Visit to Rhuddlan Castle

It was a scorching hot day in June when members and friends of the Deganwy History Society met at Rhuddlan for a guided tour round the castle conducted by Morgan Ditchburn our Treasurer and History Lecturer who is also a guide at Conwy Castle.

After walking across a bridge over the dry moat the group stayed in the shade while they were told the history of the castle. Because of its position on a hill overlooking the plain and by a river Rhuddlan had always been a prime spot.

An earlier Motte and Bailey castle had been built on a hill 500 yards away and the site had been occupied as a royal seat of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn when he ruled the whole of north east Wales. In 1063 Gruffydd was killed after an interesting career and in 1066 England was conquered by William of Normandy. The Normans advanced into North Wales. Robert of Rhuddlan was appointed as Hugh d’Avranches, (Earl of Chester) commander of troops in 1072, and advanced across the coast. He built a Motte-and-bailey castle at Twthill in Rhuddlan. This is located behind the later built stone castle. The castle had its own mint and workshops and was a hub of activity. It was a base for operations across North Wales.

In 1075 Gruffydd ap Cynan made a raid on the new castle and destroyed its outworks but did not capture the solid keep which was the nucleus of the fortress.

In 1277, after Llywelyn ap Gruffydd had refused to give homage to the latest king of England for two years, Edward I brought an army into North Wales. The army consisted of 15,000 men – 9,000 were Welshmen. No major battle took place as Llywelyn quickly realised he would have to surrender. As part of the negotiations and Treaty of Aberconwy, Edward gained the land east of the River Conwy. Llywelyn was allowed to retain Gwynedd and the title the Prince of Wales.

At this point, work begun on the new stone castle. It is unfortunate that there is very little literature showing the plans for the description of the castle interior but Morgan explained that it could hold and service a large number of soldiers and there would have been Royal Apartments inside for when the King visited. They would probably have been over a kitchen which would have heated them. Today the most impressive structures were the stainless-steel staircases which had been built in two of the towers and some of the more intrepid members of the party climbed up to see the views from the top.

On the exterior walls it was evident that masonry had been removed and Morgan explained that a lot of the stonework had been taken by local people to build their houses and walls. The outside walls had red sandstone inserted in the granite and it was suggested that there may have been patterns in the walls.

Inside the castle each tower had four floors with big windows.
The Constable of the castle lived in one tower and a two-man gatehouse in the other. Each entrance had a portcullis and double gates.

Down by the river there was a Watch Tower still standing and most supplies would have been brought by sea. It was dangerous to travel with goods overland because the Welsh would have attacked any baggage trains.

Morgan explained that an archaeological dig had uncovered Roman remains and interesting finds in a rubbish tip.

After the visit around the castle the group walked about half a mile to see the hill where the Motte and Bailey stood.

A vote of thanks was given by the Chairman Kevin

Wendy Lonsdale

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