Gower Peninsula: The history behind the beauty
You may already know that the Gower Peninsula was the first area of the UK to earn the status “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. However, you may not know the history behind the beauty. Here are some notable points from our local history:
The first human fossil was found in a cave on the Gower peninsula in 1823, this skeleton is recorded as approximately 33,000 years old.
In 1937, a Severn-Costwold type of Chambered burial monument was discovered near Parkmill, Gower. It was found to contain the bones of over 40 people, animal remains and pottery. The burial chamber dates back to 6,000 BC. Later, in the 1950s, Cambridge University discovered 300-400 pieces of flint toolmaking dating as early as 14,000BC in a Gower cave.
Succeeding the Norman invasion of Wales, the Gŵyr area began to become anglicised. The lordship of Gower was granted to William III de Braose in 1203, it remained within the Braose family until 1326.
Much later, Gower became part of the Glamorgan district and in 1974 it was merged with the county borough, Swansea.
Not truly a castle but a fortified manor house, Oxwich castle holds its own interesting history only ½ mile from our own Oxwich Bay hotel.
This Tudor mansion was created by Sir Rhys Mansel around 1450; a family of powerful gentry class. Built around a courtyard, Sir Rhys gave the castle a mock-military gateway. His son, Edward, went on to build further stories with a long gallery to take advantage of the sea view. After building the castle with showy, current design techniques the family moved out after a few decades.
During their time at the Oxwich castle, the Mansel family took advantage of their location at the Oxwich Bay. They would plunder to the wrecked vessels below; this would soon lead to an argument over rights which had terrible consequences.
The castle is open to the public March – October, Wed – Sun, 10am – 5pm.
A significant industry across Britain’s coast during the turn of the 18th /19th century, smuggling came in response to unwelcome customs duty. Spirits, tobacco, tea and silk would be smuggled using Gower’s coves and isolated bays.
Bays such as Pwlldu and Brandy cove are known as being used during smuggling ventures. Prolific Gower smuggler, William Hawkin Arthur would unload the goods and pack horses across Quiet Lane (now known as Smugglers’ Lane).
During the rise of Arthur’s smuggling, two Gower farmhouses at Great Highway and Little Highway became headquarters for a large workforce; these farms still exist by Pennard Church, near Southgate. Arthur’s team would continue to smuggle, sometimes in broad daylight, for decades until 1804; once an operation discovered nearly 3,000 gallons of spirits.