An Iron Ring of Castles

During the late 1270’s and early 1280’s, particularly after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Edward I began construction of a string of castles in Wales that circled the country.  The north, in Gwynedd, had always been a hotbed of Welsh resistance and resentment of English authority and it was there he built some of the most impressive of his monuments.  http://www.castlewales.com/edward1.html He began in the northeast with three castles: Hawarden, Flint, and Rhuddlan, all built before the 1282 war. Hawarden was the first castle attacked by Dafydd ap Gruffydd on Palm Sunday, 1282, when he started what became the final war with England.  Edward began Flint in 1277, bringing in up to 2300 English workers to build it.  Llywelyn ap Gruffydd submitted to Edward I at Twthill, the old timber castle at Rhuddlan, after which Edward immediately pulled down Read more…

King Edward’s complicated relationship with the Welsh

Sparked by a post yesterday, in which a historian commented that King Edward had a Welsh guard and didn’t ‘hate’ all Welsh as some people seemed to think, I feel compelled to comment. First off, Edward was an English king who had the interests of the English crown and the English people first and foremost. He conquered all these countries from that position, with the idea that English law/church/language/culture (and that means Norman, really) was far superior to the barbaric north and west. That doesn’t mean he hated all Welshmen. A lot of what he did initially, in fact, was because he loved Dafydd, Llywelyn’s brother, in particular, and felt horribly betrayed by him when he started the rebellion in 1282. And really, fine that he had a guard of Welshmen, but really, what were their choices? Nobody can prove Read more…

Maps of Welsh Castles

To say I love castles would be to considerably understate the case.  But how to find a castle without a map?  Here are several great resources . . . A map of castles in SW Wales: This castle shows both the native castles and the Welsh ones.  Some of them are obviously close together, and this indicates a vassal/lord relationship among the barons, or just the passage of time, when a castle was destroyed, a new one was often built close by (if it wasn’t built right on top). Native Welsh castles from the Castles Wales site (http://www.castlewales.com/native.html): From the Welsh government site (cadw.wales.gov.uk): Neither of these maps show the Edwardian castles that were either built right next to a destroyed Welsh castle or on top of one.  Neither shows Aber Garth Celyn either, which was Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s seat, Read more…

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle was built by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Fawr) before 1239.  “Apparently, Criccieth’s castle was built at the beginning of the 13th century, a rather late date for initiating a castle at a particular site in Wales. The earliest mention of a stronghold on the craggy outcrop is to be found in the Welsh chronicles, the Brut y Tywysogyon, in the year 1239, when Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (son of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, or “the Great”) was imprisoned in the castle by his half-brother, Dafydd. Most likely, Llywelyn the Great began the stone fortress just a few years before his sons’ quarrel.”  http://www.castlewales.com/criccth.html Llywelyn kept Gruffydd here and then upon Llywelyn’s death, so did Dafydd, Llywelyn’s son and Gruffydd’s half-brother.  Gruffydd was transferred to the Tower of London as part of a deal with the King of England, as a Read more…

Maps of Wales

Both topography and geography change over time.  Geologically, Wales hasn’t changed much in 2000 years, but the topography has, from mining, from the building of villages and cities, and from the wholesale cutting–and then replanting–of forests.  As evidenced by the loss of the location of many of the Roman roads, transportation routes change over time.  What used to be on a major pathway across the country is now in a desolate, hard-to-reach area. As one example, in Powys, in the 19th century, the leader of Birmingham City Council set about finding a clean water supply for the City.  He identified the Elan and Claerwen Valleys as having the best potential for water storage with ample water (72 inches a year), narrow downstream valleys, impermeable bedrock, and a higher altitude eliminating the need for pumps. “An Act of Parliament was passed Read more…