In the second half of the 11th century, the new English king William the Conqueror did not directly engage in the conquest of Welsh lands. He left the task of expansion to the Lords of Marches, border territorial units with extensive autonomy. Their rulers were encouraged to take over Welsh lands and build castles that secured their progress. Although they were still under the king’s authority, they were basically self-governing in conquered countries. Around 1089, one of them, Robert Fitzhamon, Baron of Gloucester, attacked the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg in South Wales. He set off along the coast, built Newport Castle, and then went west to conquer Vale of Glamorgan, where he set up his headquarter in Cardiff. Even before 1106 he went further west to the Ogmore River. This natural barrier became the temporary border between native Welshmen and Normans, and Robert and his companions built three castles to secure the conquered areas: Newcastle erected by Robert himself, Coity erected by Payn de Turberville and Ogmore, which was built by William de Londres.
William de Londres received the lands around Ogmore from Robert Fitzhamon and built a timber and earth defensive circuit (ringwork) at the beginning of the 12th century. In 1116, the new stronghold was attacked by the Welsh and allegedly defended only by the efforts of the butler William, who later became Sir Arnold Butler. This attack prompted William, and then his son Maurice for reconstruction of the castle to a stone building.
When the Anglo-Normans pushed the Welsh in their conquests further west, the strategic importance of the castle diminished. At the end of the thirteenth century, when Edward I finally completed the conquest of Wales, the military role of the castle came to an end, although it still served as a center of administration and justice. The castle remained in the hands of the Londres family until 1298, when their descendant, Maud de Chaworth, married Henry of Lancaster. From then on the castle was incorporated into the Principality of Lancaster, and then due to the fact that in 1399 Henry Bolingbroke took over the throne (as Henry IV) it became the property of the Crown.
At the beginning of the 15th century, Ogmore suffered destruction during the Owain Glyndŵr Welsh uprising, but was quickly repaired. In 1454, a new courthouse was erected on the outer bailey, which was used until the beginning of the 19th century. The castle itself had to be abandoned earlier, as in the drawings from the end of the 18th century it is already depicted as a ruin.
The castle was erected on a polygonal plan with a shape similar to an oval, measuring about 50 meters long and 35 meters wide. During the times of Maurice de Londres, that is, in the 20s of the twelfth century, a quadrilateral keep on the west side of the circuit, one of the oldest in Glamorgan, was completed. It had three floors and over 12 meters in height. The first floor contained a large hall, divided into two chambers with a timber partition screen, the north with a fireplace, and the southern one lit with two windows. The stairs led from the chamber to the later upper floor, which served as an accommodation for the lord of the castle and his family, and the hatch with the ladder led down to the basement (ground floor). The second floor was also warmed by a fireplace. The original entrance to the keep was probably located at the height of the first floor and led through the external structure, however, in the thirteenth century, the entrance portal was pierced straight to the ground floor. At the beginning of the 13th century, the keep was raised by an additional (previously described second) floor. It was also equipped with a latrine tower in the north-west corner.
At the inner ward opposite the keep, on the eastern side, there was a twelfth-century building. Only the basement and stairs leading to the vaulted passage remained of it. It is not known what its original purpose was, and in early modern times a lime kiln was erected in its place.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the timber and earth defensive circuit of the castle was replaced with a stone wall, and on the west side, next to the keep, a small four-sided gatehouse was erected. It had a recess in the side wall, presumably for the doorman. The chamber over the gate was accessible from the keep and from the passage along the defensive wall. In the northern part of the inner ward, since the thirteenth century, there was a rectangular building, probably holding a great hall, and on the south side a smaller rectangular building housing a kitchen. The whole castle was surrounded by a moat.
The outer bailey stretched on the west side of the castle, had timber and earth fortifications and was secured by a moat. In the north-western part there was a rectangular building, dated to the 13th century and rebuilt in the mid-15th century. There was a court in it. Next to it was a lime kiln.
The castle is in a state of poorly preserved, but nevertheless quite legible ruins. The western wall of the keep, part of the latrine turret, fragments of the defensive wall, foundations of buildings and the castle moat have survived. A courthouse building from the 13th / 15th century has been preserved on the outer bailey. The castle is available for free for visitors from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, every day from 10.00 – 16.00.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Ogmore castle.