Constructed between 1768 and 1775 Morris Castle or Castle Graig, forms a striking feature on the Swansea skyline. The “Castle” was the brainchild of John Morris, son of Robert Morris – The founder of Morriston (Morris Town).
The Morris Family
The Morris family played a huge part in the industrialisation of Swansea. Robert Morris of Morris, Lockwood and Co., acquired Dr Lane’s Llangyfelach copper works in 1727 and in 1745 opened the Forest Copper Works. To ensure a stable supply of coal to power the copper works, Morris bought existing and opened new coal mines in Plasmarl, Landore and Treboeth. This expansion eventually led to the construction of Castle Graig.
What was Morris Castle?
The ruins were not in fact a castle, but were a very early block of 40 flats, built by Morris to house his workers. In its prime it was home to “40 families, all colliers excepting one tailor and on shoe-maker, who are considered as useful appendages to the fraternity” Walter Davies 1814.
The building was rectangular in form, with 3 storey crenelated towers at the corners. The towers were connected by 2 storey ranges, all enclosing a courtyard. Each corner tower had three storeys and a basement. The rooms each had a fireplace with common flue – with fireplaces still visible today. Constructed from local stone, with block copper slag blocks used to create a low cost decorative effect. The gothic structure was extraordinary, but far from refined.
The building can be seen depicted in its original glory in the John Warwick Smith watercolour, currently on display at the Glynn Vivian gallery.
Today the ruins of Castle Graig (Morris Castle), are a much loved, but neglected icon in Swansea. A landmark building for locals and something of a mystery for visitors. However, the castle was not so popular amongst its inhabitants. Its isolated location, difficult access and lack of water supply would have made it a difficult place to live, especially after a long hard day at the coal face.
Conserving the Ruins of Castle Graig
The isolated position of the ruins are perhaps part of the reason for its continued neglect. In the early 1990’s the northern part of the eastern standing wall collapsed and now lies overgrown with brambles and weeds. Despite this and its continued deterioration, very little has been done to conserve the remaining standing ruins.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. a recent social media campaign to save Castle Graig has once again drawn attention to the plight of the ruins. The Friends of Morris Castle hope to take the ruins into trust, which could possibly lead to the conservation of the ruins and perhaps even re-use of the site.