The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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Port Eynon Salthouse
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 00192w Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Port Eynon Unitary authority : Swansea NGR : SS4693184645 Site Type (preferred type first) : Post-Medieval Salt works Status : Scheduled Monument
Summary : Situated on Port Eynon Point overlooking the bay are the ruins known as `The Salt House'. The site consists of 3 stone built structures, partially buried by the sand. It is a scheduled ancient monument and has been extensively excavated by GGAT.
Description : Situated on Port Eynon Point overlooking the bay are the ruins of a building known as `The Salt House'. These ruins lie outside NT property, it is a scheduled ancient monument and has been extensively excavated by GGAT. The site consists of a set of stone built structures, some now hidden beneath the sands. The beach structures consist of 3 stone lined chambers with walls over lm thick, the largest chamber being 20m by 3m. At a higher level are a group of 2 storey buildings with thick fortified walls. This site has attracted some interesting stories about its history. The so-called historical annotation of the Lucas family claimed the building was erected in the mid 16th century, and fortified by John Lucas, who also apparently also fortified Culver Hole, connecting the two via an underground passage. From this stronghold, aided by a group of lawless men, he engaged in piracy, resisting all attempt by the authorities to dislodge him. The history claims that 7 generations later another John Lucas found a rich vein of paint mineral and exported if from his base at the Salt House but shortly after his death the building was ruined in a storm. The name of the building was said to come the fact that the sea washed against the battlements. Although interesting this history was later shown to be a fabricated family history written by the Rev. Dr. J.H. Spry during the 1830s in connection with a family lawsuit over the ownership of property. The steady erosion of the site by the sea prompted excavation of the site, undertaken by GGAT in 1986-8 and again from 1990-3, which revealed the true history of the site. It appears to have been originally built in the mid 16th century as a site of salt production. The main building still visible today was used for occupation and storage whilst three large chambers on the beach were used for the salt production. The site was chosen for the high salinity of the bay with little fresh water contamination. The sea water would enter the beach chambers at high tide where it would be stored in a reservoir. The water would be pumped into large iron pans and slowly heated and evaporated. As the salt formed it would be scooped off and stored in the northern part of the main building to dry. The first knowledge of a salt house at Port Eynon comes from a letter written in the 16th century about a ship carrying salt out of Port Eynon. A `saullt house' in Port Eynon is also mentioned in a document of 1598. It would seem Welsh salt houses of the later 16th century were amongst the most advanced of their day. The value of the salt is perhaps shown by the fact the site was enlarged and fortified during the 17th century, with the inclusion of musket loops within the thick walls. It appears salt production ceased around the mid 17th century. Some of the structures were subsequently demolished but occupation continued in the main house. The most recent being the use of the northern end as oystermen's cottages, which were finally abandoned c1880. (02; Poucher 2003-4; White 1996; Lucas 1980; Wilkinson 1986; Wilkinson 1988; Wilkinson, Locock & Sell 1998).
The site is depicted on the first edition OS map of 1879 as two NW-SE aligned buildings, that to the south, smaller and L-shaped; formed by a projection to the SW (1st ed.1:2500 OS map).
Cadw , Application for Grant Aid
GGAT , Digital photograph (5); Port Eynon Salt House
Lucas, R.L.T. , 1980 , The Pirates of Porteynon , The Journal of the Gower Society : 31 : 11-22
Ordnance Survey , 1st Edition OS map 1:2500
Poucher, P. , 2003-4 , Archaeological Survey: The South Gower Coastal Properties: Mewslade - Port Eynon, Pilton Green, Pitton Cross and Oxwich
White, A , 1996 , The Salt Houses of Gower , The Journal of the Gower Society : 47 : 6-16
Wilkinson, P. , 1986 , Port Eynon Salt House , Archaeology in Wales : 26 : 63-4
Wilkinson, P. , 1988 , Port Eynon Salt House , Archaeology in Wales : 28 : 84
Wilkinson, P.F, Locock, M. and Sell, S. , 1998 , A 16th-century saltworks at Port Eynon, Gower , Post-Medieval Archaeology : 32 : 3-32
01/Pm Desc Text/Cadw/1995/SAM List
02. P Poucher (2003-04) The National Trust Archaeological Survey: The South Gower Coastal Properties, Mewslade - Port Eynon, Pilton Green, Pilton Cross and Oxwich
Gower Vol.XLVII : Gower Vol.XLVII, 1996, p6 - 16, The Salt Houses of Gower by Albert White
Events : E001377 : Waterfronts in Southeast Wales:phase 2 (year : 2005) E003363 : Salt house at Port Eynon, Gower, 1986-88 (year : 1986-88) E004913 : The National Trust Archaeological Survey: South Gower Coastal Properties (year : 2003-4)