Caerphilly is another Marcher castle, but it is much later in date than the other two on this list. It was begun in 1268 by Gilbert de Clare Lord of Glamorgan in response to Llywelyn the Last’s threats to the area. Gilbert de Clare took the area in which the castle stands in 1266 to try to stop Llywelyn the Last from moving further south. Construction of the castle was halted in 1270 when Llywelyn the Last attacked it. However it began again in 1271 and continued apace. What makes Caerphilly remarkable is that apart from some basic domestic remodelling in the mid 14th century there were no additions or changes to the castle as the years went past. This makes it an extraordinarily complete example of a late 13th century military castle. It is also an excellent example of the cutting edge of military defence at the time.
Caerphilly not only has walls with in walls making it the first, as well as arguably the best, concentric castle in Britain (between the outer entrance and the heart of the castle were 3 drawbridges, 6 portcullises and 5 sets of double doors) it also has the best use of water as a defence in a castle of this period. The immense water works are manmade lakes and moats and the waters are held back from the castle by earth dams. Caerphilly boats both an inner moat and an outer moat. Because Caerphilly was built on unused ground Gilbert de Clare was able to use all the modern techniques to create a truly massive castle, it occupies a spectacular 30 acres.
The first thing most people notice about Caerphilly is its precariously leaning tower. This is the south east tower and it currently stands at 15m high and leans an alarming 10 degrees out of line. Locals say it was caused during the Civil War bombardment, but it could also just have been subsidence no one is entirely sure.
The need for Caerphilly was negated by the crushing defeat of the Welsh at the start of the 13th century and after this the castle didn’t see that much use. The last real action it saw was when it was besieged by Isabella queen of Edward II in retaliation towards Hugh Despenser, but Hugh had already been taken and was in fact hanged in 1326. By the 16th century the castle was no longer in use and was falling towards ruin. The castle was saved from complete ruin by the Butes in the late 19th century.
Site visit 2012
The photos are all mine.
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
Pickering Castle was established by William the Conqueror in c. 1070. It was built in response to the northern revolts against his rule. William’s stamping of authority on the north is known was the Harrying of the North. Such an innocuous name sounds like it was a minor irritation, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. William the Conqueror led a brutal pillaging of the north, killing people and destroying crops and food. Tens of thousands of people starved to death in the aftermath.
The original castle would have been earth and timber and the motte on which it was built still stands today. The rebuilding of the castle in stone began around 1180 and continued into the 13th century under successive kings. Within the walls there is also a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas which dates to roughly 1227. Until the mid 16th century the castle would have had a resident chaplain.
By the early 14th century the castle has passed into the hands of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, the grandson of Henry III. He married heiress Alice de Lacey and using her money introduced more stone buildings, including building a new hall for the family to live in, within the walls of the castle. In the mid 14th century Edward II ordered the outer walls to be built in stone, including stone towers as part of the walls. He used the castle for raising horses. He established a stud at the castle and often used it as a hunting lodge.
By the time of the civil war the castle had fallen too much into disrepair to be used for defence and in the 17th century parts of the castle were used as a court house. The castle came into the hands of English Heritage in 1926.
Site visit 2012.
The Harrying of the North: http://www.historyextra.com/article/bbc-history-magazine/battle-of-hastings-aftermath-consequences-harrying-of-the-north
The photos are all mine.
This year for christmas I’m running an advent calendar of medieval castles. Each day I’ll post three photos of a castle and some information. Today I’m starting with Castle Rising in Norfolk just out of Kings Lynn.
William d’Albini the Earl of Arundel began having the castle built in c. 1138. It was most likely built for his new wife, who was the widow of Henry I, Adeliza of Louvain. The keep itself was probably envisioned as self-contained accommodation for the lord and his family. It is curiously domestic in scale, but the massive earthworks make it clear that defence was at least considered. The uppermost levels of the keep were likely added at a later date and this included re-roofing and adding an extra room at the top of the keep. As well as the keep, in the grounds behind the earth works, there are the remains of a Norman church. It most likely predates the castle and would have been replaced by the current parish church in the town of Rising around the time the castle was built.
The d’ Albini family died out in the 13th century and Castle Rising passed into the Montalt family. The Montalt family died out in the 14th century and Castle Rising came into royal hands. It was after this that the castle entered what is probably its best known phase when it became the residence of Queen Isabella, known as the she wolf of England. She was the Queen of Edward II and many argue she had a role in his murder. It has been argued that Castle Rising was her prison, but it is also just as possible that it was the residence she chose in exile. There were certainly buildings erected for her in the grounds of the castle
Castle Rising ultimately came into the hands of the Howard family who still own and manage it today.
Site visit 2012
The photos are all mine