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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rhossili Beach

The Gower Peninsula (Welsh: Penrhyn Gŵyr) is a peninsula on the south west coast of Wales, on the north side of the Bristol Channel in the southwest of the historic county of Glamorgan. Referred to colloquially as 'Gower', this was the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956. Gower was part of the ancient lordship of Gower, and today it is part of the City and County of Swansea. It elects an MP, and the constituency has elected only Labour MPs since 1906.

Contents

History

Following the Norman invasion of Wales, the commote of Gŵyr passed into English hands, the southern part eventually becoming heavily anglicised. Rhys Gryg of Deheubarth occupied the peninsula in 1215, but in 1220 he ceded the area to the English, apparently on the orders of his overlord, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. Thereafter Gower remained largely beyond the reach of Llywelyn's successors as prince of Wales, though the peninsula suffered at the hands of Rhys ap Maredudd during his revolt of 1287-8.

The Act of Union (1535) made the Lordship of Gower part of the historic county of Glamorgan, and the south-western section became the Hundred of Swansea.

In modern times, the Gower Peninsula was administered as a Rural District of Glamorgan, which merged with the county borough of Swansea in 1974 to form the Swansea district.[1] Since 1996, Gower has been part of the City and County of Swansea.

Geography

Worm's Head with causeway exposed at low tide

Situated in south west Wales, about 70 square miles (180 km2) in area, Gower is known for its coastline, popular with walkers and outdoor enthusiasts, especially surfers. Gower has many caves, including Paviland Cave and Minchin Hole Cave. The peninsula is bounded by the Loughor estuary to the north and Swansea Bay to the east. Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 188 km² including most of the peninsula west of Crofty, Three Crosses, Upper Killay, Blackpill and Bishopston.[2] The highest point on the Gower Peninsula is The Beacon at Rhossili Down at 193m/633 ft overlooking Rhossili Bay.[3]

The interior of Gower consists mainly of farmland and common land. The population resides mainly in villages and small communities, though suburban development has made a number of communities in eastern Gower part of the Swansea Urban Area.[4] The southern coast of the peninsula consists of a series of small, rocky or sandy bays like Langland and Three Cliffs, and a few larger beaches like Port Eynon, Rhossili and Oxwich Bay. On the north side of the peninsula there are fewer beaches, this section of the coast includes the famous cockle-beds of Penclawdd.

Governance

Gower elects a member of parliament, and the constituency has elected only Labour MPs since 1906, the longest run (with Normanton and Makerfield) of any UK constituency. The constituency encompasses the old Lordship of Gower (less the city of Swansea) and covers the peninsula and outer Gower areas including Clydach, Gowerton, Gorseinon, Felindre and Garnswllt.

Economy

Agriculture remains important to the area but tourism plays an increasing role in the local economy. The peninsula has a Championship status golf course at Fairwood Park just off Fairwood Common, having twice held the Welsh PGA Championships in the 1990s. Meanwhile, the Gower Golf Club at Three Crosses hosts the West Wales Open, a two-day tournament on Wales' professional golf tour, the Dragon Tour. Gower is part of the Swansea Travel to Work Area[5] (see Economy of Swansea).

Landmarks

There are six castles on the Gower Peninsula: Bovehill Castle (also known as Landimore Castle), Oystermouth Castle, Oxwich Castle, Pennard Castle, Penrice Castle and Weobley Castle.

Gower is home to menhirs or standing stones from the Bronze Age. Of the nine stones, eight remain today. One of the most famous of the stones is Arthur's stone near Cefn Bryn. At Paviland Cave in South Gower, a human skeleton (named the Red Lady of Paviland, though he is actually a male) was discovered by Victorian archaeologists, dated as 25,000 years old.

Parc Cwm long cairn, also commonly known as Parc le Breos burial chamber, is a partly restored Neolithic chambered tomb, identified in 1937 as one of the Severn-Cotswold type of chambered long barrow. The megalithic burial chamber, or "cromlech", was built between 6000 and 5800 years before present (BP), during the early Neolithic period, in what is now known as "Coed y Parc Cwm" at Parc le Breos.

Tor Bay and Three Cliffs Bay

Four of Gower's beaches have Blue Flag beach and Seaside (2006) awards for their high standards: Bracelet Bay, Caswell Bay, Langland Bay, and Port Eynon Bay.[6][7] Five other beaches have been given the Green Coast Award 2005 for "natural, unspoiled environment": Rhossili Bay, Mewslade Bay, Tor Bay, Pwll Du Bay, and Limeslade Bay.[8]

Other beaches include:

Llethryd Tooth Cave

The Llethryd Tooth Cave, or Tooth Hole cave, is a Bronze Age ossuary site in a limestone cave, about 1,500 yards (1.4 km) north, north west of the Parc Cwm long cairn cromlech, on private land along the Parc Cwm valley, near the village of Llethryd. The cave was rediscovered by cavers in 1961, who found human bones. An excavation was carried out by D.P. Webley & J. Harvey in 1962 revealing the disarticulated remains (i.e. not complete skeletons) of six adults and two children, dated to the Early Bronze Age or Beaker culture. Other finds are now held at the Amgueddfa Cymru–National Museum Wales, Cardiff: Early Bronze Age, or Beaker, collared urn pottery; flaked knives; a scraper; flint flakes; a bone spatula; a needle & bead; and animal bones – the remains of domesticated animals, cat and dog. Archaeologists Alasdair Whittle and Michael Wysocki note that this period of occupation may be "significant", with respect to Parc Cwm long cairn, as it is "broadly contemporary with the secondary use of the tomb". In their article published in The Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (vol.64 (1998), pp. 139–82) Whittle and Wysocki suggest corpses may have been placed in caves near the cromlech until they decomposed, when the bones were moved to the tomb – a process known as excarnation.[9][10][11][12][13]

At nearly a mile (1,525 m) long, the Tooth Cave is the longest known cave on the Gower Peninsular. It has tight and flooded sections and so, is kept locked for safety reasons.[14][15]

Representation in the media

The village of Mumbles set the scene for a six part drama Ennals Point featuring Welsh actor Philip Madoc. The series focused on the local lifeboat crew and first aired in January 1982. To those living locally, the continuity leaps were often amusing — departing a house in the village the actors would find themselves immediately in an area 6 miles (9.7 km) distant.

A film, Gower Boy, made by artist Gee Vaucher and musician Huw Warren, described as a "gentle, contemplative exploration of the Gower Peninsula in Wales", debuted at the 14th Raindance Film Festival in October 2006 [1].

The village of Rhossili appeared as a location in the 2006 Doctor Who episode "New Earth". In the episode, Worm's Head could be seen.

See also

References

  1. ^ Archives Network Wales
  2. ^ The City and County of Swansea
  3. ^ Enjoy Gower - Gower Beaches
  4. ^ Gower (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 22, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  5. ^ National Statistics Online
  6. ^ Keep Wales Tidy - Tourism - Blue Flags
  7. ^ Keep Wales Tidy - Tourism - Seaside Award Beaches 2006
  8. ^ Keep Wales Tidy - Tourism - Green Coast Award Beaches 2005
  9. ^ "Key Sites Southeast Wales – Neolithic and earlier Bronze Age" (PDF). Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales website. Research Framework for the Archaeology of Wales. 2003-12-22. http://www.archaeoleg.org.uk/pdf/neolithic/KEY%20SITES%20SE%20WALES%20NEOLITHIC%20AND%20EARLIER%20BRONZE%20AGE.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  10. ^ "Tooth Cave-Site Details-Coflein". The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales website. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. 2002-07-11. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/pls/portal/coflein.w_details?inumlink=6053100. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  11. ^ "Bibliography of Cave Sites Literature". Chamberlain, A.T. & Williams, J.P. 2000 A Gazetteer of Welsh Caves, Fissures and Rock Shelters Containing Human Remains. Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield. http://www.capra.group.shef.ac.uk/2/walesbib.html. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  12. ^ "Bibliography of Cave Sites Literature". Chamberlain, A.T. & Williams, J.P. 2000 A Gazetteer of Welsh Caves, Fissures and Rock Shelters Containing Human Remains. Department of Archaeology and Prehistory, University of Sheffield. http://capra.group.shef.ac.uk/2/wales.html#AY. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  13. ^ Whittle, Alasdair; Wysocki, Michael (1998). "Parc le Breos Cwm Transepted Long Cairn, Gower, West Glamorgan: Date, Contents, and Context". Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society (London: The Prehistoric Society) 64: 177. ISSN 0079-497X. http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prehistoric/pps/abstracts/abs64.html#Parc.  
  14. ^ "Tooth Cave". UK Caves database website. UK Caves database. 2008. http://www.ukcaves.co.uk/onecave-tooth. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  
  15. ^ "content > - Gower Caves". Explore Gower website. Stella Elphick. 2008. http://www.explore-gower.co.uk/Content/pid=27/page=2.html. Retrieved 2008-11-04.  

External links

Coordinates: 51°36′N 4°08′W / 51.6°N 4.133°W / 51.6; -4.133


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Swansea/Gower article)

From Wikitravel

The beautiful Gower Peninsula [1] is the United Kingdom's first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Located in Swansea, the peninsular is famous for its stunning coastal scenery, wide sandy beaches and medieval castles.

Oxwich Bay, South Gower, Swansea
Oxwich Bay, South Gower, Swansea

This article covers the rural areas of Swansea. It has been given the title 'Gower' as the Gower Peninsula constitutes the largest portion of Swansea's rural area and is the district of most interest to tourists. However, the article also includes the highland areas of Pontardulais and Mawr. On the peninsula itself, the article covers all points west of Bishopston, Pwll Du Bay, Fairwood Common and Upper Killay. Detailed information of the urban area east of this line is documented in the Swansea article.

The Gower Peninsula is about 29km long by 8km wide and, in many ways, represents a microcosm of the very best of British countryside. There are wide sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, historic woodlands, salt marshes and open moors, all of which are interspersed with picturesque villages, country inns, castles, ancient churches and neolithic burial chambers. It is a land immersed in the mists of Celtic legends and secrets of smugglers tales. The peninsular is also home to an abundance of wildlife, with perhaps the wild Gower ponies that roam the moors being the most famous and well loved. For recreation, Oxwich is the most popular bay for swimming and boating, while Llangennith is a surfers paradise and attracts boarders from all over the UK. Rhossili is a dramatic bay, and the sunset over the headland is one of the most photographed evening scenes in Europe.

The districts of Mawr and Pontardulais are sparsely populated areas of Swansea's hinterland and offer wonderful opportunities for hillside walking and river-side recreation activities.

History

Historically, Gower convered an area of land under the jurisdiction of the Lords of Gower. It extended as far east as the River Tawe, and so it included what is now Swansea City Centre. This area corresponds very closely to the modern boundaries of the City and County of Swansea. However, nowadays "Gower" would be mostly understood to referring to the penisular only.

The Gower "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" (AONB) is an invention of post Second World War planning laws covering England and Wales, and represents a level of protection one step lower than offered by that of a "National Park".

  • The Gower Peninsula is located in South Wales (Map of Gower) a 10 minute drive from the city of Swansea.
  • Gower Explorer buses departing from Swansea's Quadrant Bus Station cover the entire peninsular. Official route map: [2]

Get around

By bus

Most of the villages and popular bays are connected by public transport. The Gower peninsula itself is served by the Gower Explorer branded bus services from the Quadrant Bus Station in Swansea city centre. The Lliw uplands to the north of the county of Swansea are served by Lliw Link branded bus services from the Quadrant Bus Station. (Note that the Quadrant bus station is a good 10-15 minute walk from Swansea railway station but there are frequent buses to the Quadrant Bus Station from the bus stop outside the railway station.) NOTE: the Quadrant Bus Station is currently closed (summer 2009) for rebuilding and will reopen in about 18 months according to the latest estimates. Temporary bus stops are located around the city.

On foot

There are some very well established hiking routes on the Gower. The tourist office in Swansea city center offers good information.

Private transport services

Gower Travel provide chartered transport in and around Gower, as well as to and from the area. Tel: +44 1792 232-456, Fax: +44 1792 232-599, email: [[3]], website:[[4]].

Three Cliffs Bay, South Gower, Swansea
Three Cliffs Bay, South Gower, Swansea

Due to strict zoning laws, the rural areas of Swansea have not succumbed to urban sprawl. However, there are a few traditional villages in the area:

  • Llangennith - a quintessential British coastal village with hens clucking around the village green, a stone church, a traditional pub and sheep strolling down the road towards a magnificent surfing beach; several B&Bs.
  • Llanmadoc and Cheriton - two adjoining villages on north Gower - some lovely stone houses, a few B&Bs and a pub.
  • Llanrhidian - a hill-side village running down to the marshes of the Loughor Estuary - some lovely stone houses and a pub.
  • Oxwich - nestled in the curve of Oxwich Bay and with its thatched rooved cottages and castle, Oxwich is perhaps the Gower's most picturesque village. The village has a wonderful Saxon church, a couple of shops and a hotel.
  • Port Eynon - a quaint village clustered around the sandy beach of Port Eynon Bay. There are a few shops and B&Bs, a pub and youth hostel.
  • Reynoldston - an inland village surrounded by wild moorland with a good pub and accommodation.
  • Rhossili - located on a ridge offering spectacular views over Rhossili Bay and Worms Head - the village boasts a pub, cafe, shop and great National Trust gift shop.
Worm's Head, Rhossili, Swansea
Worm's Head, Rhossili, Swansea
  • Rhossili Bay and Worm's Head. Famous for is breathtaking view at sunset, and the vista is widely considered to be one of Europe's most spectacular coastal scenes. An excellent National Trust gift shop marks the beginning of the cliff top path, while the picturesque village of Rhossili provides an ideal setting for enjoying cream teas in the summer or for relaxing and taking a contemplative stroll at any time of the year. In addition, the conditions at Rhossili are excellent for handgliding and surfing; historians may also be interested to note that there is evidence of a stone-age settlement here. Visitors may also note a distinct lack of trees. The last real tree was at Ash Tree Farm, though this disappeared sometime during the early 70's. The fierce westerly gales and trees are not a good match. The nearest trees to Rhossili are are Middleton, the village just prior to Rhossili.
  • Three Cliffs Bay. A great place to take a stroll through woods and watch the wild ponies galloping on the beach. The ruins of Pennard Castle guard the area from a hill to the left (when facing the sea). Note, however that the strong undercurrent at this bay make it unsuitable for swimming. The beach is entered from a path across from Shepard's village store and cafe.
  • Oxwich Bay. Overlooked by Penrice castle, the pristine waters of the bay are surrounded by extensive dunes and woodlands and protected by a small Saxon church on the headland. Oxwich was named the most beautiful beach in the UK and one of the most beautiful in the world by Travel Magazine in 2007 [5].
  • (King) Arthur's Stone [6], Cefn Bryn. A neolithic burial chamber or cromlech dating from 2500BCE. The name is derived from a legend that the stone was thrown onto Cefn Bryn by the mythical King Arthur.
  • Landimor Castle [7]. Minor ruins
  • Loughor Castle [8]. Located on north Gower - minor ruins
  • Oxwich Castle [9]. A fortified Tudor mansion in south Gower
  • Pennard Castle. [10]. Ruins offering spectacular views over Three Cliffs Bay.
  • Weobley Castle [11]. Located in north Gower, this is one of Swansea's best preserved castles and offers commanding views over the Loughor Estuary to Carmarthenshire. There is an admission charge.
  • Gower Heritage Centre [12], Parkmill. Tel:+44 1792 371-206 - a rural life museum based around a working water mill. The museum also boasts one of the world's smallest cinemas - La Charrette - a 23 seat former railway carriage. There is also a gift shop and cafe on site.
Rhossili Bay, Gower, Swansea
Rhossili Bay, Gower, Swansea
  • Gower Surf School Level 4 BSA approved. [13] Offers classes in surfing at various Gower locations. Open all year,
  • Gower and Swansea surf school. Tel:+44 07891123267. E-mail: surf@swanseasurfing.com. [14] Offers surfing lessons around Gower and Swansea 7 days a week all year around. Equipment is provided
  • Welsh Surfing Federation Surf School, The Barn, The Croft, Llangennith. Tel:+44 1792 386-526 [15]
  • Pony Trekking at Parc-le-Breos House, Penmaen. Tel:+44 1792 371-636 [16]
  • Rhossili and Borfa Activity Centres, Middleton, Rhossili. Tel:+44 1792 401-548 - offers domitory accommodation in Port Eynon and training in the following activities: abseiling, caving, climbing, coasteering, cycling and mountain-biking, kayaking and trekking.
  • Mountain Boarding at brd Mountain Boarding Centre, Weobley Castle, Llanrhidian, Swansea, SA3 1HB. Tel:+44 7856 152-540 [17] Offers lessons for beginners and improvers. Discounts available for group bookings. The boarding centre is open for prior bookings only.
  • Barn Studios, Cheriton. Tel:+44 1792 386-678. E-mail:barnstudios@btopenworld [18]. A converted farm located in north Gower offering residential and day courses in pottery and painting.
  • Gower Bike Ride, Wales's biggest bike ride organised by the British Heart Foundation. Held in summer every year. [19]
  • Gower Festival, [20] 13-26 July 2008. Classical and folk music, recitals, dance and jazz performed at the historic churches that dot the peninsular.
  • Gower Rock Festival 17-18 July 2009. [21]
  • Gower walking festival 6-21 June 2009. Comprises a number of themed walks each led by an experienced guide.
  • Lliw Reservoirs, near the village of Felindre. These small reservoirs are surrounded by recreational footpaths.
  • Oxwich Bay, a picturesque four and a half hour walk as recommended in Times Walks

Driving

A less well known destination in Swansea is the Lliw Uplands which contains some of the best mountain scenery in Wales:

  • City Centre - Llangyfelach - Felindre - Garnswllt - Ammanford

From the city centre, head towards the road junction at Dyfatty lights. Take the second left turning onto Llangyfelach road (B4489) which will take you to the M4 Motorway (Junction 46). Head straight accross the roundabouts on Junction 46. This will take you into the rural area of the Lliw Uplands. From here, much of the road consists of a narrow country lane. Follow this lane though the village of Felindre then on over Mynydd-y-Bettws with stunning views of the Lliw Lalley. The road takes you past Penlle'r Castell - the highest point in Swansea. It then descends into the farming village of Garnswllt and continues to Ammanford.

  • The excellent National Trust store [22] in Rhossili has a good selection of handicrafts and gifts, many with local flavor.
  • Fruit and vegetables from the peninsula's arable farms.
  • Local Produce Gower Wildflower and Local Produce Centre [23], Blackhills Lane, Fairwood Common, opposite Swansea Airport. Sells an assortment of produce from local farms such as Gower wild flowers and Gower salt-marsh lamb.
  • King Arthur's Hotel, Reynolston, +44(1792) 390-775, [24]. Great lunches/dinners in a wonderful traditional country hotel.  edit
  • The Gower Inn, Parkmill, +44(1792) 233-116. A lovely old inn serving traditional pub food as well as some more innovative dishes.  edit
  • Britannia Inn, Llanmadoc, +44(1792) 386-624 (), [25]. A lovely traditional inn near the North Gower Coast, specializing in wholesome meals made with local produce.  edit
  • The King's Head, Llangennith, +44(). Good range of bar meals, including several decent vegetarian options. Good quality versions of typical pub food e.g. curry, pies, lasagne.  edit
  • Fairyhill Hotel and Restaurant, Reynoldston, +44 1792 390-139, [26]. An award winning restaurant serving dishes cooked with local produce  edit
  • Langland's Brasserie, Brynfield Road, Langland., +44(1792) 363699 (), [27]. A fine modern British restaurant located with a fantastic view overlooking Langland Bay  edit
  • Shepard's Village Store, Parkmill. The store has an attached conservatory style cafe - good coffee and food.
  • Compass, main Rhossili road at Reynolston. Tel:+44 1792 391-145. While the cafe itself lacks charm, the food and coffee are good and the service quick and friendly - hearty breakfasts are a specialty.
  • The Bay near the entrance to the parking lot at Rhosilli. This cafe offers great views over Rhossli Bay from the lounge and garden - good food and coffee.
  • Bank Farm Leisure Park, Horton. Tel:+44 1792 390-228. E-mail:bankfarmleisure@aol.com [28]. Ocean views, within walking distance of beach.
  • Beach Walk Parc, Oxwich Bay. Tel:+44 1792 390-337. E-mail:enquiries@beachwalkparc.co.uk [29] Quiet campsite near beach.
  • Llagadranta Farm, Llanmadoc. Tel:+44 1792 386-202.
  • Nicholaston Farm Caravan & Camping, Nicholaston Farm, Penmaen. E-mail: nicholaston.farm@googlemail.com Tel:+44 1792 371-209 [30]. Great sea views and access to beaches via pleasant 10 minute walk through woods and dunes. Cafe and shop on site.
  • Pitton Cross Caravan & Camping Park, Pitton Cross, Rhossili. Tel:+44 1792 390-593. E-mail:enquiries@pittoncross.co.uk [31]. Located near the village of Rhossili.
  • Port Eynon Youth Hostel, Old Lifeboat House, Port Eynon. Tel:0870 770 5998. Fax no:+44 1792 391-623. Email:porteynon@yha.org.uk [32] - located next to sandy beach.
  • Gower Bunkhouse, Borfa House, Port Eynon. Tel:+44 1792 401-548. Fax:+44 1792 403-750. E-mail: mary.devoy@swansea.gov.uk [33] - located near beach - pre-booked groups only. Open: Fri-Sat nights and school vacation times.
  • Rhossili Bunkhouse, Rhossili Activity Centre, Middleton, Rhossili. Tel:+44 1792 401-548 Fax: +44 1792 403-750. E-mail: mary.devoy@swansea.gov.uk [34] - located in rural setting - pre-booked groups only. Open: Fri-Sat nights and school vacation times.
  • Stembridge Mill, Stembridge Mill. Tel:+44 1792 391-640 [35]. A country-house hotel.
  • Culver House, Port Eynon. Tel:+44 1792 390-755. E-mail: stay@culverhousehotel.co.uk [36]. A twelve room guest house located right at the edge of the dunes.
  • Parc-le-Breos House, Penmaen. Tel:+44 1792 371-636 [37]. A converted 19th century farm house in own grounds.
  • Oxwich Bay Hotel, Oxwich. Tel:+44 1792 390-329. E-mail:info@oxwichbayhotel.co.uk [38]. A modern hotel in a fantastic location, but with rather shabby decor and facilities.
  • Britannia Inn, Llanmadoc. Tel:+44 1792 386-624. E-mail: enquiries@britanniainngower.co.uk. [39]. A lovely traditional inn near the North Gower Coast. The inn mostly functions as a pub-cum-restaurant, but it also has a few cozy and pleasantly furnished rooms. A wonderful place to relax and enjoy country hospitality.
  • Bryngwyn Holiday Home, Llanrhidian. Tel:+44 1792 391223. E-mail: book@gowerholidayhome.co.uk. [40]. Very well renovated holiday home offering self catering in Llanrhidian village. Sleeps six to eight.
  • Fairyhill, Fairyhill. Tel:+44 1792 390-139 [41]. A converted country mansion in own grounds. Need car/taxi. Great for walks and contemplation.
  • Oldwalls Resort. Llanrhidian. Tel:+44 1792 391-468. Fax:+44 1792 391-468. [42]. An exclusive resort on the North Gower Coast, offering full recreational facilities, heli-pad, wooded areas and gardens. The resort is within walking distance of beaches and villages. The high security walls make it the perfect place for celebrities and others who want to avoid the public eye.

Talk

The people of South Gower are traditionally English speaking and cannot speak Welsh. However, North Gower and the district of Mawr has a high percentage of Welsh speakers.

Contact

The area dialling code for Gower is the same as Swansea - 01792. From overseas, dial +44 1792 XXX-XXX

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GOWER, a seigniory and district in the county of Glamorgan, lying between the rivers Tawe and Loughor and between Breconshire and the sea, its length from the Breconshire border to Worm's Head being 28 m., and its breadth about 8 m. It corresponds to the ancient commote of Gower (in Welsh Gwyr) which in early Welsh times was grouped with two other commotes stretching westwards to the Towy and so formed part of the principality of Ystrad Tywi. Its early association with the country to the west instead of with Glamorgan is perpetuated by its continued inclusion in the diocese of St Davids, its two rural deaneries, West and East Gower, being in the archdeaconry of Carmarthen. What is meant by Gower in modern popular usage, however, is only the peninsular part or "English Gower" (that is the Welsh Bro-wyr, as distinct from Gwyr proper), roughly corresponding to the hundred of Swansea and lying mainly to the south of a line drawn from Swansea to Loughor.

The numerous limestone caves of the coast are noted for their immense deposits of animal remains, but their traces of man are far scantier, those found in Bacon Hole and in Paviland cave being the most important. In the Roman period the river Tawe, or the great morass between it and the Neath, probably formed the boundary between the Silures and the Goidelic population to the west. The latter, reinforced perhaps from Ireland, continued to be the dominant race in Gower till their conquest or partial expulsion in the 4th century by the sons of Cunedda who introduced a Brythonic element into the district. Centuries later Scandinavian rovers raided the coasts, leaving traces of their more or less temporary occupation in such place-names as Burry Holms, Worms Head and Swansea, and probably also in some cliff earthworks. About the year I roo the conquest of Gower was undertaken by Henry de Newburgh, first earl of Warwick, with the assistance of Maurice de Londres and others. His followers, who were mostly Englishmen from the marches and Somersetshire with perhaps a sprinkling of Flemings, settled for the most part on the southern side of the peninsula, leaving the Welsh inhabitants of the northern half of Gower practically undisturbed. These invaders were probably reinforced a little later by a small detachment of the larger colony of Flemings which settled in south Pembrokeshire. Moated mounds, which in some cases developed into castles, were built for the protection of the various manors into which the district was parcelled out, the castles of Swansea and Loughor being ascribed to the earl of Warwick and that of Oystermouth to Maurice de Londres. These were repeatedly attacked and burnt by the Welsh during the 12th and 13th centuries, notably by Griffith ap Rhys in 1113, by his son the Lord Rhys in 1189, by his grandsons acting in concert with Llewelyn the Great in 1215, and by the last Prince Llewelyn in 1257. With the Norman conquest the feudal system was introduced, and the manors were held in capite of the lord by the tenure of castle-guard of the castle of Swansea, the ca put baroniae. About 1189 the lordship passed from the Warwick family to the crown and was granted in 1203 by King John to William de Braose, in whose family it remained for over 120 years except for three short intervals when it was held for a second time by King John (1211-1215), by Llewelyn the Great (1216-1223), and the Despensers (c. 1323-1326). In 1208 the Welsh and English inhabitants who had frequent cause to complain of their treatment, received each a charter, in similar terms, from King John, who also visited the town of Swansea in 1210 and in 1215 granted its merchants liberal privileges. In 1283 a number of de Braose's tenants - unquestionably Welshmen - left Gower for the royal lordship of Carmarthen, declaring that they would live under the king rather than under a lord marcher. In the following year the king visited de Braose at Oystermouth Castle, which seems to have been made the lord's chief residence, after the destruction of Swansea Castle by Llewelyn. Later on the king's officers of the newly organized county of Carmarthen repeatedly claimed jurisdiction over Gower, thereby endeavouring to reduce its status from that of a lordship marcher with semi-regal jurisdiction, into that of an ordinary constituent of the new county. De Braose resisted the claim and organized the English part of his lordship on the lines of a county palatine, with its own comitatus and chancery held in Swansea Castle, the sheriff and chancellor being appointed by himself. The inhabitants, who had no right of appeal to the crown against their lord or the decisions of his court, petitioned the king, who in 1305 appointed a special commission to enquire into their alleged grievances, but in the following year the de Braose of the time, probably in alarm, conceded liberal privileges both to the burgesses of Swansea and to the English and Welsh inhabitants of his "county" of English Gower. He was the last lord seignior to live within the seigniory, which passed from him to his son-in-law John de Mowbray. Other troubles befell the de Braose barons and their successors in title, for their right to the lordship was contested by the Beauchamps, representatives of the earlier earls of Warwick, in prolonged litigation carried on intermittently from 1278 to 1396, the Beauchamps being actually in possession from 1354, when a decision was given in their favour, till its reversal in 1396. It then reverted to the Mowbrays and was held by them until the 4th duke of Norfolk exchanged it in 1489, for lands in England, with William Herbert, earl of Pembroke. The latter's granddaughter brought it to her husband Charles Somerset, who in 1506 was granted her father's subtitle of Baron Herbert of Chepstow, Raglan and Gower, and from him the lordship has descended to the present lord, the duke of Beaufort.

Gower was made subject to the ordinary law of England by its inclusion in 1535 in the county of Glamorgan as then reorganized; its chancery, which from about the beginning of the 14th century had been located at Oystermouth Castle, came to an end, but though the Welsh acts of 1535 and 1542 purported to abolish the rights and privileges of the lords marchers as conquerors, yet some of these, possibly from being regarded as private rights, have survived into modern times. For instance, the seignior maintained a franchise gaol in Swansea Castle till 1858, when it was abolished by act of parliament, the appointment of coroner for Gower is still vested in him, all writs are executed by the lord's officers instead of by the officers of the sheriff for the county, and the lord's rights to the foreshore, treasure trove, felon's goods and wrecks are undiminished.

The characteristically English part of Gower lies to the south and south-west of its central ridge of Cefn y Bryn. It was this part that was declared by Professor Freeman to be "more Teutonic than Kent itself." The seaside fringe lying between this area and the town of Swansea, as well as the extreme north-west of the peninsula, also became anglicized at a comparatively early date, though the place-names and the names of the inhabitants are still mainly Welsh. The present line of demarcation between the two languages is one drawn from Swansea in a W.N.W. direction to Llanrhidian on the north coast. It has remained practically the same for several centuries, and is likely to continue so, as it very nearly coincides with the southern outcrop of the coal measures, the industrial population to the north being Welsh-speaking, the agriculturists to the south being English. In 1901 the Gower rural district (which includes the Welsh-speaking industrial parish of Llanrhidian, with about three-sevenths of the total population) had 64.5% of the population above three years of age that spoke English only, 5.2% that spoke Welsh only, the remainder being bilinguals, as compared with 17% speaking English only, 17.7 speaking Welsh only and the rest bilinguals in the Swansea rural district, and 7% speaking English only, 55.2 speaking Welsh only and the rest bilinguals in the Pontardawe rural district, the last two districts constituting Welsh Gower.

More than one-fourth of the whole area of Gower is unenclosed common land, of which in English Gower fully one-half is apparently capable of cultivation. Besides the demesne manors of the lord seignior, six in number, there are some twelve mesne manors and fees belonging to the Penrice estate, and nearly twenty more belonging to various other owners. The tenure is customary freehold, though in some cases described as copyhold, and in the ecclesiastical manor of Bishopston, descent is by borough English. The holdings are on the whole probably smaller in size than in any other area of corresponding extent in Wales, and agriculture is still in a backward state.

In the Arthurian romances Gower appears in the form of Goire as the island home of the dead, a view which probably sprang up among the Celts of Cornwall, to whom the peninsula would appear as an island. It is also surmised by Sir John Rhys that Malory's Brandegore (i.e. Bran of Gower) represents the Celtic god of the other world (Rhys, Arthurian Legend, 160, 329 et seq.). On Cefn Bryn, almost in the centre of the peninsula, is a cromlech with a large capstone known as Arthur's Stone. The unusually large number of cairns on this hill, given as eighty by Sir Gardner Wilkinson, suggests that this part of Gower was a favourite burial-place in early British times.

See Rev. J. D. Davies, A History of West Gower (4 vols., 18 771894); Col. W. LI-Morgan, An Antiquarian Survey of East Gower (1899); an article (probably by Professor Freeman) entitled "Anglia Trans-Walliana" in the Saturday Review for May 20, 1876; "The Signory of Gower" by G. T. Clark in Archaeologia Cambrensis for 1893-1894; The Surveys of Gower and Kilvey, ed. by Baker and Grant-Francis (1861-1870). (D. LL. T.)


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