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Edward I's Castle

Edward I's Castle, Rhuddlan Rhuddlan Rhuddlan Edward I's Castle, Rhuddlan
Rhuddlan Rhuddlan Rhuddlan Rhuddlan

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Under Edward I's direction, work was put in hand on the erection of an entirely new stronghold a little to the north west of Robert of Rhuddlan's motte-and-bailey. Payments for the new operation begin to be recorded on 14 September 1277 and continue without pause until March 1282.

In its earliest stage the work was under the control of Master Bertram, a king's engineer who had entered Henry III's service in Gascony in or before 1248. It is to him and the king that we may owe the general plan of the castle, but he was soon superseded by a younger engineer, Master James, better known to us as James of St. George, the future master of the kings works in Wales. He saw Rhuddlan through to its completion and may thus be regarded as the castle's architect.

The castle is concentric in design, consisting of a very strongly defended inner ward, of symmetrical plan, completely surrounded by a slighter outer ward. On the south-west, this fronts the river, but elsewhere, it overlooks an artificial moat, also walled on the outer side, which was dry apart from a short section south of the castle, probably used as a dock. The inner ward is diamond shaped with a singular tower on each of the sharper angles (north and south), and a gatehouse with a double tower on each of the blunter ones (east and west). Various buildings, including a great hall, kitchens, private apartments, and a chapel, stood in the inner ward against the curtain wall; some traces remain of their foundations. The outer ward too included a granary, stables, a smithy, the treasury and a goldsmith's workshop, but little can be seen of these buildings today.

There were four entrances to the castle precinct, later reduced to three. The main entrance, still in use today, is at the north-western end of the moat. Another entrance, the Friary Gate, on the south-east, was soon dismantled. Lesser entrances were provided from the river on the west and the dock on the south-west; the latter, like the dock itself, was overlooked by a tower.

Edward I laid out his new borough, north of his castle, away from the Norman town and the Friary. The present town largely perpetuates the 13th century plan. The town defences consisted of a pair of banks with a ditch between, as at Flint supporting a timber palisade; stone walls were never provided and probably never intended. Edward I also replaced the bridge, probably damaged during the Welsh campaign, and made strenuous but unsuccessful efforts to have the episcopal seat of St. Asaph removed to Rhuddlan.

The later history of the site was less eventful. The castle came under attack in the Welsh rising of 1294, and again in the Glyndŵr rising of 1400, when the town was badly damaged but the castle held out. Rhuddlan was in Royalist hands during the Civil War, until forced to capitulate in 1646. In 1648 it was partially demolished to prevent its further use.

By kind permission of Jeffrey L. Thomas


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