The castle from across the Clwyd
|Built From 1277 to 1282|
|Key events:|| Welsh Wars,|
Rhuddlan Castle stands in majestic ruin in Rhuddlan in Flintshire. It was erected by Edward I in 1277 following the First Welsh War, and became the easternmost of his "Iron Ring" of castles holding down the mountain fastness of Snowdonia and the protecting the supply routes to the west.
Rhuddlan was planned as a concentric castle. It has a unique 'diamond' in layout as the gatehouses are positioned at the corners of the square baileys instead of along the sides like at Flint, Harlech or Beaumaris.
The inner ward has defensive walls with twin-tower gatehouses. The outer ward is surrounded by a curtain wall that has small towers and turrets. The castle also had a dry moat to improve defence on its landward side. Within the inner ward there was a great hall, kitchens, private apartments and a chapel. The outer bailey had a granary, stables and a smithy.
Much of the work was overseen by master mason James of St George. Rhuddlan, which was not completed until 1282, was built concurrently with Flint Castle.
Rhuddlan is next to the River Clwyd. During the fortification's lengthy construction, the river course was straightened and dredged to allow ships to sail inland along a man-made channel. Its purpose was to allow provisions and troops to reach the castle even if hostile forces or a siege prevented overland travel.
The story of Rhuddlan goes back much further than the fortress built by Edward I. Before the Norman occupation of lower Gwynedd, Rhuddlan was at the heart of a Welsh cantref. From here the Lords of Rhuddlan commanded the lands of hereabouts known as Perfeddwlad as vassals of the Prince of Powys or of Gwynedd, up to the days of the last native ruler of all Wales, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn (1007 – August 5, 1063).
But in the late 11th century, the Normans invaded North Wales. Rhuddlan was fought over by the Princes of Gwynedd and the Earls of Chester. The remains of a Norman castle at Twthill, built in 1086, is just to the south of the current castle.
In July 1277, at the outbreak of the Welsh Wars, Edward I left Chester and established an advance base at Flint, where building work immediately began on Flint Castle. With naval assistance from 25 ships of the Cinque Ports fleet, the army pushed along the coast. By August Edward had moved his forces onto Rhuddlan. Three months later it was ceded to the English Crown following the Treaty of Aberconwy between Llywelyn II of Gwynedd ('Llywelyn the Last') and Edward I.
Work on Rhuddlan Castle began immediately under the control of Master Bertram, a Gascon engineer, but construction was soon handed over to Savoyard master mason, James of St George who remained in charge until labour ceased in 1282. Edward I also created a new borough, north of his castle, away from the pre-existing Norman town and Dominican Friary. The 13th-century street layout can still be seen in the modern town. The borough, like at Flint, was defended with a pair of ditch-separated earthworks and a timber palisade.
Elizabeth, the eighth daughter of Edward I, was born at Rhuddlan in 1282, the same year work at the castle was completed.
The Statute iof Rhudlan
In 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed at the castle following the defeat of Llewellyn the Last. It ceded all the lands of the former Welsh Princes to the English Crown and introduced English norms to administration. Remaining princes became Marcher Lords, and outside the marcher lordships was the Principality of Wales, set into shires and ruled in the English manner.
Undert the Statute, King Edward appointed Royal officials such as sheriffs, constables, and bailiffs and to administer justice and collect taxes throughout the Principality. A Justiciar of North Wales was appointed, in the manner of the Justiciars in England. Nevertheless, in the marcher lordships the rationalisation of administration did not apply and scraps of Welsh law and local custom prevailed for twi and a half centuries more, until the Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 repealed the Statute of Rhuddlan, abolished the larodships and annexed Wales to England.
Later sieges and slighting
In 1294 the castle was attacked during the Welsh rising of Madog ap Llywelyn but was not taken. It was attacked again by forces of Owain Glyndŵr in 1400. This time the town was badly damaged but the castle held out. In the latter 15th and early 16th centuries the castle's condition deteriorated as its strategic and administrative importance waned.
Rhuddlan Castle was again garrisoned by Royalist troops during the Civil War. It was taken by Parliamentary forces after a siege in 1646. Two years later Parliamentarians partially demolished the castle to prevent any further military use.
Today Rhuddlan Castle is managed by Cadw.
|Castles of King Edward's "Iron Ring"|
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
about Rhuddlan Castle)
- Castle Wales on Rhuddlan castle with photos
- Rhyl website on Rhuddlan castle
- Castle UK info on Rhuddlan castle
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Rhuddlan Castle