A brief history of Gower
Excavations at Paviland Cave show that Gower was inhabited by Paleolithic cave dwellers about 25000 years ago. At this time Britain was joined to mainland Europe and the Bristol Channel would have been a grassy plain where animals such as mammoth and reindeer roamed.
There were considerable variations in climate ranging from a mini ice age around 10,000BC followed by a warmer period which led to the formation of woodlands and fertile soil.
About 5000BC the first farmers had settled in Gower alongside the indigenous cave dwelling hunters. A restored Neolithic burial chamber dated around 2500BC is found at Parc le Breos near Parkmill.
The Bronze and Iron Age saw the development of fortified settlements usually located on high ground known as Hill forts. The most notable one in Gower is on Harding’s Down.
In AD 50 the Romans invaded Wales in AD 50 and established a garrison in nearby Loughor some ten or twenty years later. Items excavated from the site including iron nails and pieces of glass are on display at the Swansea Museum.
A Roman villa is said to have been located at at Oystermouth with mosaic remains from it having been found around All Saints church. Excavations in 1962 at Barlands Quarry near Kittle unearthed a number of Roman artefacts including a Bronze brooch and pieces of Samia ware pottery dating from around 200AD.
After the Romans left Britain around 400 AD Gower was relatively free of outside influence until the Normans arrived after their conquest of England in 1066. This was a time of much unrest and many battles as the Welsh tried to drive out the invaders.
It was during the rule of the Anglo Normans that south Gower became Anglicised.
Oystermouth Castle was one of many castles originally built by the Normans and the ruins of the splendid mansion houses they built in Gower are found at Weobley and Oxwich castles.
The Le Breos family were granted the Lordship of Gower and today it is possible to walk through the estate visiting Cathole Cave and Green Cwm burial chamber near Parkmill.
The Present Day City and County of Swansea is much the same area as the land under the Lordship of Gower.
However a history of Gower would not be complete without a mention of two trades which have long since disappeared from the peninsula: - limestone quarrying and smuggling!
In the 18th and 19th centuries limestone was an important source of income for the inhabitants of Gower .It was quarried from the steep cliffs near beaches like Port Eynon, and loaded onto boats at low tide. The boats returned to towns such as Bideford on the north Devon coast. There remains to this day some of the blue-green stones along the shoreline which the ships used as ballast for the journey from Devon and there are disused lime kilns in many areas of Gower.
Local lime was also used to whitewash the cottages on Gower and spread on fields to improve the soil.
The secluded bays and
coves of south Gower were ideal places for smugglers to land their
illegal cargoes. Pwll Du bay and Brandy Cove in particular were used
as the alcohol and tobacco could be secretly loaded on horses and
transported through the Bishopston Valley to staging posts such as
Highway Farm , Pennard. It was not until the early nineteeth century
that Customs Officers from Swansea managed to route out this illegal
activity on Gower.
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