Interesting facts about Conwy Castle

conwy castle

Conwy Castle is a medieval fortification in Conwy, on the north coast of Wales.

The castle was built by Kinh Edward I, during his conquest of Wales, between 1283 and 1289.

It was built as part of a bigger project to build a walled town called Conwy. The walls are 1.3 kilometers (0.81 miles) long and include 21 towers and three gatehouses. The cost of building the castle and walls together came to around £15,000, a huge sum for the period.

Conwy Castle was designed by the master builder, James of Saint George.

The castle hugs a rocky coastal ridge of grey sand and limestone, and much of the stone from the castle is
largely taken from the ridge itself, probably when the site was first cleared.

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Divided into an Inner and an Outer Ward, it is defended by eight large towers and two barbicans, with a postern gate leading down to the river, allowing the castle to be resupplied from the sea.

There are eight 21 meters (70 feet) massive towers measuring 9.1 meters (30 feet) in diameter with walls up to 4.6 meters (15 feet) thick; It also has 142 Arrow slits.

The main entrance to the castle is through the western barbican, an exterior defence in front of the main gate.

The barbican features the earliest surviving stone machicolations in Britain, and the gate would originally have been protected by a portcullis.

The Inner Ward was originally separated from the Outer Ward by an internal wall, a drawbridge and a gate, protected by a ditch cut into the rock.

conwy castle interior

The outer ward housed the great hall, kitchens, stables and prison.It is where the garrison lived, and in 1284 this comprised fifteen crossbowmen and fifteen other servants.

The Inner Ward is the heart of the castle, containing, as it does, the suite of apartments which Master James of St. George contracted to build for King Edward and Queen Eleanor in 1283. In each range of buildings the principal rooms were on the first floor, with heated but somewhat dark basements below them. All the floors are now missing

Conwy Castle was not well maintained during the early 14th century and by 1321 a survey reported it was poorly equipped, with limited stores and suffering from leaking roofs and rotten timbers.

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At the end of the 14th century, the castle was used as a refuge by Richard II from the forces of his rival, Henry Bolingbroke (also known as King Henry IV).

In March 1401, Rhys ap Tudur and his brother Gwilym, cousins of Owain Glyndŵr, undertook a surprise attack on Conwy Castle. They pretended to be castle carpenters and gained entry by killing the two watchmen on duty and took control of the castle. Welsh rebels then attacked and captured the rest of the walled town. The brothers held out for around three months, before negotiating a surrender.

Henry VIII conducted restoration work in the 1520s and 1530s, during which time the castle was being used as a prison, a depot and as a potential residence for visitors.

Conwy Castle fell into disrepair again by the early 17th century. Charles I sold it to Edward Conway in 1627 for £100, and Edward’s son, also called Edward, inherited the ruin in 1631.

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By the end of the 18th century, the ruins were considered picturesque and sublime, attracting visitors and artists, and paintings of the castle were made by Thomas Girtin, Moses Griffith, Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Paul Sandby and J. M. W. Turner.

In the 21st century the castle is managed by Cadw as a tourist attraction and 186,897 tourists visited the castle in 2010.

This gritty, dark-stoned fortress has the rare ability to evoke an authentic medieval atmosphere.

Today the castle is one of the best preserved castles in the whole of North Wales.

UNESCO considers Conwy to be one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe“, and it is classed as a World Heritage site.

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