Kenfig is situated next to the coast of Glamorgan, just a short distance from Pyle.
The earliest reference that we have of Kenfig is in a document dated 1141-7.
Archaeological evidence has suggested that Kenfig has been occupied since the time of the Romans. Evidence that supports this includes finds of Roman pottery, a roof tile and -a coin with a depiction of the emperor Constans (337 - 350AD) upon it. There is also a Roman road that runs through the borough of Kenfig which includes milestones at Margam and Pyle. The milestones carry the inscriptions of both emperors Postumus (259 – 268 A.D.) and Victorinus (268 - 270 A.D.) The surrounding landscape has fetched finds including Neolithic arrowheads, a dwelling and burial urn which have led many people to believe that Kenfig has been occupied for at least 4000 years.
It is thought that many Iron Age settlements were constructed near the North and East of Kenfig. The people that inhabited the area at that time were known as ‘Silures’. These ‘Silures’ were a powerful tribe that existed during the time of ancient Britain, occupying Glamorganshire and Breconshire amongst other areas of South Wales, and it is thought that they also held occupancy in Gloucestershire and Hereforshire. The ‘Silures’ in this area of Glamorgan were led by Bodvoc, the son of Caitegern. The ‘Silures’ made a fierce resistance against the Roman invaders including imprisoning them and taking some as hostages. Although we can see that the hatred towards the Romans was very vivid it is thought that rather than being defeated by the Romans they actually came to terms with the Romans and their occupation.
With the Roman’s converting to Christianity during 315 AD most of the pagan tribes of Kenfig were forced to trade their usual lives and God’s for a more Christian and Roman life. By 410AD the Roman Empire was losing its importance with troops from Britain being sent to fight in Rome. This eventually opened the doors to various groups of raiders including the Irish, the Angles, the Saxons and Vikings. It is thought that the Vikings may have settled at Kenfig with the names ‘Sker’ and ‘Kenfig’ having Viking origin.
By the 11th century the Normans had invaded Britain, Glamorgan was no exception.
Glamorgan was conquered by Robert FitzHamon and his ‘Twelve Knights’ during c.1075.
He took control of the surrounding areas including Kenfig, there a wooden castle was built along with a Church dedicated to St James. A town was then later established. On the 13th of January 1167, the town was raided forcing the castle to be replaced with a stone tower that would dominate Kenfig for the next 300 years.
The dissolution of the monasteries during the time of King Henry VIII forced many of the monks of Kenfig and the nearby Margam Abbey to flee the area. All the property then became the property of the Crown. The areas were then sold to various buyers. The areas of Margam, Pyle, Stormy, Kenfig Higher and the coal pits of Cefn Cribbwr were sold in 1546 to a Sir Rice Mansel of Oxwich and Penrice of the Gower. The Lordship of Kenfig belonged to King Henry VIII at that time but was sold to Sir William Herbert, the First Earl of Pembroke c.1550.
The 1570 survey of Kenfig shows that there were several tenants holding land within the area, these include:
- Richard Thomas: Holding the Grange at Marlas and 15 burgages in the Old Town.
- William Jenkin Armiger: Holding ground at Kenfig Pool.
The population during the early part of the 1600’s was around 200 people. This included a church and village at Maudlam, a few house at Ton Kenfig and the Sker estate which was being occupied by the Turberville family.
In 1607 there was a very violent storm which led to many people of that area losing their lives, when the lowlands became flooded.
During the mid 17th century only one cottage near ‘Old Kenfig’ held occupants.
Sir William Herbert later (1668) sold his estate, which included the castle to Sir Edward Mansel of Margam for the sum of £520.
The Mansel-Talbot family inherited both of these until the estate was later broken up during 1941.
Time Team at Kenfig: Aired 18/03/2012
Read More About Kenfig's History
Images: Kenfig Castle, Donovan (1805)
Tribes of Wales at the Time of the Roman Invasion
King Henry VIII