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History of Coity Castle in Glamorgan

After the Norman conquest of 1066, King William I rewarded several Marcher lords with lordships, in order for them to erect stone fortifications to control the English/Welsh border. The aim was to create a buffer between England and Wales, while facilitating the expansion of Norman rule. Robert Fitzgammon was one of these Marcher lords. He seized control of the region of Glamorgan and divided it among his loyal henchman, one of whom was Payn de Turberville. Turberville seized control of Coity and Coity Castle in 1092. His acquisition was sealed by his marriage to Sybil, the daughter of the Welsh leader Morgan Gam.

At the time, the already existent structure was an earth and timber ring-work fortification, however the Turberville family refortified the castle in stone. It was in fact Sir Gilbert de Turberville, Lord of Coity, who replaced it in 1180. Sir Gilbert’s greatest contributions were the stone keep, the curtain wall enclosing the Inner Bailey, and the northeast tower. The Castle was occupied by the Turbervilles until 1384, when the male line of the family died out, and the Lordship passed on to Sir Lawrence Berkerolles who inherited it together with the castle and its estate through his marriage to one of the de Turberville daughters. Sir Lawrence too added renovations to the castles, adding the east gate which was fortified with a portcullis and a drawbridge, as well as a new stone curtain wall around the Outer Bailey, and a four-stories round latrine tower on the southern side.

In the early 15th century, Owain Glyndwr, a Welsh freedom fighter, assaulted Coity Castle. Although the Castle withstood the assault, it was seriously damaged. Following this, the Castle was further strengthened with the addition of the new west gate in the outer ward, as well as a new gatehouse in the south tower. Sir Lawrence Berkerolles died in 1411 and the Castle reverted to Sarah de Turberville, who was married to Sir William Gamage of Roggiett, however they did not take ownership of the castle easily. Lady Joan Verney, the widow of Sir Richard Verney and daughter of Margaret de Turberville, laid claim to it, which is why William Gamage, assisted by some other lords, had to besiege Coity for a month in order to try and oust her out. As she was a female and did not have a male son, her claim was deemed spurious. The king’s forces tried to raise the siege. Gamage ended up in the Tower of London for having taken the law into his own hands, however he was released with the death of King Henry IV. In the end, their efforts proved successful as the lordship was granted to the Gamage family through marriage, and it remained theirs until the death of John Gamage in 1584.

During that year, the heir to the Castle and the Gamage fortune, Barbara Gamage, married Sir Robert Sydney, Earl of Leicester. Since they lived in Kent, Coity Castle did not see much use, and started to decay. Although the Sidney family owned Coity Castle up to the 19th century, it never regained its earlier splendour since it was never again used as a family residence. Fortunately, CADW the Welsh Heritage agency which ensures the upkeep and preservation of archaeological sites and historical buildings, took over the management and rescuing of Coity Castle, which is not open to the public during most days of the year.