Denbigh Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameDenbigh Castle
Alternative NamesCastell Dinbych; Dinbech
Historic CountryDenbighshire
Modern AuthorityDenbighshire
1974 AuthorityClwyd
CommunityDenbigh

Building for Denbigh Castle began in October 1282 after Denbigh was granted to Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln. At the outset, the hilltop was enclosed with stout curtain walls and half-round towers to protect the town. Further developments to the castle were restricted by the Welsh Revolt in 1294 and lead to the construction of a much higher curtain wall with polygonal towers and a massive three-towered gatehouse. The castle and its defences experienced a number of tests most notably an attack by Owain Glyn Dwr in 1400, was burned down in 1468. The castle was also affected by the War of the Roses between 1455 and 1485. Robert Dudley, who later became Lord Leicester repaired the residential parts of the castle and also erected a large new church. Denbigh Castle was held for the King by Colonel William Salesbury during the Civil War between 1642 and 1648, and after inevitable defeat, later in 1660 the castle was deliberately slighted and rendered useless. The castle was then left to ruin. Source: Butler, L.A.S. 2007. Denbigh Castle: CADW (Coflein)

Castle built shortly after 1283 by Henry de Lacy. It stands at the south end of the hill enclosed by the walls. It is an irregular hexagon with towers placed on the angles. The entrance on the north is a three towered building. Castle probably built over the earlier castle of Dafydd, brother of Llywelyn, Prince of Gwynedd. The Norman castle was built as an integral part of the town defences which were built immediately before the castle. Extra defences were added on the south side. The castle was attacked on a number of occasions including in 1460 when it was attacked by Jaspar Tewdwr who burnt the town. By the 16th century it was in decay although it was used as the administrative centre of the region. (Burnham, H 1995, 128-9)

Scheduled (Cadw 2000) (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Denbigh castle was built by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln as part of a borough-town foundation under license from King Edward Ist. Begun in 1282, it is likely that the first phase, which enclosed the southern and western sides of the castle and continued to define the boundary of the associated town, was complete by 1294. In around 1295 the N and W sides were constructed, thereby dividing the castle proper off from the town; this second phase is likely to have been completed by 1311. This later work, which includes the extraordinary gatehouse and a series of complex mantlets with postern gate and western sallyport, is regarded as one of the most accomplished pieces of contemporary military architecture in Wales and is almost certainly the work of Master James of St. George, Edward Ist's famous Savoyard master mason. Indeed, the sophistication of the gatehouse block exceeds anything attempted at Caernarvon, Conwy or Harlech. In 1294, when the castle was still under construction, it fell to Madog ap Llewelyn in a widespread Welsh uprising known as Madog's Rebellion. This was clearly the inspiration for the more sophisticated building programme (which included the heightening of the existing walls) implemented in the following year. Earl Henry's son and heir, Edmund de Lacy, is said to have fallen to his death in the Denbigh castle well in 1308; the earl himself died in 1311. During the Glyndwr rebellion the castle was held for the crown and was not taken. During the Wars of the Roses, however, the castle was a major Yorkist centre. It was consequently subjected to frequent harrying by Lancastrian forces under Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who in 1468, together with Dafydd ap Siencyn (the 'Welsh Robin Hood'), launched a failed assault on the castle, though managed to burn the town and suburbs. During the Civil War the castle and old town were garrisoned and defended for the king by Colonel William Salesbury, a redoubtable commander nick-named 'Hen Hosanau Gleision ('Old blue stockings'). The famous siege of Denbigh under the parliamentarian generals Middleton and Mytton lasted for some nine months, during which time 'brave Denbigh' valiantly held out to much royalist acclaim (a contemporary poem describes the 'palace of Dame Loyalltie...surrounded closely with a narrow sea of black rebellion'). King Charles had visited Salesbury at Denbigh in September 1645, staying for three days in what became known as the King's Tower. As a consequence of this, Salesbury resolved to hold the castle at all costs with his five-hundred-strong garrison. When Denbigh finally capitulated on 26th October 1646 (on very favourable terms), it was only after the king had personally ordered Salesbury to do so; it was the last major main-land fortress in Britain to fall. Following the surrender the castle was used as a prison for captured royalists, during which time it was twice attacked by forces under Major Dolben and Captain Chambres, who attempted to take back the fortress and release the captives. The castle was finally slighted in 1660 and was subsequently used as an (informal) quarry.

Ruins of a large castle complex; of rough-dressed, limestone construction on rock foundations, with buff, brown and greenish sandstone dressings and smooth limestone facings. The castle consists of a roughly oval enclosure with a main gatehouse at the upper (northern) end and a postern gate to the SE. The southern and western sides form the earliest work and include four drum towers: (from N to S) the Bishop's Tower; the Tower-Next-Treasure House; the Treasure House Tower, and finally the Postern Tower, guarding the Upper (postern) Gate. A large mantlet projects in front of the walls, the section to the W containing an elaborate sallyport and that to the S guarding the postern gate and associated with a large dry moat on this side. The N and E sides represent the second phase and feature a series of large polygonal towers with the gatehouse complex as the focus. The latter consists of 3 conjoined octagonal towers enclosing a central enclosed octagon in a triangular plan. The towers were originally of 3 stages with surmounting battlements and battered plinths; they are known as the Porter's Lodge Tower, the Prison Tower and (to the rear) the Badness Tower. The entrance is between the two front towers and gives onto a heavily-defended a passage formerly with drawbridge, gates and 2 portcullises, together with a series of murder holes and lateral arrow slits. The passage originally led to an octagonal vaulted entrance hall (now open) with the entrance into the castle ward to the R, between the Prison and Badness towers. The Gatehouse is now much ruined and only the Prison Tower retains its upper stage; a former barbican has gone. The front entrance has a multiple four-centred arch which supports a projecting upper stage with chequer-work decoration. In the centre, contained within a trefoil-headed, heavily-moulded niche, is a weathered sculpture of a seated figure, probably Edward Ist. To the W of the gatehouse complex is the remains of the Red Tower. To the SE is the Great Kitchen Tower (later called King Charles' Tower), with the White Chamber Tower beyond. The ruins of the former Great Hall lie against the wall between the two towers with the dais end towards the latter. S of this is a large solar block, known as the Green Chambers; this has a formerly vaulted undercroft with (heavily-weathered) Green Man carving to two springing stones. (Listed Building Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSJ051657
Latitude53.1805686950684
Longitude-3.42065000534058
Eastings305150
Northings365770
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright John Hudson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 222-5, 260, 272-4, 446
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 42-45
  • Goodall, J.A.A., 2009, 'The Baronial Castles of the Welsh Conquest' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 155-65
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 299
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 106-9
  • Davis, Paul R., 2007, Castles of the Welsh Princes (Y Lolfa) p. 52
  • Gravett, Christopher, 2007, The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307 (Osprey Fortress series 64)
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 62-6
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 73-5
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 59-63
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London) p. 128-9
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 103-4
  • Smith, C., 1988, The Exchequer Gate. Denbigh - A Report on Excavations in 1982 and 1983 (Dept Archaeology. Newcastle University)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 41-2
  • Hubbard, E., 1986, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (Yale University Press) p. 144-5
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 103
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 346-7
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 1: the Middle Ages (London) p. 333-4
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (London) p. 240-1
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Medieval Castles in North Wales (Liverpool) p. 28-30
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 193-5
  • Lowe, W.Bezant, 1927, The Heart of North Wales (Llanfairfechan) Vol. 2 p. 196-200
  • RCAHMW, 1914, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Denbighshire (HMSO) p. 39-41 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 420-21 online copy
  • Williams, J., 1856, Ancient and Modern Denbigh (Denbigh) passim online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Gee, T., 1829, An Account of the Castle and Town of Denbigh
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 23-4 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 388-9

Antiquarian

Journals

  • John Kenyon, Chris Jones-Jenkins and Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of North-East Wales' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 50-89
  • 2012, 'Denbigh Castle's new visitor centre' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 14 p. 2
  • Coldstream, N., 2003 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
  • Smith. C. 1988, ‘The Excavation of the Exchequer Gate. Denbigh. 1982-3’ Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 137 p. 108-112
  • Smith. C. 1982, ‘The Exchequer Gate, Denbigh’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 22 p. 33–4
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • 1937, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 94 p. 319-20 online copy
  • Hemp, W.J., 1926-7, ‘Denbigh Castle’ Llandudno Field Club Vol. 13 p. 30-4 (abridged version of Y Cymmroder article)
  • Hemp, W.J., 1926, ‘Denbigh Castle’ Y Cymmroder Vol. 36 p. 64-120
  • Hemp, W.J., 1921, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 76 p. 323-8
  • Williams, L., 1888, 'Denbigh Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 43 p. 94-100 online copy
  • Ayrton, W., 1855-62, Chester Archititecture, Archaeological and History Society Vol. 2 p. 49-60
  • 1853, 'Miscellaneous Notices' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 4 p. 155 (report of fall of masonry)

Guide Books

  • Butler. L.A.S., 2007 (rev edn), Denbigh Castle, Denbigh town walls, Lord Leicester's Church, St Hilary's Chapel, Denbigh Friary (Cardiff: CADW) {also available in welsh}
  • Butler. L.A.S., 1990, Denbigh Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Butler, L.A.S., 1976, Denbigh Castle, Town Walls and Friary (HMSO)
  • Hemp, W.J., 1935 (abridged 1954), Denbigh Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Hog, T. (ed), 1845, F. Nicholai Triveti de ordine frat. praedicatorum Annales sex regum Angliae, qui a comitibus andegavensibus originem traxerunt (English Historical Society) p. 298, 333 online copy
  • Rothwell, H. (ed), 1957, The Chronicle of Walter of Guisborough, previously editied as the Chronicle of Walter of Hemingford or Hemingburgh (Camden Society) p. 251
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 160-1
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 364, 379 online copy
  • LR2/232, ff. 1-90 (Survey of 8 Edward III) The National Archives reference
  • SC12/27/28 (Survey of 4 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference
  • E178/3413 (Survey of 39 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference

Other

  • Ryder, Charles, 2011, The spiral stair or vice: Its origins, role and meaning in medieval stone castles (PhD Thesis University of Liverpool) p. 221-25 Download via