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Culver Hole Dovecote and cave

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Map ReferenceSS48SE
Grid ReferenceSS4653084570
Unitary (Local) AuthoritySwansea
Old CountyGlamorgan
CommunityPort Eynon
PeriodPost Medieval

1. The Culver Hole Dovecot is an unusual feature where a natural cave, the mouth of which is between 3 to 6m wide, has been closed off by a 16m high wall, 3.6m thick at its base and tapering upwards. There are two round-headed windows and a circular opening that pierce the wall, which has roughly 30 tiers of nesting boxes and a narrow stairway within. It is medieval in date, and discussion of this site has tended to concentrate on the search for a parent manorial house. There is a quasi-legendary connection with the Salt House, but Culver Hole itself has been suggested as a medieval stronghold.

RCAHMW, 2002.

2. CULVER HOLE, a curiously constructed dovecot in a cave on the W. side of Port-Eynon Point. The high narrow entrance to the cave, which is in a tide-flooded cleft in the rocks, is blocked by a massive stone wall of mortared limestone rubble, about 19 m high though now ruined towards the top. Its width varies between 1.5 m and 5 m according to the position of the natural rock sides of the cleft; its thickness is 3-25 m at the base but this is reduced internally in four stages to 60 cm at the top.

Under the base of the wall a small opening between the narrowing rock walls (at present below the beach level) has been allowed for drainage. The cave extends inwards for 14.5 m at the base but narrows to 6 m at a height of 7 m. At 4 m above the beach is a doorway 1-7 m tall, with a segmental arched head, giving access to the lowest of four internal platforms. From this a rough stone stair rises eastward to a second stage, lit by a similar opening (at 7.3 m above the beach) 1.25 m tall with a sloping internal sill.

 From the second platform there is an ill-defined crossing to a small N.E. extension of the cave, and a second stair[1]way again rising eastward to a third stage which is lit by a circular window 1 m in diameter at a height of 9-5 m above the beach. From the third platform a flight of steps on the W. terminates against the rock face. At a height of 14.3 m above the beach is another circular window, but without a platform; and finally at 17 m are the remains of a narrow fourth stage which had a small rectangular opening to the exterior.

The internal face of the wall at all the stages is honey[1]combed with irregular tiers of square nesting boxes, and these are found also on both reveals of the two lower rectangular openings. The structure has been variously described as a castle, a smugglers' den, and a pigeon-house. The castle of Port Eynon is mentioned in 1396 but its location is unknown; the belief that the Culver Hole was a fortified portion of it is probably due to a fancied resemblance to the works on the face of the cliff at Carreg Cennen Castle in Carmarthenshire. It was certainly used as a pigeon-house and such was prob[1]ably its original intention. It is mentioned in 1811 and is conceivably much older; Llewelyn Morgan quoted from an untraced history of the family of Lucas who, apparently in the late 15th or early 16th century, built the Salt House at Port Eynon 'and repaired another stronghold called Kulvered Hall near thereunto in the rocks, and rendered both inaccessible save for passage thereinto through the Clift’

Notes: 1. J. M. Lewis, Carreg Cennen Castle (H.M.S.O. Guide, 1960); 2. Carlisle, Top. Diet, of Wales (1811); 3 Ministers' Accounts for 1399 and 1428 record 2d. for the issues of 'the dovecote in the clyve' at Pennard, possibly meant for Culver Hole. At the latter date it was in the tenure of Nicholas Rich and was said to be 'totally ruined and laid waste.' L. Davies, Pennard and West Gower (1928), pp, 18, 67. 4 Swansea Scientific Soc, Ann. Rep. 1910-11, pp. 140-6; Arch. Camb., 1920, pp. 339-42.

Source: RCAHMW 1982: An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Glamorgan. Volume III: Medieval Secular Monuments. Part II: Non-defensive. HMSO. No, MI 5, Port Einon. p. 362. Plans and sections p. 363.

3. The cave appears to have served a ritual or votive use in the Iron Age (Driver 2023, 237). An 8cm-high Late Iron Age or Romano-British bronze figurine, dating from between the first century BC to the second century AD, was found in Culver Hole Cave, southern Gower, in 2016 and reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Professor Miranda Aldhouse Green notes its similarities to other statuettes including a coastal example from Aust on the Severn Estuary. She writes that the figure: ‘... should be interpreted, perhaps, not as necessarily that of a god or goddess but rather as some kind of religious official or priest, who could be male or female. If the headdress does represent the crescent-moon, its context deep in a dark cavern lends further nuances to its significance, as an illumination in the perpetual night of a cave’. (Portable Antiquities Scheme, Unique ID: NMGW-0322B4. Record ID: NMGW-0322B4 - ROMAN figurine (

Source: Driver, T. 2023. The Hillforts of Iron Age Wales. Logaston Press.

Updated by T. Driver, RCAHMW, 2024.