Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle

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Denbigh Castle was a fortress built following the 13th-century conquest of Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 by Edward I
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...


The castle, which stands on a rocky promontory above the Welsh market town
Market town
Market town or market right is a legal term, originating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city...

 of Denbigh
Denbigh is a market town and community in Denbighshire, Wales. Before 1888, it was the county town of Denbighshire. Denbigh lies 8 miles to the north west of Ruthin and to the south of St Asaph. It is about 13 miles from the seaside resort of Rhyl. The town grew around the glove-making industry...

, Denbighshire
Denbighshire is a county in north-east Wales. It is named after the historic county of Denbighshire, but has substantially different borders. Denbighshire has the distinction of being the oldest inhabited part of Wales. Pontnewydd Palaeolithic site has remains of Neanderthals from 225,000 years...

, was built upon an earlier Welsh stronghold. It was defended by a unique triple-towered gateway.

A planned town (bastide) was laid out at the same time as the castle. The Anglo-Norman borough was an attempt by Edward I to pacify the Welsh.


Denbigh Castle, which was built during two phases, was based on designs attributed to Master James of St George. In the first period, commencing 1282, parts of the outer ward were constructed. These outer defences included the southern and western walls and the eastern towers. Later work on the inner ward began including parts of the curtain wall
Curtain wall
A curtain wall is an outer covering of a building in which the outer walls are non-structural, but merely keep out the weather. As the curtain wall is non-structural it can be made of a lightweight material reducing construction costs. When glass is used as the curtain wall, a great advantage is...

 and the castle's main gatehouse. The borough's new town walls were also began during this period.

But in 1294 Denbigh was attacked and taken during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn
Madog ap Llywelyn
Madog ap Llywelyn, or Prince Madoc, was from a junior branch of the House of Aberffraw and a distant relation of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last recognised native Prince of Wales.-Lineage:...

 halting the work on the incomplete town and castle. Following its recapture a year later, Henry de Lacy substantially revised the plans in the second phase of building work. This time the inner ward's curtain wall were refortified with thicker and higher walls.

The main gatehouse was heavily buttressed with a three octagonal towers and a drawbridge
A drawbridge is a type of movable bridge typically associated with the entrance of a castle surrounded by a moat. The term is often used to describe all different types of movable bridges, like bascule bridges and lift bridges.-Castle drawbridges:...

: two towers faced outwards and a third interior tower, (the Badnes Tower), inside the main gateway. This three-towered triangular gatehouse now created a heavily defended passageway that had murder-holes, portcullis
A portcullis is a latticed grille made of wood, metal, fibreglass or a combination of the three. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege...

es in series, two wooden doors, and enfilading
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 arrowslits. One gatehouse tower contained the porter's lodgings while the other served as the prison.

During the same period, the Great hall
Great hall
A great hall is the main room of a royal palace, nobleman's castle or a large manor house in the Middle Ages, and in the country houses of the 16th and early 17th centuries. At that time the word great simply meant big, and had not acquired its modern connotations of excellence...

 and the eastern domestic ranges including the kitchen tower, the pantry and the postern gate
A postern is a secondary door or gate, particularly in a fortification such as a city wall or castle curtain wall. Posterns were often located in a concealed location, allowing the occupants to come and go inconspicuously. In the event of a siege, a postern could act as a sally port, allowing...

 were completed. When the town walls were enlarged, the eastern section was defended by several large D-shaped towers such as the Countess Tower and Goblin Tower.

De Lacy died in 1311 before building work ceased on the town and castle defences. The new English borough eventually removed all traces of the original Welsh fortifications.


The current Denbigh Castle was built on the site of a former Welsh stronghold held by Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Dafydd ap Gruffydd
Dafydd ap Gruffydd was Prince of Wales from 11 December 1282 until his execution on 3 October 1283 by King Edward I of England...

, the brother of Llywelyn the Last
Llywelyn the Last
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd or Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf , sometimes rendered as Llywelyn II, was the last prince of an independent Wales before its conquest by Edward I of England....

. The Welsh castle originally belonged to Llywelyn the Great
Llywelyn the Great
Llywelyn the Great , full name Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, was a Prince of Gwynedd in north Wales and eventually de facto ruler over most of Wales...

. In 1230, an Abbot from England visited Llywelyn the Great at his new castle in Denbigh.

The current stone castle was begun by Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln
Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln
Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln was a confidant of Edward I of England.In 1272 on reaching the age of majority he became Earl of Lincoln...

 on territory given to him by Edward I after the defeat of the last Welsh prince, Dafydd ap Gruffudd in 1282. The Welsh castle was then torn down and work began on a new English fortress. At the same time, De Lacy was also granted a Royal Charter to create a new English borough and town.

But in 1294, the incomplete castle was besieged and captured by Welsh forces during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn
Madog ap Llywelyn
Madog ap Llywelyn, or Prince Madoc, was from a junior branch of the House of Aberffraw and a distant relation of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last recognised native Prince of Wales.-Lineage:...

. During the subsequent siege, an English force under de Lacy was defeated trying to retake the castle. However the revolt collapsed and Denbigh was returned to de Lacy a year later. Building work then resumed. Following some defensive improvements, the castle and walls were substantially complete by 1305.

In the 1290s, Edward I had issued a second Royal Charter as the market town of Denbigh had rapidly expanded beyond the town walls and its borough boundaries. By 1305 there were titled 183 settlers living outside the town walls and only 52 inside the town's defences. The castle and its precincts were being superseded by the area outside the walls which had developed into the town's market centre. A Carmelite Friary
The Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or Carmelites is a Catholic religious order perhaps founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel, hence its name. However, historical records about its origin remain uncertain...

 was also established in the town just outside the town walls.

In 1400, the forces of Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndŵr , or Owain Glyn Dŵr, anglicised by William Shakespeare as Owen Glendower , was a Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales...

 attacked Denbigh. The town was badly damaged but the castle resisted a siege and was not captured.

During the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

, Jasper Tudor, the Lancastrian
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

 Earl of Pembroke
Earl of Pembroke
Earl of Pembroke is a title created ten times, all in the Peerage of England. It was first created in the 12th century by King Stephen of England. The title is associated with Pembroke, Pembrokeshire in West Wales, which is the site of Earldom's original seat Pembroke Castle...

, tried twice and failed to take the castle in the 1460s.

In the 16th century Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, held Denbigh Castle and its Lordship between 1563 until his death in 1588.

During the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

, the castle was repaired by Colonel William Salisbury and garrisoned for King Charles I of England
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, who stayed there briefly in September 1645. The following year, the castle endured a six-month siege before finally being forced to surrender to Parliamentarian forces. The castle was then slighted to prevent its further use. But for the remainder of the war, part of the castle was used as a prison for captured royalists.

But with the restoration of Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 in 1660, the castle was abandoned and allowed to fall into decay.

Present day

The castle is managed by Cadw
-Conservation and Protection:Many of Wales's great castles and other monuments, such as bishop's palaces, historic houses, and ruined abbeys, are now in Cadw's care. Cadw does not own them but is responsible for their upkeep and for making them accessible to the public...

- the Welsh heritage agency tasked with looking after historic buildings and monuments in Wales.


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