The first castle in Neath was built at the beginning of the 12th century and was a timber fortification in the form of motte and bailey. It owed its name to the Roman fort Nidum, founded in 75 AD to protect the crossing of the Nedd River. When Richard de Grenville founded Neath Abbey nearby around 1130, he abandoned the original castle, which was probably used by the monks as a source of building materials.
The second castle in Neath was built on the opposite bank of the river, in the second half of the 12th century, on the initiative of Robert, Earl of Gloucester. It was recorded for the first time in 1183, when a probably timber tower was mentioned. Shortly thereafter, William de Cogan, son of Miles de Cogan, was appointed constable of the castle.
In the thirteenth century, the castle was often oppressed by the Welsh people and had to be rebuilt after Llywelyn ap Iorwerth’s destruction in 1231. In 1258 it was again attacked by the Welsh, but managed to defend itself. It was probably already rebuilt into a stone stronghold by Richard de Clare, the sixth Earl of Gloucester. In 1321, it was captured and destroyed by Humphrey de Bohun, the 4th Earl of Hereford, during a rebellion against king Edward II. Its then owner, Hugh Despenser the Younger, rebuilt the castle. In the later period of the 14th century (around 1377), the stronghold was rebuilt again, adding, among other things, a powerful two-tower gatehouse. The castle was in use until the 17th century
The castle from the fourteenth century had a semi-circular shape with a diagonal of about 30 meters. On the west side of the defensive wall there was a horseshoe tower and a small gate or wicket gate. The second horseshoe tower was located on the eastern side of the perimeter, additionally it had a latrine turret. In the second half of the fourteenth century, on the site of the western tower and the wicket gate, a powerful gatehouse, consisting of two flanking towers, portcullis, doors and machicolation with two murder holes, was built. The housing and economic development of the castle was erected in the inner ward by the inner faces of the defensive walls.
Currently, the best preserved element of the castle is the outer part of the 14th century, two-tower gatehouse. In addition, fragments of defensive walls, relics of the eastern tower and foundations of internal development have been preserved.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Website gatehouse-gazetteer.info, Neath Castle.