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Penrice - Gazetteers

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales by Samuel Lewis 1833

"PENRICE, or PEN-RHYS, a parish in the hundred of SWANSEA, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, 13 miles (W. S. W.) from Swansea, containing 362 inhabitants.

This place is said to have derived its name, signifying " the head of Rhys," from the circumstance of Rhys ab Caradoc ab Iestyn having been defeated and slain here, in defending his territories from the aggression of a party of Norman invaders. According to other authorities, the place is said to have obtained its name from the family of Penrice, who accompanied William the Conqueror into England, and afterwards obtained a settlement in Gower, in the reign of Edward I.

The ancient castle, of which there are still some remains, is supposed to have been originally one of the fortresses raised by the Earl of Warwick, for the defence of the territory of Gower, which he had subjected to his authority, and to have been conveyed, together with the lordship, by marriage with Isabel, daughter and heiress of Sir John Penrice, to Sir Hugh Mansel, in the reign of Henry V. The property remained in the possession of this family till the year 1750, when, in default of heirs male, it passed to the second son of Mary, youngest daughter of Sir Thomas, afterwards Lord Mansel, who had been married to John Ivery Talbot, Esq., of Laycock Abbey, in the county of Wilts.

The parish is situated on the western shore of Oxwich bay, in the Bristol channel, and comprises a moderate portion of arable and pasture land, the latter of which has been for the greater part recovered from the sea. The village is neatly built and of prepossessing appearance; the surrounding scenery is pleasingly diversified, and enriched with wood ; and the views over the bay and the surrounding country are not destitute of interest.

Near the remains of the ancient castle stands the modern villa called Penrice Castle, the seat of the family of Talbot : the mansion, which is a handsome edifice, was erected by the late Mr. Talbot, with stone brought from the quarries of Margam ; and the grounds, which are laid out with great taste, and ornamented with a large artificial sheet of water, well stocked with fish, comprehend a variety of pleasing scenery.

At the distance of about half a mile from the house is Oxwich marsh, an extensive tract, partly in the parish of Penrice, and partly in those of Oxwich and Nicholaston adjoining : it was formerly overflowed by the sea at high water, but was recovered by means of an embankment, constructed at the expense and under the superintendence of Mr. Talbot : it was also drained by a broad ditch cut on the north side, which empties itself by flood gates into a rivulet or pill communicating with the sea. This tract, which is more than two hundred acres in extent, affords excellent pasturage for cattle and horses, but the sheep that feed in it are now invariably subject to the rot, from which they were always free previously to the exclusion of the sea water.

A market was formerly held here, and there are remains of the ancient market-place in the present village : fairs are still held on May 17th, June 20th, July 17th, and September 17th.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry of Carmarthen, and diocese of St. David's, endowed with £800 royal bounty, and in the patronage of C. R. M. Talbot, Esq. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, and situated on the summit of a hill, is an ancient structure with a lofty tower, which, being partly mantled with ivy, is both a conspicuous and picturesque object, as seen from the sea, and from the grounds of Penrice castle. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists at Horton.

Sarah Bennet, in 1735, bequeathed £ 15 to the poor of the parish.

The remains of Penrice castle occupy the summit of a high rock commanding Oxwich bay, and from its ruins it appears to have been of great strength and magnificence.

Near the village are vestiges of an ancient intrenchment; and at a short distance is an old house, called the Sanctuary, which is said to have belonged to the manor of Millwood, or St. John's, the property of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem.

Several ancient Saxon coins have recently been found here.

The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £ 61. 3."

A Topographical Dictionary of The Dominion of Wales by Nicholas Carlisle, London, 1811.

"PEN RHYS, in the Cwmwd of Gwyr, Cantref of Eginog (now called the Hundred of Swansea), County of GLAMORGAN, South Wales: a Perpetual Curacy, not in charge, of the certified value of £5.: Patron, Lord Vernon: Church dedicated to St. Andrew. The Resident Population of this Parish, in 1801, (consisting of the Villages of Horton, and Pen Rhys) was 289. The Money raised by the Parish Rates, in 1803, was £63..7..4, at 5s. 6d. in the pound. It is 12 m. W.S.W. from Swansea. It is entitled to a Market on Thursday, but it is now disused. The Fairs are holden on the 17th of May, 17th of July, 17th of September, and 5th of December, old St. Andrew's Day. This Parish contains 1849 acres of Land. It is situate on Oxwich Bay, in the Bristol Channel: and the Village is remarkably neat, and well shelteted with wood. The great Tythes belong to Lord Vernon. The present most worthy Curate, The Rev. JOHN COLLINS, Senr., very obligingly adds, "Penrice Castle, from its ruins, seems to have been magnificent: it is said to have been built soon after the Norman Conquest. Sir Hugh Mansel, Knt., married Isabel, sister, and sole Heiress of Sir John Penrice, Knt., Lord of Oxwich and other large Territories in the County of Glamorgan. Very near to the Village of Penrice, is an old Intrenchment. Near the Castle, stands the Mansion erected by the present possessor and occupier, THOMAS MANSEL TALBOT, Esq., and which is a well built and finished house. It was chiefly built of stone brought from some Quarries at Margam, which is of an excellent quality, and bears cutting. The grounds at Penrice are laid out in a beautiful manner: a large sheet of water, abounding with fish, lies below the House, and adds much to the scenery. The Flower Garden is worthy the notice of the Botanist, being well stocked with choice flowers, and laid out under the direction of Lady Mary Talbot, second daughter of the late Earl of Ilchester. About half a mile from the House is a marshy piece of ground, called Oxwich Marsh, but lying in the Parishes of Oxwich, Pen Rhys, and Nicholaston, which was formerly overflowed by the Sea at high water, but recovered within these twenty years by means of a mud Sea-wall, at the expense of Mt. Talbot. A large ditch is also cut round the North side of it, for the purpose of drainage, which empties itself by means of iron flood-gates into the Pill communicating with the Sea: and a further precaution is taken by carrying a wide channel through the Marsh. This ground, consisting of nearly two hundred acres, is now become an excellent pasture for Cattle and Horses: before the sea was excluded, it was remarkably healthy for Sheep, but it is now quite the contrary, as they are invariably infected with the rot, if suffered to feed there. In the Village of Penrice (formerly a Town) stands the ancient Market Place, where the Pedlers and Hawkers expose their respective goods for sale on the Fair days. The Church, which is a remarkably neat one, stands close to the Village, and at a distance appears a pleasing object, particularly from the grounds at Penrice Castle: Mr. Talbot has raised the Tower, and otherwise much improved it: and Lord Vernon permits Mr. Talbot to have the nomination of the Perpetual Curate, being his Parish Church. The House, called The Sanctuary, at a little distance from the Village, is said to have belonged to the Manor of Millkwood, or St. John's, the property of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem.  According to the Diocesan Report, in 1809, the yearly value of this Benefice, arising from Augmentation, fixed Stipend, and Surplice Fees, was £37.

[Last Updated : 30 Jan 2005 - Gareth Hicks]