Out With the Old: Deganwy Castle

Sorry about the lateness of this post, I’ve had some troubles uploading my photos lately.

Last Friday I went out with the rest of my history class on a good old fashioned field trip to visit two of North Wales most contested castles, Conwy and Deganwy.

Our first stop was at Deganwy Castle, built just within the suburbs of modern day Llandudno. As per typical of all field trips it was chucking in down with sleety rain that was turning into snow further up in the hills. The walk to Deganwy was muddy and slippery, with many helpless students tumbling to their messy fates, but after a short incline we came to a site situate between two volcanic plugs, where the remains of Deganwy reside.

Records of a fortress at Deganwy stretch all the way back to the Dark Ages, the site is traditionally associated with the the headquarters of Welsh King Maelgwn Gwynedd back in the 6th century and archaeological work has confirmed the site was inhabited during that era. This stronghold though was apparently burnt too the ground following a lighting strike in 812AD. After that, a second castle was reportedly built on the site by Robert of Rhuddlan in 1080 following the Norman incursion of North Wales. However in 1093 Robert was slain during a Welsh raid and the castle soon fell into the hands on the natives. It was subsequently destroyed by its Welsh defenders as part of a scorch earth policy in the face of an English invasion headed by King John in 1211.

This raised earthwork signify the extent of the castle’s old stone walls

A third castle was built during the reign of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, however after Llywelyn’s death his sons were unable to hold on to the castle and it fell back into English hands, though not before it was once again demolished by the fleeing Welsh defenders.By the time the English forces arrived in 1245 the castle had been so utterly demolished that they were forced to camp out in the exposed countryside.

The Southern Hill

A fourth and final castle was then built by John’s son Henry III, construction is recorded as having taken place from 1245-52. The castle consisted of a stone tower on each hilltop, providing defenders with an expansive and strategic view of East Anglesey, Great Orme and the Conwy Valley; between the two towers sat a great bailey and the site guarded the then border between England and the independent Kingdom of Gwynedd. However in 1263 the armies of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd captured the castle and then in the face of an English advance, the Welsh slighted the castle again.

The remaining foundations of Henry III’s north tower

Perhaps taking a hint, Edward I decided not to rebuild the castle and instead strode across the Conwy River, into traditional Gwynedd lands and built his new castle on the riverbank, a testament to his domination of North Wales. Today only a few scattered walls of Henry III’s castle remain at Deganwy, though enough to leave an impression of just how impressive this castle must have been, and the views from the top give an important insight into just why control over this place was so fiercely contested.

The most well preserved remains of Deganwy

Edward I’s new castle was of course Conwy Castle, I talked a extensively about Conwy in one of my latest posts, Mark of Conquest, if your interested then click the link and check it out. Otherwise I think I’ll just leave a gallery for you all to enjoy.

If you enjoyed this tale feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.

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