Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle  is included in our 16 days "Best Castles of Britain and Ireland"  tour. Visit our site.

The following information was  researched  by our volunteer team member
Carolyn D. Ahrns from Las Vegas, NV. Thank you very much!

Location: Gwynedd, Wales

Caernarfon is haunted by the ghosts of English soldiers sent to guard the town against the native Welsh. With a long history of hangings, riots and rebellions, the castle and town have many hauntings. Not to mention Caernarfon is connected to one of the most brutal murders in British History! Learn more of it’s gruesome history by taking ‘The Magical History Tour of Caernarfon.’

Caernarfon has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. In 60 A.D. the Romans arrived in North Wales. It was then the home of the Druids, teachers and spiritual leaders of the Celtic tribes of Britain. In 77 A.D. NW Wales was finally conquered by Suetonius Paulinus. In 80 A.D. a Roman fort was established in present day Caernarfon. Named Segontium, the fort housed 800 soldiers, it was occupied continually by Roman soldiers for over 300 years. During this period the original mud and wood fort had been replaced by stone buildings. When the Romans withdrew at the end of the 4th century, the local tribe formed into the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Little is known about Caernarfon during this time. "The Welsh Princes certainly has a court here, and the ruins of Segontium had a lasting impression on the ledgends of the area."

During the Norman invasion of 1066, Hugh Lupus conquered much of North Wales. In 1073, a motte and bailey type castle was built by Robert, a relative of Hugh of Avranches, the first Norman Earl of Chester. "This timber and earth castle would have been a far cry from the elaborate stone defences of the Roman fort of Segontium." The Norman occupation was short lived. In 1115, the Welsh, as the English called them, regained the area reoccupying the castle and establishing a Welsh settlement there. The castle became one of the courts of the Princes of Gwynedd. The Welsh Prince Llwelyn the Great lived here during periods of his lifetime (1173-1240). "It was during this era that the name 'Caernarfon’ came into being. Giraldus Cambrenis (Gerald the Welshman) states in his intinerary that he passes through "Caeryn-arfon" on his tour through Wales (1188) preaching the crusades."

This is the era that marks the beginning of Caernarfon as a town.

"At Caernarfon, Edward I also built a town, destroying the original Welsh settlement beforehand." The native Welsh were banned from the town and were forced to live outside of the walls. In December 1282, the English army killed Llywelyn ap Gruffud, Prince of Wales. King Edward I of England was eager to consolidate his conquest by building an ‘iron ring’ of castles along the North Wales coast. He began building in Caernarfon using some building materials from the Roman fort Segontium. Edward was inspired by the architecture of Constantinople while fighting there in the Crusades. The castle design of eastern influence is attributed to this, and it’s grand style underlines King Edward I’s imperial intentions. The first recorded entry of work was on the castle’s ditch, separating the castle from the fortified town. Laborers began cutting the moat this also supplied the rock for the walls which are twenty feet thick at the base. In 1294, Madog ap Llywelyn over ran the castle through this ditch during a revolt, and succeeded in burning part of the castle and damaging the town walls. The English retook the castle when orders were given to make the castle defendable by the 11th of November, 1295. The castle and town walls were repaired; the north wall was added including the King’s Gate. The King’s Gate consists of two towers, a drawbridge, five doors, six portcullises, a right angled turn (which would render attackers shields useless as they rounded the corner) from the main gatehouse into a smaller ward, over a second drawbridge. There were many arrow loops, murder holes and spy holes along the way. The Queen’s Gate was also defended by two towers, two drawbridges, and five murder holes. The castle wall was an 800 yard circuit with eight towers, 70 yards apart. The castle’s walls have rectangular towers and the lower town walls have round towers.

The most impressive tower is the Eagle Tower crowned by its triple cluster of turrets. This was the living quarters of Sir Otto de Grandison, King Edward's first Justiciar of North Wales (c.13th century). Each of the turrets bears a stone eagle, symbolic evidence of links with imperial power. The Queen’s Tower is just slightly smaller. There were many private suites in the Chamberlain, North-East, Granary, and Well Towers. The Eagle Tower was the birthplace of Edward II; he was the first English Prince of Wales. It is said that Edward I promised the Welsh nobility that he would appoint a Prince to govern them who was Welsh born, of unblemished character and who spoke not a word of English. He then showed his newborn son to the Welsh as "the native born prince who could speak no English." Caernarfon is the closest building to a royal palace in Wales, having been owned continuously by the Crown since it was established by Edward I in 1283. This "crowning glory" of Edward’s medieval fortresses took fifty years to complete and was the costliest of Edward’s castles. The castle had been seen as the palace of a new dynasty of princes, with the majestic architecture, and the extent and quality of its accommodations.

Caernarfon successfully withstood sieges by the forces of Owain Glyndwr in 1403 and 1404. During the Civil War, Caernarfon finally surrendered to Parliamentary forces in 1646. After centuries of neglect repairs were made in the late 19th century and in 1911. Caernarfon was the scene of the Investiture of Prince Edward (Edward VIII) as Prince of Wales.

For pictures and historical information on Caernarfon Castle, click here.


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