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Penrice Castle

Penrice, Gower Peninsula, south Wales

Map link for Penrice Castle

Photographs copyright © by Bill Damick and Ben Jones

Michael Salter, 1991.

he ringwork called Mountybank near the church is the site of Henry de Beaumont's original castle. The earthworks are extensive but very much overgrown. Wooden stakes were found in the bank in 1927. Penrice passed later to a family of knights who took from it the name de Penres. Robert de Penres at about the time of his marriage in 1237 transferred to the other side of the ravine north of the church, building a round keep and a thin curtain wall running NE from it to cut off the promontory neck. After the Welsh revolts of the 1250s and 60s he enclosed the rest of the site with stone walls with tiny round flanking turrets. A long barn was provided on the NE side and the vulnerable west side was re-developed with a hall block and a gatehouse. His son Robert added a solar block with pleasant upper rooms with fireplaces west of the keep and a chemise on the east side in c1290-1310.

A later Robert de Penres, who married into the powerful de Camville family, incurred the wrath of Edward III in 1362 when his Welsh castles were reported to be ruinous. His estates were forfeited in 1377 when he was convicted of the murder of a woman at Llansteffan in 1370. His son bought back the estates in 1391 but left no heirs and in the early 15th century Penrice passed to the Mansels of Oxwich. Sir Rhys Mansel let the castle to William Benet, whose heirs resided there until 1669. Possibly the defences were dismantled in the Civil War. The castle continued in use as a tenanted farm held from a branch of the Mansels during the 18th century, although the Buck brothers engraving shows it as a total ruin.

Penrice is the largest castle on the Gower and has a number of unusual features. The keep, gatehouse and much of the surrounding walls stand high but in a ruinous and ivy-clad state. The keep has a diameter of 9.7m over walls 2.1m thick. It contained a single room with three windows and a latrine but no fireplace over an unlit basement. It was later raised without any extra living space being provided and a unique single storey chemise with a flat roof and parapet added towards the court. The hall lay on the upper storey of an adjacent range added outside the original curtain. Only the ivy-covered inner wall survives, with fragments of a late medieval porch towards the court. The layout of all the rooms is unclear. The gatehouse has a square block within the curtain wall and a pair of three storey square towers with rounded outer corners projecting from the curtain. The curtain wall varies somewhat in thickness and is much rebuilt on the east side where there is a later medieval dovecot.

Penrice Castle is on private land, but a public footpath allows viewing of portions of the curtain and towers.



Additional photographs of Penrice by Ben Jones

Below: three rare interior photos of the castle







Visit the Penrice Castle Estate home page

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Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas