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Penmaen Burrows Ringwork

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castle Tower

In the community of Ilston.
In the historic county of Glamorgan.
Modern authority of Swansea.
Preserved county of West Glamorgan.

OS Map Grid Reference: SS53418803
Latitude 51.57206° Longitude -4.11662°

Penmaen Burrows Ringwork has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The earthworks of a small medieval castle crown the tip of a headland overlooking the west side of Threecliff Bay. It was probably built by the Normans in the early twelfth century and was destroyed in the early thirteenth century. It would have been the centre of a 'knight's fee' in the lordship of Gower. It is thought that the remains of a medieval settlement underlie the dunes to the west (NPRN 15435) where the foundations of a church or chapel are exposed (NPRN 305604). The settlement is thought to have been engulfed by blown sand before 1320 and the Burrows later came to be a rabbit warren (see NPRN 24490). The site was excavated in 1961-2 and is one of the best understood lesser castles in Wales. The castle consists of a single oval enclosure or court, defined by a rampart and ditch except where it rests of headlong slopes to the east. There is a single entrance gap opening onto generally level ground. The interior is roughly 34m east-west by 26m. The excavations recovered evidence for two phases of occupation. The first featured a large timber gateway or tower, some 6.0m square, supported on six massive posts. Less substantial buildings occupied the interior. The second phase featured a narrower, drystone revetted entrance and a 12.5m by 5.0m hall on the southern side of the court. This had low drystone walls with rounded corners supporting a timber superstructure. Both phases of occupation ended in destruction by fire. The pottery recovered was dated to the twelfth and early thirteenth century. It is thought that the second destruction occured in 1217 when 'all the castles of Gower' are said to have been destroyed. (Coflein)

Small Norman timber castle located on the Gower peninsula. Excavations at the site have revealed a ringwork castle of C12. Two phases of building at Penmaen cannot be closely dated, but the ringwork with its timber gateway is accepted as being Norman. At some stage the gate was destroyed by fire, although whether this was through Welsh attack or domestic mishap will never be know. However, it was replaced by a drystone-walled gatetower, which could have been Norman or possibly a rebuilding by a Welsh lord, Rhys Gryg ap Rhys, who had destroyed all the castles in the Gower in 1217. Penmaen's "Castle Tower" was also a drystone-walled hall with curved ends. The walls as excavated stood only about .35m high, and were probably built well under 1m originally. (Pounds, 1990)

The monument comprises the remains of a well preserved castle-ringwork which dates to the medieval period (c. AD 1066 - 1485). This castle ringwork is set on the headland above Pennard Pill opposite Pennard Castle. It consists of a roughly oval enclosure about 36m by 27m with a deep outer ditch on the south-east and no artificial defences on the opposite side where the natural slope to the sea was sufficient. Excavation revealed that there were two occupation phases, dated by pottery to the twelfth and early 13th century. At first there was a timber gate tower and internal buildings, but the second period saw the gate rebuilt in stone, together with a hall similar to that found at Pennard. The timber gate-house had been burnt down, possibly accidentally and not as a result of hostilities. Finds included a large number of potsherds representing a minimum of fifty vessels and a small quantity of occupational refuse. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 28/06/2017 18:13:03