• Gower Villages


Dominated by Three Cliffs Nursing Home, a former workhouse, Penmaen (meaning Stone Top) is little more than a small scattering of houses along the main A4118 South Gower Road. Backed by the sharply rising eastern slope of Cefn Bryn, it is a decorative village and, despite its small size, is one of the richest archaeological sites on the whole of the peninsula. It also offers some superb views over towards Pennard Castle and Three Cliffs Bay.

Penmaen Burrows, located behind the village on the cliff top 200 feet above Tor Bay, can appear a sparse wilderness of coarse grass and sand, yet to the observant eye it contains important traces of Gower's ancient heritage. To begin with there are the traces of a large artificial rabbit warren. Known as the Pillow Mound, this was built when rabbits were first introduced to Britain by Norman Invaders. Such warrens provided the villagers with an important source of food and this is a fine relic of early Norman farming in the area. Today, the site appears as a long, low mound with accompanying shallow ditches.

Penmaen Church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, dates from 14th century but is not the area's original church. The earlier church, like most of the village's historic interest, was located on the Burrows and was only discovered in 1861 after a fragment of painted glass was discovered on a sand dune there. Excavated, the site revealed the remains of 9 skeletons, six of whom appeared to have been hastily buried in a single grave. This has increased speculation that the area was vacated due to the presence of the Plague. An incense burner, shaped in the image of Jerusalem, was also found during the excavation and can now be seen at Swansea Museum. A stone walled depression in the dunes is all that remains of the church now but the building's Nave and Chancel can both still be made out. Surrounding this early church, now also buried beneath the sand dunes, are the remains of a very ancient village. Known as Steadworlango, this village is believed to have to have been a Viking settlement. Scant physical evidence now remains of the site.

Penmaen Old Castle, located on the cliff overlooking Tor Bay, is a Norman defensive earthwork (of motte and bailey design) dating from the 12th century. An excavation in 1960 revealed the remains of both a stone and a timber building as well as evidence of a tower which had been damaged by a great fire. Today, the site consists of a huge circular bank of stone that is fronted by a deep ditch. Penmaen Old Castle is the most accessible of Gower's ringworks.

Penmaen Megalithic Tomb, also known Pen-y-Crug, is a large communal tomb of what is believed to be the first community to settle on the peninsula some 5,500 years ago. The tomb was excavated in 1893 when human and animal bones were found amongst various items of pottery.

Located high in the great spur of rock that rises from Tor Bay to the raised heights of Penmaen Burrows are a small series of chambered passages that lead deep into the cliff. Known as Leather's Hole, the bones of both Mammoth and Rhinoceros have been discovered here. Given that this cave is believed to have never possessed easy access, these bones must have been carried into this cave by scavenging wolves and hyenas.

  • The Gower : Penmaen
    The Gower : Penmaen

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