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Plas Baglan

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castell y wiryones

In the community of Baglan.
In the historic county of Glamorgan.
Modern authority of Neath Port Talbot.
Preserved county of West Glamorgan.

OS Map Grid Reference: SS75629229
Latitude 51.61528° Longitude -3.79813°

Plas Baglan has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Plas Baglan, despite its name, 'Palace', or 'Mansion of Baglan', and its genteel literary associations of the 15th and 16th centuries, is a strongly fortified site, a castle rather than a moated site. Its vestiges and location indicate a Welsh masonry castle that certainly existed by the 13th century, and was probably founded in the previous century. It lies secluded on the eastern edge of the precipitous ravine of Cwm Baglan. at 2.3km N.N.W. of Abcrafan Castle and 1.2km W.N.W. of Castell Bolan. The 16th-century house of Blaen Baglan is on higher ground near the head of the cwm and 430m to the N.E., while 300m to the W.. across the ravine, is St Baglan’s church for which two Early Christian sculptured stones suggest a pre-Norman foundation.
The castle occupies a strong position at 53m above O.D. within the angle formed by Cwm Baglan to the W. and a deeply incised re-entrant dingle to the S.; to the N. and E., facing rising ground, it is protected by a right-angled ditch which defined a platform 21m square. Traces of a mortared wall survive around this platform, particularly to the N., where there are clear indications of a square projecting turret on the W. and a buttress or stepped plinth towards the centre. To the E. the wall is marked by a stoney bank, but stone-robbing and erosion have removed all traces to the S. Incorporated within the N.W. angle of this perimeter wall are the ruins of a rectangular tower or first-floor hall. Set N.-S. along the greater part of the W. side of the enclosure, this structure has walls 1.52m thick and measures externally 17.37m by 10.06m. There are the remains of two splayed embrasures, one to the W., the other to the S. in the only surviving portion of that wall. The northern half of the building is defined by intermittent visible parts of the walls which must survive to a height of some 1.5m within the stoney banks which follow their lines. The projecting turret to the N. presumably served a latrine on the vanished first floor. This dominant structure occupied the greater part of the W. half of the platform. Remains of lesser buildings in the N.E. quarter may be marked by its slight elevation, isolated scarps and an isolated wall fragment. The entrance was probably at the gap between the S. end of the stoney E. bank and the dingle to the S.
The southern end of the eastern ditch is infilled, probably as a result of recent stone-robbing to provide material for the now abandoned Ty Newydd Farm. This farm of 18th-or early 19th-century date lies 110m S.E. of Plas Baglan. Its outbuildings and yard walls re-use much ashlar matching that which occurs in the rubble on the site. Mainly honey-coloured Oolitic Limestone, this ashlar also includes grey Pennant Sandstone. The Oolitic Limestone dressings include at least four jamb stones from doors or windows, all with a plain broad chamfer; one found on the scarp immediately below the W. wall of the tower, was internally rebated and grooved for a shutter. Five plain squared blocks of the same stone, re-used at the farm, are distinctly and crudely fan-tooled; small similarly tooled fragments are present at the site and might suggest a 12th-century date for some of the fabric, though later work is indicated by diagonally straight-tooled stones. Among the grey Pennant Sandstone is a roll-moulded doorjamb.
To the W. side of the platform a steep rubble-strewn slope falls to a level shelf 9m below. Two parallel and more gently-sloping berms along this slope suggest that is has been artificially scarped to strengthen the main upper platform. The irregular shelf below is a natural feature, roughly equal in area to the upper platform and ideally suited to accommodate a bailey, and it has possibly been scarped about its perimeter for this purpose, but there are no traces of structures upon it.
Documentary evidence for the castle of Plas Baglan is lacking, but its singular form and secluded location, close to the ancient church of St Baglan, suggest it was a stronghold of the Welsh lords of Afan. This probability raises the question of its status in relation to the two nearby castles of Aberafan and Castell Bolan. It is usually assumed that the Welsh lord of Afan built the now vanished castle at Aberafan, 2.3km to the S.S.E., and that this was their caput. Both assumptions are questionable; although they may have held the coastal strip after the Norman castle of Aberafan was destroyed by Lord Rhys in 1153, they did not make that castle their caput, certainly not before the foundation of their borough there ca. 1304. Probably they administered the territory from Plas Baglan, as it is named Bagelan in the Extent of 1262, which states that Morgan Fychan (ob. 1288) owed no service except a heriot of a horse and arms at death. Both Plas Baglan and the nearby Castell Bolan lie in Baglan parish; either might be considered as ‘the castle that once belonged to Morgan Gam’ (fl. 1217-41) near which Herbert Fitzmatthew was slain by the Welsh in 1245. His death occurred on an adjacent slope, a topographical feature lacking at the low-lying Aberafan site. Plas Baglan would appear more significant than Castell Bolan, not only for its proximity to the church and its masonry, but also for its late-medieval association with the princely family. Two cadet branches of the Welsh lords of Afan survived at Baglan long after the lordship passed in exchange to the chief lord, Edward Despenser, at some time between 1359 and 1373. Both branches descended from Rhys, younger brother of Lleisan ap Morgan Fychan, and established important lineages at Blaen Baglan and Plas Baglan, the latter represented in the 15th century by the celebrated gentleman-bard leuan Gethin ab Ifan ap Lleisan ap Rhys (ca. l400-80). The Plas came by marriage to the Thomas family, and was no doubt the ‘Courte Baglan’ of 1570, which was seemingly abandoned early in the 17th century. The tower of Plas Baglan is perhaps alluded to in the farm-name of Ty’n-y-Twr, 200m N.W. across the cwm, and in the tenement of Tir y Ture, which was leased by the Crown in this locality in 1632.
The primitive tooling of some of its ashlar, its dominant tower or hall and its lower platform vaguely reflecting a motte and bailey plan, might all favour a late-12th-century foundation, though a recent opinion favours a 13th-century date. If it was founded before 1200, its builder may have been Morgan ap Caradog, lord of Afan ca. 1147-co. 1207, founder of the castle at Briton Ferry. Though less massively-walled, the tower at Plas Baglan is larger that the Norman keeps at Ogmore and Penllyn, and only marginally smaller than others at Sully and Dinas Powys. Threatened on his eastern flank by the Norman keeps of the chief lord at Kenfig and Newcastle, Morgan could not have ignored the merits of such structures, particularly as he managed to obtain possession of the latter as a result of his leading role in the revolt of 1183-84, passing it on to his heirs who lost it before 1217. The eclipse of Plas Baglan, it may be surmised, began with the foundation of the Welsh borough at Aberafan, ca. 1304, and the rebuilding of the 12th-century castle there as a more convenient centre for administration, the more remote site being ceded to a cadet.
Plas Baglan might be the ‘Castell y wiryones' westernmost of the three castles noted in Baglan parish by Edward Lhuyd, but this name is not otherwise recorded. (RCAHMW 1991)

The SW end of a blunt spur has been scarped to form a rectangular platform, 24m E-W by c.22m, ditched to the N and E, with traces of mortared stone walling, including a 17.4m (N-S) by 10m tower or hall block; thought to have been built in the later C12 or early C13 and occupied until the early C17 (Coflein–J.Wiles 03.12.02)

Earthworks and footings of rectangular keep of ?C13 of castle famous for bards. Native welsh castle.
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This record last updated 02/07/2016 20:28:54