The castle was erected by David de la Bere in 1304-1327, probably on the site of an earlier building. David was the steward of William de Braose, Lord of Gower, and received lands from him around Weobley. In the years 1403-1406 the castle was attacked several times during the great Welsh rebellion led by Owain Glyndŵr. It is possible that the then owner of the castle, John de la Bere, was killed in one of those invasions. Although the rebellion was finally suppressed in 1410 by Henry of Monmouth (later king Henry V), the castle was ruined. The de la Bere family resigned from its repair and moved to Berkshire.
At the end of the fifteenth century, the castle passed to the Sir Rhys ap Thomas. He was a supporter of Henry Tudor and fought on his side in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and then he was appointed governor of Wales. In Weobley he made many modifications, transforming the castle into a more comfortable residence.
In 1531, the owner of the castle was Rhys ap Gruffudd, grandson of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, but was executed for betrayal by Henry VIII and his property took over the English Crown. Henry VIII awarded Weobley to Catherine Edgecumbe, and after her death in 1547, to Sir William Herbert. Eventually, the castle was bought by the Mansel family of Llanrithrid, but they did not live in it and let it fall into ruin. In 1911, the last owner of Weobley, Emily Talbot, handed the castle over to state care.
The castle was erected south of the marshy area at the mouth of the Llwchwr to the wide-spread Loughor River. It consisted of a series of buildings, towers and a defensive wall connected together in various, irregular configurations and defining an internal quadrilateral courtyard.
The main gate was in the western range and did not present much defensive value. It was preceded by a fairly shallow ditch, and the gate portal was probably placed in a short pojection (after which the toothing has survived), protruding slightly before the face of the west range wall. From the north and south, the gate was slightly flanked by the Cistern Tower and the north-west building (solar), but not a single arrowslit was directed towards it (only small windows). The defense was provided only by the defenders’ wall-walk crowning both the gate and both adjacent buildings. It was protected by a battlement mounted on the parapet fixed on protruding corbels. The gate passage was high, so it allowed the horse rider to pass. It was closed on a timber door, but no space was provided for the portcullis. Inside, the gate range housed an additional living room in the upper floor, separated from the lower passage by a wooden ceiling set on stone corbels.
To the south of the gate was a Cistern Tower, which was basically just a small projection. A rainwater tank was located in it, on the lowest floor and connected to the roof by means of channels through which rainwater dripped. It was the only source of water in the castle, as no traces of any well were found. The Cistern Tower adjoined the large south-west tower, which was probably the oldest building, originally a separate one, connected only to the perimeter wall. It housed two floors above the ground floor, with the entrance probably located from the courtyard at the level of the floor, accessible via timber stairs. From the east, in the second phase of the 14th-century castle expansion, a rectangular chapel building was attached to the tower. It reduced the defensive value of the older building, which no longer protruded beyond the perimeter of the wall. The chapel itself with the piscina in one of the walls was located on the first floor and was probably accessible from the courtyard through wooden stairs. The lower floor was connected to the courtyard with doors at both ends of the building and with the area in front of the castle with a postern gate in the southern wall.
The eastern part of the castle consisted of a southeast building, erected nearby a lime kiln, needed as a mortar during construction. Probably the tower-like building was supposed to have at least three floors, judging by the chutes from three latrines, but it probably was never completed. The latrines flowed into the vaulted canal below the building, and further toilets were provided by a polygonal turret at the north end of the east wing. The latter building provided living quarters for guests on the first floor, and a ground floor for economic use. Judging by the fireplace and oven, there was a kitchen or bakery in it. The upper chambers had to have high living comfort: fireplace heating, a discreet passage to the latrines and decorative windows with trefoil and quatrefoil finials. At the end of the 15th century, the next, highest floor was added in the northern part of the east range by lowering the first floor. The southern part of the east range may have never been completed, as was the southeast tower.
The most important range of the castle was on the north side. A rectangular building with a great hall on the first floor and a kitchen in the ground floor were erected there. The kitchen was illuminated from the outside with three wide windows, secured with iron grilles and drawbars closing timber shutters. Each of the kitchen windows had atypically stone benches in the niches, overlooking the river estuary, which was a remnant of the use of the lower storey in the initial period as a great hall. In the middle of the north wall of the ground floor there was a waste drain, and a fireplace in the east wall. Inside the hall at its western end, there was a small daise for the table of lord and his relatives, illuminated by a pair of large windows from the north and south (the southern one was transformed into a fireplace after some time). A third, mullioned window was placed in the eastern wall. Interestingly, inside the hall also had a special niche for hanging tapestries or paneling, another example of putting decorations above defense. The range was, next to the south-west tower, the earliest built. At the end of the 15th century, it additionally received a vestibule with a communication tower from the courtyard side. It provided a more dignified entrance to the great hall and private, small chambers.
On the west side of the hall, there was an above-mentioned tower-like building on the rectangular plan, housing the private chamber of the castle’s lord (solar). The distinguishing feature of this upper storey was the large northern window with side benches in the niche and another similar window facing east to the castle courtyard. The room was heated by a fireplace, and a small portal in the corner led to a long, narrow passage in the thickness of the wall, finished with a latrine from the west. This passage also provided a connection to the room over the gate passage. The lower room lit by three small windows housed a pantry (cellar). In the 15th century it was separated by an internal wall into two rooms.
The castle has survived in the form of a ruin with the preserved northern part. It consists of a great hall building, a fifteenth-century porch, range with private chambers (solar) and two corner turrets. The monument is open to visitors from April 1 to October 31 daily from 9.30 to 18.00.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Williams D., Gower. A Guide to Ancient and Historic Monuments of the Gower Peninsula, Cardiff 1998.
Website gatehouse-gazetteer.info, Weobley Castle.