|View from the Afon Gyffin showing
the Baker's Tower and the repairs from the 19th century.
|To the Welsh people Conwy and the
other Edwardian Castles can be seen as either shameful memorials to their
subjugation by the English King or, when we consider that the medieval military
architect's science and art at the height of their development were necessary
to ensure that subjection, we can appreciate them as monuments, tributes,
to the tenacity of the resistance of the Welsh, as testimony to the immensity
of the task of uprooting from Wales the rule of the Welsh.
I simply enjoy them as beautiful castles,
and appreciate the work done by the ordinary folk, be they welsh or english,
who built these marvellous structures all those years ago..
| The story of the castle and walled town of
Conwy begins in the year 1283.
King Edward 1 and his English army had completed the conquest of Snowdonia
and terminated the rule of the Welsh princes. On 18 January 1283 the capture
of Dolwyddelan Castle gave Edward the control of the Conwy valley and he moved
to Conwy in March of
1283. Here the monastery of Aberconwy,
the spiritual heart of Gwynnedd and the burial place of Llewelyn the Great,
was destroyed and a new home for the monks was built at Maenan some 8 miles
away. All that remained was the unfinished abbey church, St
Mary and All Saints, which was to become the parish church of the new town, which it still
Conwy castle was to be built above the original
tomb of Llewelyn the Great.
Edward immediately set about
organising the building of the Castle. Under the supervision of James of St
George and his associate at Conwy James of Chester, the Master carpenters
Henry of Oxford and Laurence of Canterbury and Mason John Francis had charge
over a force of English craftsmen and labourers that reached a peak of 1500
strong in the summer of 1285, and within 4 short years this " the most
magnificent of Edward 1's Castles" would be substantially complete.
click to enlarge the pictures-----------------------------
and King's Tower
The Chapel Tower
Prison and Bakehouse Tower
The cost to Edward of building Conwy was near to £15,000,
indeed the cost of the five major Castles - Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech, Cricieth,
and Beaumaris - built after the war of 1282 - 3 and the revolt of 1294 was
around £60,000. The total cost to Edward for his Welsh campaigns and Castle
building was in the region of a third of a million pounds. More than ten times
his annual income. That he went to the bank , the Riccardi Company of Tuscany
to borrow the money ( £122,000 between the years of 1276 and 1287 specifically
to finance his Welsh campaign ) I personally find very surprising and reveals
a sophistication of the times of which I was previously unaware. It has been
said that the increase in the banker's business due to the conquest of Wales
was a considerable factor in the growth of international capitalism.
The Kitchen tower.
The North wall.
The Building Materials:
The stone used for the main part
in the construction of the Castle and Walls is the hard grey Silurian grit
of which the Castle rock itself is formed.There is a large quarry on the Llangelynin
road, not far outside the Upper Gate which may have been the source.
The yellowish brown "rhyolite" rock used in the spur wall and in
the northern and eastern parts of the town walls could have been obtained
from nearby at Bodlondeb Hill or Conwy Mountain.
Pinkish sandstone probably from the nearby Creuddyn peninsular across the
river is the likely source of the stones dressed to form the windows, door-jambs,
arrow loops , chimneys etc. While sandstone from Chester is known to have
been used in the construction of the 14th century roof arches.
Timber would have been brought down river
from Trefriw and beyond, and the lead and coal for the forges came by sea
from near Flint. Iron and steel and nails were purchased at Newcastle under
Lyme. Sand for the mortar was brought from over the river at Deganwy. Purple
slate may have come from Ogwen or by cart from nearby Llangelynin. Simon the
Glazier from Chester may have supplied the glass as he had at Caernarfon.