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Caerphilly Castle is another of those grand Welsh castles built by the Anglo Norman invaders, but not this time by the usual suspect King Edward I.

Caerphilly Castle a big Welsh Castle. Picture of Caerphilly Castle with kind permission of Denise King an ex resident of the townGilbert de Clare, the Norman overlord, (known as Gilbert the Red due to his shock of red hair) built the castle to defend his lands from the Welsh Prince Llywelyn the Last (Llywelyn ap Gruffydd).

The Treaty of Monmouth in 1267  had settled the dispute between the English King Henry III and his barons but not that between de Clare and Prince Llywelyn in the principality of Wales. The Welsh were still at war!

In 1268 De Clare set about building what would become not only the second largest castle in Britain but also one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Llywelyn could not  let this pass unchallenged and in a show of strength attacked and captured the castle before it's completion. A truce was arranged but the wily de Clare seized the opportunity to complete the fortress, forcing Llywelyn to retreat to his stronghold of Gwynedd in North West Wales.

But within just a few short years the castle was largely redundant for it's original purpose as in 1282 the English King Edward I invaded Wales to once and for all remove the threat of the rebellious Welsh Princes. Edward conquered the Welsh fastness of North Wales and Llywelyn the Last was killed. Edward established an iron ring of castles in the north that removed the threat of the Welsh Princes for over a hundred years and thus the  necessity for Caerphilly Castle as a bastion against the Welsh.

Caerphilly, however, was still to play a role in history when, during the reign of Edward's son and successor Edward II, Hugh le Despense inherited Caerphilly through marriage. The neighbouring barons were disgruntled over this and seized the stronghold until Edward came to Hugh's aid. This in turn brought down the wrath of his estranged wife Queen Isabella and her paramour, Roger Mortimer, who led the barons against Caerphilly. When Isabella's forces laid siege to the castle Edward was forced to flee leaving behind half his treasure together with his clothes, such was the urgency of his departure. The castle was forced to surrender after several months, Edward's remaining treasure was seized and Despenser beheaded.

In 1405 the castle was again captured by the Welsh, this time by the forces of Owain Glyndwr, who took the castle twice, finally holding it for one year.

The years took their toll on Caerphilly Castle until in the later part of the 18th century when the first Marquess of Bute began preservation work. Three generations of the Bute family recorded the details of the castle, cleared houses built against its walls and eventually undertook painstaking restoration of the fallen masonry. Finally it was handed over to the government in 1950; its restoration and preservation is now controlled by Cadw.

Today the castle is famous for its leaning south-east tower that to my eyes looks nearer to the tipping point than the leaning tower of Pisa.     More >


Directions:    [ Map of Caerphilly Castle location  ]

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Parking : Pay-and-display parking nearby.
Facilities : toilets, guidebook available, gift shop, two site exhibitions, audio-visual display and replica medieval siege weapons.Baby changing facilities.
Prices 2008 : Adult - £3.70, Concession - £3.30, Family - £10.70.
Entry is free for Welsh residents aged 60 and over or 16 and under who have a valid pass.

 

Picture of Caerphilly Castle with kind permission of Denise King an ex resident of the town

Bernard Wellings


 

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