« PreviousContinue »
The carrying out of an important town improvement, the widening of Castle Bailey Street, necessitating the demolition of all the houses on its eastern side as far back as Worcester Place, in the early part of this year, 1912, has thrown important new light on the old problem. Portions of the walls and ditch of the old Castle itself have been uncovered, and the exact site
of the Castle of Senghenydd may with certainty and accuracy be located. They were found embedded in débris of ruined buildings and covered with much later house-refuse forming a high bank, which was often considered to be the mound of the first Castle of Swansea.
In the earliest print of Swansea Castle, made about 200 years ago, when there were few buildings on the ground, a considerable gulley is shown between the
new Castle and the site of the old one. The latter is there represented as a veritable mound. If an artificial mound ever existed it must have been removed when the Stone Castle was built. Apparently, however, it was not required, for now that the great accumulation of débris outside the walls has been removed it is seen that the Castle stood on the highest spot of the natural ground, and on a fairly high fairly high plateau above the ground around it. If the mound is correctly shown in the print it must have been the debris of the Castle, not a mote on which it had stood.
In the recent excavations practically the whole of the ground between Castle Bailey Street and Worcester Place was opened to a depth of 16 ft. below the level of the present roadway, but a considerable portion had been removed in earlier times for the foundations of cellars to the houses which were erected on the ground. The remains of the old Castle, now disturbed for the first time, were very disconnected. At first it seemed hopeless to piece the "finds" together, and the difficulty was increased by the number of contractors employed on the excavations. But as soon as the importance of the work was recognised, the Corporation of Swansea, the
ground landlords, afforded every facility for continuing it systematically. It will be convenient to commence the description of what was disclosed at the southern end.
The foundations, composed of large boulders, of a wall about 8 ft. thick, 3 ft. deep, were here found only 3 ft. below the surface. A very good section of the wall and ditch was obtained here. Though little more than foundations, in places portions of the wall, 3 ft. or 4 ft. high were to be seen for a length of 50 ft. Coming into view after (apparently) crossing Worcester Place roadway from east to west, it described a curve of about the eighth of a circle until its direction was northwest. Then it turned more directly towards the north parallel with Castle Bailey Street; here it was 6 ft. thick and 6 ft. high, built of excellent masonry of flat quarried stones, with a well-dressed face in a straight line for about 10 ft. At this point was found the flank of a rectangular western tower, projecting 21 ft. from the wall, with a face of 30 ft. The wall of the (western) face of this tower, owing to the fall of the ground, was over 10 ft. high; it was 6 ft. thick (about 7 ft. at the bottom). On the east lay the undisturbed ground of the interior of the Castle. What remained of the outer-the southern, western and northern-walls of this tower were remarkably perfect. To the north of the tower, the original line of the curtain wall was again resumed in very good condition for 20 ft., beyond that all traces of it were suddenly lost. It was not discovered again, although, as mentioned above, the old wall called the Castle Walls may now be considered as the continuation of this line, forming the eastern, as this was the western, bounds of the Castle.
The floor of the tower was paved at a height of about 10 ft. above the level of the bottom of the wall outside. Beneath the paving was undisturbed gravel of the locality. This paving was in places fairly perfect (though I doubt it being part of the original work), and the
walls had been destroyed down to the level of this floor, though the curtain walls above described were from 3 ft. to 4 ft. higher. The flanks of the tower were continued inwards-inside the curtain walls about 3 ft. thus making it a perfect square. These walls were 3 ft. high, but only 3 ft. thick. The rear wall was discernible only by a boulder foundation, well preserved. Across the tower in the line of the curtain was a 3 ft. wall 3 ft. high, broken in the middle by a passage or doorway. This wall had all the appearance age, but whether it was as old as the Castle is more than doubtful. In front of it, upon the tower as described above, that is to say upon the walls on the floor level and on the floor itself, stood a large block of masonry 23 ft. long by 17 ft. wide and 7 ft. high, occupying the greater part of the area of the tower; in it were two chambers, the larger of the two had a domed roof and was plastered with black mortar, the other had a bee-hive roof, was not plastered, and the sides showed signs of long firing. These chambers cannot have belonged to the old Castle; the only openings into them were from the outside, the west, and they were without window or chimney. One had certainly, both had probably, been used as bake-houses or ovens, and the conclusion arrived at was that they had been built for that purpose by some baker whose shop was in the street. At the same time the building, though of a date long after the demolition of the Castle, was undoubtedly very old.
Running down in the thick curtain wall, about 3 ft. from the southern flank of the tower, was a drain 2 ft. by 1 ft.; for the lower 6 ft., it passed at a steep angle from the rear to the face of the wall and terminated in an opening 2 ft. by 2 ft. with a circular arch. Originally, no doubt, it may have led into the ditch, which would here have been some 30 ft. or more away, but outside the aperture was a cesspit 5 ft. square and 6 ft. deep, which had been used as such by the modern house, perhaps within sixty or seventy years, and was probably an improvement on an older one more or less coeval
with the Castle.
Whether the drain was made as the exitus of a garde-robe or to carry off rain-water was uncertain..
The tower appears to have been the entrance into the Castle from the Bailey.
The ditch of the Castle was very apparent about 12 ft. in front and 4 ft. below the foundations of the wall, where it crossed Worcester Place, but the ground had been so much disturbed that its dimensions could not be taken. From there to the front of the tower it was observed in places which had not been disturbed by the cellars of the 18th century houses. It was quite plain that it did not follow the re-entering angle formed by the flanks of the tower and curtain wall, but swept round in one continuous curve. In front of the tower the ground had not been previously excavated, and the ditch was found very perfect though covered with accumulation of débris at least 20 ft. in depth. The distance from the foot of the wall to the crest of the scarp was about 15 ft., with a fall of from 3 ft. to 4 ft., and the ditch was about 7 ft. deep; its width could not be measured as it extended under the roadway. Apparently the level of this roadway was about 8 ft. higher than its predecessor of medieval times. The ditch was followed up for about two-thirds of the western face of the tower, but not further. For the width of one house the ground was not disturbed, after that it was found to have been completely excavated for cellars at some early period, consequently the ditch was not observed again for about 160 ft., when it was found cutting diagonally across the rear of two houses in a north-easterly direction; here it was about 20 ft. across and from 8 ft. to 10 ft. deep, but its exact dimensions could not be measured, as the ground had been much disturbed; at the same time there could be no mistake about its being the site of the ditch. If a line be drawn from the inner side of the ditch in front of the tower to the corresponding side of the ditch