Clwyd - Wales

This particular site has been of historical importance for centuries. For example, in 795 the Saxon, King Offa of Mercia defeated Caradog King of North Wales and then in 1063, King Harold defeated Gruffydd ap Llywelyn the last King of all Wales here and burnt his palace to the ground.

The first recorded castle was in 1073, when the Norman, Robert of Rhuddlan built a motte and baily fort, raising the high motte on the site of Gruffydd’s old palace. As to whether Robert of Rhuddlan was brave or as some think, very stupid and arrogant is a matter of opinion but the point is he attacked a force of Welsh raiders single handed. The year was 1093. Robert was suddenly awoken from his early afternoon nap at his other castle at Deganwy. He was informed that Welsh raiders had pillaged his lands and were making off with the plunder towards their ships, beached near the Great Orme. Robert gave orders for his troops to meet him there. On arrival at the Great Orme, he was gripped with rage at seeing the raiders about to re-float their ships and sail off with their loot. Not waiting for his troops to arrive, he spurred his horse and attacked with only his armour bearer in attendance. The Welsh raiders replied with a volley of spears, killing Robert on the spot.

In August 1277, the English were about to conquer Wales. King Edward I gave orders for a new castle to be built at Rhuddlan, close to the original 11th century fortress. It was here that King Edward made his base for the planned conquest. The castle work was first put under the control of the King’s engineer, Bertram from Gascony. He may have been old by this time, because it seems quite possible, he was the same Bertram who was employed by the late King Henry III. Shortly after his arrival, the construction, and possibly the design, was handed over to the young Savoyard engineer, James of St. George who stayed on until the castle was complete in 1282. During its construction, men were brought in from all over England to dig ditches and a moat. A swing bridge was built so that ships of 40 tons, loaded with building materials, could dock close to the castle. James of St. George was named as, King’s Serjeant and granted an allowance of 3 shillings a day for life with a pension of 1 shilling and 6 pence a day to his wife Ambrosia.

After the defeat of Llewellyn in 1284, the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed here. It ceded all the lands of the former Welsh Prince to the English Crown.

Twelve years later the castle came under attack by Madog ap Llywelyn but it wasn’t taken. In 1400 it was again attacked but by Owain Glyndwr and although the town was badly damaged the castle held out.

By the 15th and 16th centuries the castle had lost its military importance and began to deteriorate.

During the Civil War, the castle was made habitable and garrisoned by Royalist troops but it was captured in 1646 by Parliamentary troops under the command of Colnel Mytton. The bulk of castle’s defences were then blown up to prevent it from being

of any future military use.

The castle is now in the care of CADW and is open to the public.

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