In 1107, English king Henry I granted lordship over the Gower Peninsula to Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick. Henry, on the other hand, gave lands around the later castle to a Norman knight, who took the name de Penrice. It was he or Henry de Beaumont who built the first timber – earth ringwork, known as the Mounty Brook or Brough Castle.
Around 1237 Robert de Penrice got married to Oxwich heiress, which brought him considerable wealth and probably prompted him to build a new stone castle. This building was erected some distance from the original stronghold, on the other side of the ravine. It was further expanded at the end of the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century by another Robert de Penrice, to improve living conditions, although it seems that at that time the castle was outshined by other estates belonging to the family, including Oxwich and Llansteffan.
In 1377, the Penrice family temporarily lost the castle, because its then owner, Robert de Penrice, was convicted of murder in Llansteffan. His son managed to buy back the stronghold in 1391, but when he died in 1410, he did not leave any male heirs, and the castle passed by marriage to Sir Hugh Mansel. He made Penrice his main residence, but his great-grandson, Philip Mansel, gave the castle to Richard Penrice in 1463. The reason for this is unknown, but perhaps it was an attempt to avoid the castle’s confiscation for the support of Mansel granted to the Lancaster family during the War of the Roses. In 1485, the son of Filip Mansel regained his father’s estate, including Penrice. The Mansel family lived in Penrice until the mid-15th century, when they moved to the new, fortified mansion in Oxwich.
During the English Civil War in the mid-17th century, the castle was in a bad condition, although it was occupied by William Benet. It is possible that the armies of Parliament caused additional damages to make it unfit for military action. At the end of the 17th century, the castle was already in ruin.
The first element of a stone castle from the 13th century was a cylindrical keep, included in the perimeter of the defensive walls, erected on a polygonal plan with a shape similar to a trapezoid. Keep had a diameter of 9.7 meters and wall thickness up to 2.1 meters. It contained a room with three windows and a latrine, but without a fireplace over an unlit room in the ground floor. Later, it was extended by an external wall from the inner ward (chemise), covered with a flat roof.
The area around the castle fell steeply on the north, east, south and south-west sides, where the defensive walls were reinforced with atypical, small turrets. The entrance to the castle was in the north-west corner. The gatehouse consisted of two towers flanking the passage from the outside and the additional gate tower on the inside. The outer towers were quadrilateral, but had rounded corners. At the end of the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century, a tower housing a private chamber (solar) was added. The great hall was located on the upper floor of the building adjacent to the keep. In the late medieval period, a quadrilateral porch was added to it.
The castle has survived to modern times in the form of a ruin with a readable layout. A nearly complete perimeter of the defensive walls has been preserved (except for the fragment at the gate, destroyed during the 17th century civil war) and the ruins of the keep, gatehouse and relics of internal development. The castle is in private hands, which makes it difficult to explore.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Penrice Castle.
Website castlewales.com, Penrice Castle.