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Castles of Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan


Coity Castle

The castles of Newcastle, Ogmore and Coity were built to protect the Norman conquest of the fertile lands of west Glamorgan in the early 12th century. The three castles stand within a few miles of each other in this corner of South Wales, and all three began as quickly erected earth and timber works, before being replaced by stone forts, the ruins of which can still be seen today. This triangle of forbidding forts formed a continuous line of defence against the Welsh who were angered at the loss of their lands, and used to descend in sweeping raids from the hills. These remaining castles are the largest and best preserved of the thirteen castles and medieval fortified houses known to have existed in the Bridgend area. 

Newcastle is strategically placed on a high bluff above the Ogmore Valley in order to guard the river crossing below. The original wood and earth castle, first mentioned in 1106, marked the western limit of Robert Fitzhamon's conquests. The King himself, Henry II held the castle in the late 12th Century and the rebuilding in stone dates from around this time. The castle's most outstanding feature is its complete Norman doorway which can be seen on approaching the castle from the south. Parts of the castle were altered for domestic use in the 16th Century when Tudor windows and fireplaces were added. Apart from these 16th Century refurbishments the castle was little changed from the 12th Century. In 1217 Newcastle was given to the Turbevilles, Lords of Coity, who had little use for it as their main seat was at the nearby Coity Castle.

According to legend, Coity Castle was originally owned by the Welsh leader Morgan Gam, who informed the Norman invader Sir Payn de Turberville that he could have the fortification if he fought for it, or married his daughter, Sybil.

In the early 15th Century Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh national hero attacked Coity Castle and beat off a force under Henry IV that came to relieve it. Now mostly ruined, the Norman wall walk and battlements of Coity Castle still add grandeur to the local scene.

Ogmore Castle sits in the Vale of Glamorgan alongside the River Ewenny, its present tranquillity a far cry from its original military intention. The site was given to William de Londres, one of the Twelve Knights of Glamorgan by Robert Fitzhamon, the Norman Conqueror of Glamorgan, in order to guard the mouth of the river from the marauding Welsh. The original Norman ringwork had a ditch designed to fill with water at high tide. Like many other castles, it was rebuilt in stone during the 12th Century, and its Norman keep is one of the earliest to survive in South Wales. A popular approach to the castle from Merthyr Mawr is via the 52 stepping stones across River Ewenny. Also on the edge of  Merthyr Mawr Warren  is Candleston Castle, once upon a time in the 14thcentury a fortified mansion belonging to the Canteloupe family, now an ivy-clad romantic ruin, its land buried under the shifting sands of the Bridgend coast.

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