Penmark – castle


   The first, timber – earth castle in Penmark was probably erected by the de Umfraville family in the early 12th century. It was done by their first known representative, Gilbert de Umfraville, or his successor, Robert. Around the middle of the 13th century, the castle was transformed by another Gilbert de Umfraville into a stone structure. The first record of it dates from 1307. It was inhabited by the Umfraville family until the twenties of the 14th century, when, through the marriage of Elizabeth Umfraville, it became the property of Oliver de St John. In subsequent centuries, the castle was leased to various people and gradually declined. Finally, the ruin turned into a ruin in the seventeenth century, serving as a source of free building materials for nearby farms.


   The castle was situated in a gentle bend of the Kenson River, the high banks of which provided protection from the north and east. On the other sides, Penmark was secured with a ditch. The defensive wall of the castle, about 2 meter thick, marked an irregular, but slightly oval-like courtyard with dimensions of about 55 by 35 meters. In its north-west corner there was a horseshoe tower with a diameter of 6.5 meters with a rectangular latrine turret or an annex protruding from the curtain of the defensive wall in the south. The lowest storey of the tower was pierced with a single opening, while the upper storey had two windows with side seats. Later, on both storeys, the passages to the quadrilateral extension added from the north-west were pierced. On the west side of the castle there was the area of the outer bailey.

Current state

   The castle is in a state of ruin. There are visible fragments of the defensive wall and the ruin of two floors of the tower, 7 meters high, with a nearby latrine annex. In addition, on the western side there is a later, narrower sixteenth-century wall. The western wall also includes the ruins of the barn, which from the outside resembles the rest of the ruins, but is in fact a much later building, erected in the eighteenth century, using material from non-existing parts of the walls. Entrance to the castle is free.

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Salter M., The castles of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.

Website, Penmark Castle.