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:
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.
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.
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.
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!