Kenfig Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Kenfig Castle

Port Talbot, Wales, United Kingdom

Kenfig Castle is a ruined castle in Bridgend County Borough in Wales that came to prominence after the Anglo-Norman invasion of Wales in the late 11th century.

Lily Johnson

03 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

About Kenfig Castle

Kenfig Castle is a ruined castle in Bridgend County Borough in Wales, that came to prominence after the Norman invasion of Wales in the late 11th century. Following this it became a powerful medieval stronghold, before being engulfed in the surrounding sand dunes of Kenfig Burrows.

Kenfig Castle history

Kenfig Castle was an important Norman stronghold built by Robert, Earl of Gloucester during King Stephen’s reign in the early 12th century.

Strategically set on a mound with the river to the west and north, its free-standing keep was 14m squared and had an entrance at the southwest corner, with buttresses of dressed stone adorning its walls. The castle acted as an administrative centre with a hall and offices inside, and by 1183 a borough had grown up to the south.

As an English-held stronghold in Wales, the castle was sacked by the Welsh on at least six occasions, including in 1295 during the rebellion of Madog ap Llewelyn.

In the early 14th century it was substantially reconstructed, with the tower rebuilt, the ramparts removed to make the court more level, and a curtain wall erected with a large gatehouse.

By the late 15th century however, both Kenfig old town and the castle had been abandoned due to encroaching sand dunes, and by 1539 John Leland wrote that both had been ‘almost choked and devoured with the sands’.

Kenfig Castle today

Today Kenfig Castle lies in ruins largely covered by sand. Despite efforts in the 1920s and early 1930s to excavate the site, the sands soon reinvaded and today the top of the keep is all that emerges from the dunes of Kenfig Burrows.

Though little of the ruins remain above ground, the stone archway of a window frame may be viewed, giving an idea just as to how much of the vast keep is buried below.

The bailey also lies to the south surrounded by the remains of an earthwork bank and ditch, while the encompassing Kenfig National Nature Reserve provides a beautiful day out exploring Wales’ coastal landscapes.

Getting to Kenfig Castle

Kenfig Castle is located in North Cornelly in Wales just off the M4, with free parking available at the Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre, a 30-minute walk through the Reserve. The nearest train station is Pyle, a 45-minute walk away, while the 63 bus service stops at Heol Llan, a 35-minute walk away.

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