Advent Calendar of Castles: December 14th:Criccieth




Criccieth Castle perches on top of a headland pushing out to sea.

It is an amalgam between a Welsh Castle and castle of Edward I. The original castle at Criccieth was built by Llywelyn the Great sometime between 1230 and his death in 1240. The remains of this original castle are now the inner ward and inner gate house, and it was probably modelled on the castle built by Hugh de Burgh at Montgomery. They certainly have a very similar design in gatehouses.

Under Llywelyn the Great’s grandson Llywelyn the Last, Criccieth was enlarged with the curtain wall significantly extended and the south west tower and north west tower, which would have had a trebuchet mounted on it, constructed.

When Llywelyn the Last was killed in 1282 the remaining welsh castles rapidly fell to Edward I. Criccieth was in English hands by the 14th of March 1283. Under Edward I there was a significant quantity of work undertaken on the castle. He constructed the south east tower and heavily remodelled the remainder of the castle.

Criccieth was also used as a prison. Llywelyn the Great’s illegitimate son Gruffudd was imprisoned there, for rebellion, by Llywelyn’s legitimate son and heir Dafydd when Dafydd inherited Llywelyn’s lands. Gruffudd was held there with his son Owain from 1239 until 1241 when Dafydd suffered a defeat at the hands of Henry III and had to hand the prisoners over to his cousin the English king. Gruffudd died three years later in an attempt to escape the Tower of London. Criccieth again served as a prison when Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg rebelled against Llywelyn the Last and was imprisoned in Criccieth from 1258-1259.

Edward II also added to the castle, but it was at the hands of Owain Glyndwr’s forces that Criccieth met its final fate. Criccieth at the time was held by the English and it was one of several castles that capitulated to Glyndwr’s forces in c. 1404. The castle and the town were burnt. The castle was never rebuilt although the town did recover slowly. However, without the castle the town ceased to be a garrison town and eventually became wholly Welsh.


Site visit 2012:

Cadw: Criccieth Castle: 9781857602913

2 thoughts on “Advent Calendar of Castles: December 14th:Criccieth

  1. Dear Ellen,

    I enjoy the daily breakfast mull over the latest Ragbag Castle. To see how they are situated I look them up on Google Earth.

    The time effort and expense to maintain such a string of fortifications must have been great. The Welsh must have paid dearly in crops, labour and materials to be governed by the English. Strategically I wonder why the Welsh could not let the English sit in their castles and wage a guerrilla war to make the land in between the castles ungovernable. (Robin Hood Fashion). I seems that for 600 years the Welsh lost nearly every battle/contest they entered into with the English. Both the English and the Welsh were fighting with swords and spears. There was no technological superiority. The Welsh must have been severely lacking in administrative and leadership skills. I guess that the English had a secure base in the south away from the battle field from which to springboard operations into Wales; Whereas the Welsh had to wage war from supplies grown in the contested area.




    1. Hi Rob. Glad you’re enjoying the castles. An essentially guerrilla strategy worked for the Welsh for quite a while, but they were not often a united front and essentially the English just had significantly greater numbers, there was also an instance where Henry II dealt with the fact that the Welsh were hiding in all the forests but cutting down a large section of the forest. The Welsh held on until the 13th century then Edward I, who was a formidable warrior and general and who came very close to beating the Scots, crushed them. The English chipped away, and then chipped away. The other reason the Welsh held out for as long as they did was because the English had other lands to deal with in what is now France, so Wales wasn’t high on the priority list. However once most of that land of was lost, they were able to focus on Wales. The Welsh in fighting really didn’t help either. If you’re looking for a great fiction series about the rise and fall of Wales in the 12th and 13th centuries then Sharon Penman’s Welsh trilogy is by far the best.


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