Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was begun in March 1283 as part of Edward’s Iron Ring of Castles and mostly completed by 1289 to the tune of 15,000 pounds (over ten million today).  The previous castle in the area was at Deganwy, which is visible from Conwy’s walls but was destroyed during the wars with King Henry and not rebuilt. Edward built the castle on the western side of the Conwy River as a foothold in the heart of Gwynedd in order to control an important river crossing. To build the castle and town Edward destroyed the monastery of Aberconwy, patronized by the Welsh princes. He also destroyed Llywelyn’s llys (palace). Like many castles of the iron ring, Conwy consisted of a castle and planted town of English settlers, all surrounded by massive stone walls with 8 great towers in a relatively compact Read more…

St. Mary’s Church, Trefriw

Today we are talking about St Mary’s Church in Trefriw. Llanrhychwyn was also patronized and supported by Llywelyn Fawr. Why did he build another one? That’s the story we’re telling today, and it’s pretty simple, really. This area already had Llanrhychwyn, one of the oldest churches in all Wales, founded by St. Rhychwyn in the 6th century. We talked about it earlier in this season of videos. Llywelyn Fawr, who was the Prince of Wales, had many homes but came sometimes to his hunting lodge near Trefriw and in the early days always worshipped at the church at Llanrhychwyn. But, as anyone who has visited can’t help but notice, it’s quite a hike. Joan found the uphill walk to the church, followed by a steep descent, tiring. To please her, Llywelyn had St. Mary’s built at the bottom of the Read more…

Medieval Planned Communities

When Edward I conquered Wales, he did more than build castles.  He also built townships.  These were villages associated with one of his castles.  In most cases, he imported English people to live in them, ousting the native Welsh.  Caernarfon, Rhuddlan, Conwy, Flint, Harlech and Beaumaris were among these combined castles/villages. “The strategy of building Welsh Medieval Castles was combined with King Edward’s ambition to build and integrate fortified towns with the great castles. These purpose-built townships were designed to predominantly house the English conquerors. The towns were defended by the city walls and, of course, the castles. The Constable of the castle would often perform a dual role as Mayor of the town. Not only did the English have control over the local Welsh population they also had control of commerce and finance. The townships were established as trading Read more…

An Iron Ring of Castles

An Iron Ring of Castles is in many ways just like it sounds: a series of castles built around Wales to control the populace after the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last Prince of Wales. In the 1270s and 1280s primarily, Edward I began the construction of this ring. The castles were focused in the north, in Gwynedd, since that region had always been a hotbed of Welsh resistance and resentment of English authority, and it was there that he built some of the most impressive monuments to his victory.  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 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…