the so-called Sutton Stone, sourced from the only quarry near Ogmore by Sea. Gilbert de Clare responded by beginning construction of the larger Caerphilly Castle in 1268. The unfinished castle Morgraig may have been abandoned at this point, be it by the Gruffydd ap Rhys or by Gilbert de Clare, as it was no longer strategically important to him and most of the resources were used in the construction of castle Caerphilly.
The castle was planned as a pentagonal structure with a courtyard diameter of about 38-42 meters. About 2.5 meters thick, the curtains of the defensive walls were reinforced by five towers, including four on the plan of an elongated horseshoe and one four-sided. The latter had a considerable dimensions of about 14 x 19 meters, so it may have acted as a keep. On its northern side, in the curtain of the wall, there was a small postern, and a little further, the chutes of the latrines. The main gate was located in the center of the west curtain. It was probably an ordinary passage in the wall.
Of the horseshoe towers, the northern ones were shorter (about 10 meters in diameter), and the southern ones were more elongated (about 14 meters long), but all of them protruded completely in front of the curtains of the walls, giving very good opportunities for side fire of the adjacent curtains and mutual protection of the towers. In one of the towers, traces of a spiral staircase were discovered, so they must have been at least two storeys high.
The plan of the castle does not allow to clearly specify the builder. The system of corner flanking towers is a 13th-century novelty tied with Anglo-Normans, while the very simple archaic gate and the horseshoe (D-shape) form of the towers suggests Welsh builders rather. Whoever started the construction of the castle, most likely never finished it, as no building materials from roofs or internal buildings were found in the fortress. Also, work on digging the moat or ditch has not started.
The castle has not survived to modern times. Only densely overgrown foundation and ground parts are visible, discovered during archaeological works in 1903. Admission to ruin’s area is public.
Davis P.R., Castles of the Welsh Princes, Talybont 2011.
Salter M., The castles of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.