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CONWY CASTLE

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 121

Map Reference SH77NE

Grid Reference SH7838877455

Unitary (Local) Authority Conwy

Old County Caernarfonshire

Community Conwy

Type of Site CASTLE

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Medieval

Site Description Conwy Castle, set against the mountains of Snowdonia is as impressive today as it was 700 years ago. Construction of the castle was finished in 1287, having taken a little over four years to complete. The town and castle of Conwy were built as a single entity. Conwy castle was one of a series of castles established in north Wales by King Edward I to secure North Wales following the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282. In 1283, the castle was raised in one main building phase and was adapted to the restricted space of the rocky outcrop at which it stands. The castle was designed as two adjoining wards that could be defended separately, with eight lofty towers. Four of the towers were designed to carry turrets and surrounded the inner ward which housed the royal apartments. These medieval chambers are still in excellent condition today and remain largely unaltered from their thirteenth century form.

By 1332, the castle was deemed unfit to accommodate the King and as a consequence major repair works were put in place by 1347 with a remodelled great hall range and royal apartments. King Richard II later took refuge in the castle in 1399 and in 1401 the castle was captured by supporters of Owain Glyndwr. Conway again saw military action during the Civil War and Archbishop John Williams held the castle for King Charles I. The castle and town walls remained virtually intact and from the eighteenth century began to attract the interests of topographical artists such as Paul Sanby. The constructions of Thomas Telford’s road bridge and the Chester to Holyhead railway in the nineteenth century lead to an increasing number of visitors to Conway and a greater impetus to preserve and restore the castle and town walls.

Source: Taylor, A. 2003. Conway Castle: CADW

RCAHMW, February 2011

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Conwy Castle was built by the English king Edward I between 1283 and 1287 as part of his conquest of Wales and is regarded as one of the finest examples of thirteenth-century fortified architecture. It was one of the key sites in Edward’s attempt to subject the Welsh to his rule by enclosing north Wales with an ‘iron ring’ of castles, supplied with goods and food by English colonies set up in adjacent fortified towns. Like all of his major Welsh castles, Conwy Castle is situated on the coast so that construction material and military supplies did not have to cross hostile terrain, but were instead delivered by boat. However, as Edward’s assets began to run thin by the early fourteenth century, the castle and town were poorly equipped and suffered from shortage of supplies.

In 1399, King Richard II found refuge here from the insurrection of Henry Bolingbroke, soon thereafter crowned King Henry IV. Two years later, the castle and town were again visited by insurgence as they were taken over by rebels under the leadership of Owain Glyndŵr. Although the castle was refortified during the Wars of the Roses, it played no significant part, but was successfully held for Charles I during the English Civil War.

With the rise of modern tourism in the late eighteenth century, the now ruined castle became a chief picturesque travel destination on tourists’ journeys along the northern coast of Wales. After the construction of Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge and the Chester to Holyhead Railway, interest in its conservation increased and, in 1865, restoration works on the castle began after it passed into the ownership of the town. In 1986, Conwy was recognised as part of UNESCO’s Castles and Town Walls of Edward I World Heritage Site together with Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Harlech. Today, Cadw maintains Conwy Castle for the nation.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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