History Jar Challenge -7- castles in Wales and the Marches

As you may well imagine I am not going to list more than 600 castles! The castles were built at different times and in different political situations. Consequently they reflect the evolution of castle architecture as well as telling the story of various attempts to subdue the Welsh. Kidwelly Castle was initially built during the Norman period for instance. It was rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century. Chepstow is also originally a Norman Castle. Pembroke Castle was established by the Normans in 1093 but usually lingers in most people’s minds as the birth place of Henry Tudor.

Carreg Cennon, perched dramatically on top of a cliff was built by a marcher lord but extended during the period of Edward I’s rule. Caerphilly Castle was built by the de Clare family.

If you would like to work your way through the full list please follow this link:

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/CastlesinWales/

The ones that sprung to my mind were Edward I’s “ring of iron” – I think I may have called it a ring of steel in my last post. Edward invested more than £80,000 on his castles which must have been an eye-watering sum in the thirteenth century. The work which began in 1277 when he took on Llewelyn ap Gruffyd and then continued in 1282 when Llewellyn rose again. The Treaty of Rhuddlan in 1284 effectively crushed the Welsh and Edward’s castles meant that it made future rebellion more difficult. The treaty took all the land of the Welsh princes into English royal ownership at a stroke. The castles built after 1282 were overseen by Edward’s architect James of St George. James’s castles are concentric castles – they were of a new design based on concentric rings- so a series of walls and towers rather than just relying on the defensive nature of a keep. The advantage of a series of rings is that not only can you defend the building you can also attack more effectively.

Conwy Castle – the castle and walls of Conwy Castle and the town are amongst my favourite locations to visit. Historically speaking, this was where Richard II found himself outmanoeuvred by his cousin henry of Bolingbroke in 1399. In 1646 it was slighted by Parliamentarian troops having held out for the king.

Conwy Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Harlech Castle – These days more associated with stunning scenery Harlech was completed by 1330. It’s another fine example of a concentric circle, walls, towers and a rather fine gatehouse.

Cadw, . “Plan of Harlech Castle.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 27 Nov 2019. Web. 09 May 2020.

Denbigh Castle

Beaumaris Castle

Rhuddlan Castle

Flint Castle

Aberystwyth Castle

Harwarden Castle

Mold Castle

Chirk Castle

And let’s not forget the castles built by the Welsh in response to their hostile neighbours. Dolbadarn was built by Llewellyn the Great as was nearby Dolwyddelan. The circular tower must have been very impressive.

Welsh Castles built by the Welsh

Essentially native Welsh Castles make use of the landscape to create a defensive structure – even today they are isolated. Welsh castles tended to have one tower which was circular or D shaped.

There are hundreds of castles built along the borders between Wales and England. It doesn’t help that the area isn’t particularly well defined. The number of castles and their varied sizes reflects the hostilities that existed not only between the English and the Welsh but between the Marcher Lords themselves. It was only in 1536 that the semi-independent jurisdiction of the marcher lords was abolished. It may be helpful when thinking about the region to think of the Earldoms of Cheshire, Shrewsbury and Hereford – all three having a castle once upon a time. Goodrich Castle springs to mind as does Ludlow Castle and the wonderful Stokes Castle which was actually constructed by a merchant rather than a baron.

Yes – I know I’ve missed places like Powis Castle but in all honesty there are enough castles in Wales and the borders to populate an entire blog let alone a post. If i’ve missed your favourite then I can only apologise – and try and make the challenges a bit more manageable!

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/33-welsh-castles-pretty-much-10312436

http://www.castlewales.com/native.html

History Jar Challenge 7 – Castles of Wales and the marches

Harlech Castle

The Welsh Marches are the borderlands between England and Wales – they are not a precise area – so there is room for flexibility here. March comes from the Anglo-Saxon mearc which means boundary. Although there was a Norman presence in the marches the Welsh did not take kindly to yet another invader. William the Conqueror created marcher lordships to control the area. This mean that the barons who had their castles on the margins between England and Wales had much more autonomy over their tenants than elsewhere in the country.

The three key towns/cities that demarcate the line of the marches are Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. The area saw centuries of conflict and as a consequence is heavily fortified with motte and bailey castles – their current condition varies!

And then of course there are the castles of Wales – there are about 600 of them – that’s more per square mile than anywhere else in the country and I certainly shan’t be attempting to name them all – some castles were built by the Welsh themselves but the ones which tend to stick in our imaginations are the ones that make up Edward I ‘s so-called ring of steel.

Your challenge this week is to name as many Welsh and Welsh March castles as you can.

Political discord – 1647 style

charles i full lengthIn January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English.  He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies.  The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.

On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege.  The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644.  His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king.  Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men.  Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle.  He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.

 

All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful.  Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals.  Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperMany army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates.  The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause.  By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views.  One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling.  The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.

Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented.  This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.

Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event.  They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.

The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament.  There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy.  On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost.  He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.