The Peninsula of Gower is only 15 miles long (east to west) by about 6 miles wide (north to south), although the historic region of Gower also included a lot of land inland to the north-east. While many people have heard of the little England beyond England in South Pembrokeshire, Gower remains an enigma. Until the outbreak of the 2nd world war, it was still largely a region of small farming communities with its own dialect and traditions. Its unique character was forged from its mix of Welsh, Somerset/North Devon and Norman ancestry. Many words of the dialect were similar to those found in the West Country. Gower can be divided into the “Welsherie” in the north, where Welsh was spoken – the communities of Penclawdd and Llanrhidian for example – and the English or “Gower” speaking districts – the south of Gower and Llangennith in the north-west.
A Corn Mill was established on this site sometime during the 12th century, as part of the estate belonging to the powerful Le Breos family, who were granted sovereignty of Gower by King John in 1203. The first written references to the Mill appear in government records from about 1300 onwards. The Le Breos hold over Gower was under constant threat both from rebellion and lawsuits, in particular from the de Newburg family of Warwick, whose predecessors had controlled Gower after the Norman conquest, but lost their land and estates to King John when he asserted his power as a guardian to a minor of the family. Incidentally, when the Norman Lords took over this part of Gower, apart from building Pennard Castle, they shipped in farmers from North Devon and Somerset to replace the Welsh inhabitants. Thus began the close links between Gower and the other side of the Bristol Channel, links that can be traced through place names (Pennard), family names and especially the old Gower dialect, which contained many words also found in Somerset and Devon dialects, with an accent not unlike that of those counties.
The links continued through the centuries, with the limestone trade in the 18th & 19th centuries (Gower/North Devon) and the copper ore ship trade in the 19th century (Devon/Swansea/Prince Edward Island/South America). The Le Breos family established Parc Le Breos, a deer park of about 500 acres on land to the west of Parkmill, used for both deer hunting and military training. Significant parts of the park can still be found today. It is likely that the Mill was established as part of the park development serving the needs of the locality, grinding oats for animal meal and barley for daily bread. The Mill was a “custom” or “toll” mill. Local farmers were compelled to bring their corn to the Mill for grinding and pay proper dues to the estate; failure to do so would mean being fined at the sessional court.
Set in the heart of the Gower Peninsula just west of Swansea, South Wales, the Gower Heritage Centre was established in 1990 as a countryside crafts centre situated in historical and beautiful surroundings. The 12th century water powered corn and saw mill was renovated, and experienced crafts people took up residence on site. Today the centre is recognised as a vibrant crafts and rural life museum that welcomes visitors from all around the world. The Gower Heritage Centre is a fun way to spend your day, whether your a tour group and would like to take a coach tour to the Gower and explore what they have on offer, or if you're just passing by and are popping in for a bite to eat at the Tea Rooms we're sure you'll find exactly what you're after. They are only a 15-minute walk from one of the most breath taking bays in the Gower; Three Cliffs Bay. The whole peninsula is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has its own very distinctive culture that owes a lot to the mix of Welsh, West Country and Norman ancestry. If your interest lies in rural Gower and the history of agriculture then they have a wide selection of displays for you, from the fully operational Water mill to the outdoor Museum of antique farming and cultivation.
The Parc Cwm long cairn or Parc le Breos burial chamber, is a partly restored, prehistoric, megalithic chambered long barrow, built between 5,800 BP and 6,000 BP (before present), during the early Neolithic period, about three quarters of a mile north west of Parkmill. The cromlech is located in Coed-y-Parc, on the floor of a dry narrow valley in about 500 acres (2.0 km2) of woodland, owned and managed by Forest Enterprise (Wales), in a limestone gorge, at an elevation of about 50 feet (15 m) above sea level. Pedestrian access is allowed and is free, with free parking available for 12–15 cars about 650 feet (200 m) from the site. On the opposite side of the lane to the car park a kissing gate, wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through, leads to an asphalt track that runs past the cromlech and the length of the gorge, allowing flat, disabled access to within about ten feet (3 m) of the site. Parc le Breos burial chamber is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh Historic Environment Agency. There are caves further along Parc Cwm valley, Cathole Cave and Llethryd tooth cave, which have been used from Mesolithic to Medieval times. In the Neolithic period, corpses may have been placed in the caves until they had decomposed, before the bones were moved to the cromlech. La Charrette is recognised by the British Film Institute as the smallest cinema in Wales. The 23-seat venue, built from a disused railway carriage, was sited in a back garden in Gorseinon, near Swansea, and began showing films in 1953. It has been rebuilt at the Heritage Centre.
The Heritage Centre consists of a collection of old buildings, so the surface underfoot is sometimes a little rough and uneven. 95% of the Centre can be easily accessed by someone in a wheelchair. There are several disabled parking spaces in the car park and it is also possible to drive right up to the front entrance to unload if necessary. We have a couple of wheelchairs available for use by our visitors. For the hearing impaired Guided Tours of the Mill can be done via an amplified system. They try to ensure that the Centre is easy to negotiate, with steps clearly marked and pathways kept clear. They do not currently have any material available in Braille. Assistance dogs are welcome. Carers are admitted for free (without ID). There's half price entry to the Heritage Centre on presentation of your bus ticket! For special events (and there are a lot) or a timetable of what's on, click here.
Location : Gower Heritage Centre, Parkmill SA3 2EH
Transport : Swansea (National Rail) then bus (117 or 118). Bus Routes : 114, 117 and 118 stop very close by.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:30
Tickets : Adults £6.80; Concessions/Children (2+) £5.80
Tel. : 01792 371206