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Coity Castle in Glamorgan

Located to do South West of Coity Church, Coity Castle in the region of Glamorgan in Wales, is a Norman building originally built in 1126. Although today it is in ruins, it is acknowledged to be one of the finest Marcher Castles in South Wales. It stands in the community of Coity Higher near the town of Bridgend, in the County Borough of Bridgend.

Castle History

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. (more)

Castle Today

Although greatly ruined today, Coity Castle still retains several distinct Norman features, as well as a number of well-preserved areas. These include the eastern face, parts of the battlements, and the wall-walk which connected the three-storied keep with the curtain wall.

The charm of Coity Castle reveals itself as soon as one heads around the perimeter over to the main entrance. The embankment and walls of the fortress divert one’s attention from modern Coity, which is an impressive reminder of the might of the Marcher Lords in Wales.

The Castle was first built in a ringwork pattern in the late 11th century. This ringwork included a circular embankment which was surrounded by a deep ditch and topped by timber palisades, in fact today’s stone castle still reflects this original timber design. During the 12th century, the Normans added a rectangular stone keep and the main curtain wall, since the structure’s primary function was that of being a defensive point. By the end of the 12th century, the original timber was largely replaced by stone under the patronage of the Turberville family.

Further defensive improvements were carried out following the damages caused by the Welsh uprising of 1404 – 1405; a new west gate was built adjoining the outer ward, the south tower was converted into a gatehouse, and a link wall was built between the inner and outer wall curtain walls. Also, the ditch between inner and outer wards was in-filled, and a north east gatehouse was added to the inner ward. When the main focus of the Castle became domestic, instead of defensive, improvements to the Castle also reflected this. A domestic range was attached to the keep by the middle gatehouse. New stone vaults replaced the timber flooring. The central octagonal pier for the vaults is still prominent among the castle ruins today. An adjoining chapel wing with a tall east window was added to the first floor during the 15th century. A Middle Gate was added to offer access to the elaborate residence within the Inner Bailey.

By the 16th century, Coity Castle was owned by the Gamage family, who completely remodelled the living quarters, including the addition of a new storey, new windows and two chimney stacks. The principal chambers were to be found on the upper floors. The range of live-in apartments included a central first-floor hall which could be reached by a grand staircase, service rooms including a kitchen, buttery and pantry to the west of the ground-floor, as well as a latrine tower. This used to drain into a cesspit which directed the waste into the moat and thereby served the personal needs of the garrison, as well as functioning as an observary post.

The second floor housed private apartments. At present, we can still see the remains of the kitchen, as well as the base of a large ruined malting kiln. Although remains of stone stairs remain, they are almost impossible to access, since nothing remains of the upper floors but the bare walls. Some noteworthy features include an ornate annex on the northeast side, with windows and fireplaces, which are still apparent.

By the mid of the 18th century, Coity Castle was largely in ruins, since no one had been living in it ever since the heiress Barbara Gamage married the Earl of Leicester in 1584 and the family moved to Kent. Still, the ruin is amazingly picturesque and definitely worth visiting. Just across the lane that passes by Coity Castle, there is also a marvellous battlemented church which houses to effigies of de Turberville women.

The interested visitor will be able to find a small parking near the western edge of the Castle. The grounds are accessible and free, therefore there is plenty of room to enjoy a picnic or explore. There is also a pub and a children’s play area nearby. The castle is also used yearly to host a number of local community events, including a village fete as well as the Jam in the Castle rock concert in July.

Opening Hours of Coity Castle

Open daily from 10.00am to 6.00pm except on 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January.
Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time.
 

Text: Melisande Aquilina