Criccieth Castle is a historic castle that is located in Criccieth, Gwynedd. It gained its fame because it was the base for the king’s army during the war against Owain Glyn Dwr as well as being where King Edward II and Queen Isabella of France were both held captive in 1325.
History of Criccieth Castle
It was built by Roger de Montgomerie. The construction started around 1108 but wasn’t completed until about 1295 due to warfare and financial difficulties with property ownership. Attacks from Spanish ships, Owain Glyndwr’s revolt, and Welsh forces led to chaos for those trying to finish the building which left it unfinished at some point in history before finally being completed. Because of the many attacks, it has been rebuilt in several different styles, making it a unique style on its own. The castle was last owned by the Hughes family in the early 1800s who sold it. Criccieth Castle is now privately owned.
The foundation of the castle was laid during 11th century in an effort to strengthen and secure Criccieth’s harbor against Viking attack after it was damaged by one of their attacks in 1099. The castle was designed to work in complete defensive unity. The outer ward and curtain wall acted as a buffer against an enemy’s blows. The inner ward provided concealment from arrows until one was close enough to attack with melee weapons. A battering ram couldn’t break through the castle’s defenses without being exposed to deadly counter-fire from arrows, missiles and boiling liquids raining down from above.
D, the castle interior used to be well stocked with food and other supplies in case of a siege. This would allow the defenders to hold out for a long period of time before needing to retreat. The upper floor contained the keep and was made mostly of stone which allowed it to be indestructible but was very hard to attack. The gatehouse and staircase were protected by the lower floor’s solid stone vaulted chambers that were designed to absorb arrow fire.
In 1955, the land surrounding Criccieth Castle was bought by William Thomas Jones’ grandson, Owen Roberts Jones. When he died in 1974 his daughter Eirlys inherited the castle and land which she sold to Gwynedd County Council in 1998. This allowed them to restore and repair parts of the castle that were deteriorating and unstable.
Criccieth Castle Architecture
The castle is a fine example of medieval military architecture. It has been described as “A Tragedy in stone, the grandeur of its proportions and the beauty of its design all make it memorable.”
The castle was listed on the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund because it was in need of restoration. Because of this, they were able to raise money to restore parts of the castle such as the walls, windows, stairways, turrets and towers. The project took years from design to restoration but was worth it when it came out because it kept Criccieth Castle safe from deterioration or collapse.
The stones used for Criccieth Castle were taken from a nearby quarry. There used to be an outer ward that enclosed a courtyard with stables, kitchens and domestic ranges. The upper ward also had additional domestic buildings. The outer entrance was protected by two D-shaped towers that contained portcullises and murder holes. The inner fosse had a drawbridge that could be raised when the castle was under attack. The gatehouse and barbican has two entrances into the lower ward. One is protected by a portcullis and the other led directly to the hall within the inner ward. There were also two additional D-shaped towers inside of the inner ward, and one in each corner of the curtain walls that housed chambers for royal officials and guards. There were also two D-shaped towers on the ramparts of the outer ward that housed cylindrical guardhouses. The main residence or “Great Hall” was rectangular and made of stone.
The restoration was projected to cost about $1.5 million and was originally going to be funded by the Welsh Office but now is being funded by the European Union. The main objectives of the restoration are to stabilize the castle, clean and conserve it, repair roofs and vaults, repoint walls, repair floors, and complete conservation reports on the castle as well as create a management plan that will keep Criccieth Castle safe for future generations.
There is a restored garden that is next to the castle that is cared for by volunteers from Friends of Criccieth Castle (FoCC). The garden was built in the late 1800s but was reconstructed in 1999 by FoCC because it had lost its original design. The garden is now a public park and has been opened to the public since 2002 when it was finished being built. It isn’t used for anything other than a public park. There are also two other gardens located on the grounds of Criccieth Castle that are cared for by FoCC. One is a terraced ornamental garden that overlooks the castle across the lake. The other is a walled vegetable garden that uses old Victorian raised beds to grow vegetables, and is surrounded by hedges. Both are mix of stone walls and natural structures and both allow for people to take pictures as well as have picnics at these locations.
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