In 1107, Norman lord Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick, received from king Henry I, the authority on the Gower Peninsula. During this period, Wales consisted of independent principalities and kingdoms, often waging war with each other. Since there was no centrally coordinated Norman invasion of Wales, lords such as Henry de Beaumont were encouraged to conquer border land on their own. This strategy required a large number of castles to suppress resistance and strengthen governments in the newly conquered territories. One of the at least seven, that was then built on the peninsula, was the castle of Henry de Beaumont in Pennard.
In 1203, the lordship of Gower was granted by king John to the de Braose family. One of its members, William de Braose, at the end of the 13th century, rebuilt the castle into a stone building. Perhaps this was caused by the dispute that William then had with John de Monmouth, bishop of Llandaff, and the desire to strengthen his position.
In 1320, king Edward II, persuaded by his favorite Hugh Despenser the Younger, confiscated the castle and accused William of granting the castle to his son-in-law, John de Mowbray, without royal permission. Despenser was appointed the royal Castle Guardian, but after the fallen of Edward II, the castle was restored to de Braose and then handed over to the Beauchamp family. However, at this time Pennard began to feel the power of sand blown from the side of the coastal dunes. It eroded the castle walls, made agriculture impossible and made life difficult. This resulted in the abandonment of the castle and the nearby settlement in the first half of the 16th century.
The original castle consisted of a ring of earth ramparts crowned with a timber palisade, surrounding the inner ward on which a small, stone hall was erected. The building had a rectangular shape and dimensions 18.6 by 7.6 meters. Natural, strong defense conditions were provided by the cliffs on the north and west side. It descended towards the meandering Pennard Pill River, which flowed southwest of the castle into Three Cliffs Bay.
At the end of the 13th century, new defensive walls were erected from the local limestone and sandstone, which copied the earlier, wood and earth circuit, separating a roughly oval courtyard measuring 33 x 27 meters. The wall was 1.2 meters thick, about 8 meters high in the eastern part (about 5 meters high on the safer west side) and was topped with battlement. At that time, a gate was also added to the eastern side, consisting of two horseshoe towers flanking the 2.4 meter wide passage in the middle. It was preceded by a dry moat and a drawbridge, and it was also closed with a portcullis. The gate towers were about 11 meters high, 4.5 meters wide and 6.4 meters long. The entrance to the rooms on the first floor of the gate led from the back of the towers, via wooden, external stairs. On the north-west side, the defensive circuit was strengthened by a small semicircular latrine tower next to which there was a small projeciotn in the wall.
In the late Middle Ages, a four-sided tower was erected in the western part of the castle. It was completely extended in front of the perimeter of the walls, had two floors and had residential functions.
Fragments of the ruined defensive wall have survived to the present day, mainly in the northern part of the perimeter, and a short fragment on the southern side. Two western towers, the nearby projection at the northern curtain and the outer wall of the double-tower gate with the relics of the walls of the northern gate tower have also survived. Admission to the ruins is free.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Salter M., The castles of Gwent, Glamorgan & Gower, Malvern 2002.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Pennard castle.