Grid point on route: SS 75339 97795
Neath had two castles. The one in the centre of the town was established by Robert, Earl of Gloucester (founder of Margam Abbey), some time between 1114 and 1130. The stone buildings you can see are later, and the gatehouse to the north was built in the 1320s. The castle was virtually demolished in 1321, after the war between Edward II’s lover Thomas le Despenser and the rebellious English lords, and subsequently rebuilt. Edward II himself took refuge here before his capture and gruesome death in 1327.
The other castle was across the river. It was built by Robert’s lieutenant Richard de Granville, probably in the mid 1120s. Richard had defeated the Welsh on the west bank of the Neath but was subsequently forced to come to terms with them and restore some of their land. It was he who founded the abbey on the west bank of the river, in the shadow of his castle. It was probably the monks who demolished this castle, when Richard had moved back across the river to take over as constable of the main castle in the town.