Denbigh Town Walls

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are major building remains

NameDenbigh Town Walls
Alternative NamesDynebeghe
Historic CountryDenbighshire
Modern AuthorityDenbighshire
1974 AuthorityClwyd
CommunityDenbigh

The borough of Denbigh was founded with the castle after 1282 and received its charter in 1290. The upper town occupied the greater part of a 4.7ha walled enclosure crowning the summit of an isolated hill, with the castle at its highest southern end. Most of this walled circuit remains along with its two gates and four towers. The Burgess Gate is substantially intact, but only the foundations remain of the Exchequer Gate. The most dramatic section is on the east side where a spur wall descends from the Countess Tower to the shattered wreck of the Goblin Tower, which guarded the town's main water supply. This was the scene of fierce fighting during the siege of 1646. Earthworks at its foot may have been constructed by the defence or for the attack. (Coflein)

Construction of the new castle and town wall circuit was begun in 1282 by the newly created Lord of Denbigh, Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. Of the town walls, the main stretch, including the surviving North-eastern and Countess' towers, was probably complete by c1290. In around 1295 a further stretch was created which projected eastwards in an arc beyond the line of the original wall across a steep rock face. This salient was constructed to embrace a spring or well which lay outside the boundary of the town proper. The main castle well tended to dry up during hot summers, so the necessity of encompassing this secondary source within the defensive circuit is clear. The focus of this projection was the mighty Goblin Tower, a vast polygonal tower built over the spring on rock foundations. During the Civil War the castle and old town were garrisoned and defended for the king by Colonel William Salesbury, a redoubtable commander known as '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'). During the siege various attempts were made to storm and seize the Goblin Tower which, with the associated sections of town wall, still show the considerable damage caused by Mytton's heavy siege guns. Close to the base of the Goblin Tower, now in the grounds of Howell's School, is a crescent-shaped earthwork. This was erected by the defenders to protect the tower's base from artillery damage; in the C19 many canon balls were recovered from this area.

Town walls of uncoursed, flush-faced limestone rubble, mostly on rock foundations and with buff-brown sandstone quoining. Most of the enceinte is traceable and the segment from North-east to South is particularly good, despite heavy Civil War artillery damage. This latter section includes the half-round North-east and Bastion towers, the rectangular Countess' Tower and the polygonal Goblin Tower. The walls vary in height up to a maximum of 5m; the crenellations are lost. The Goblin Tower is some 15m high and has a heavily-battered plinth rising to approximately 5m on the N side. There are irregular openings to each face (former slit-lights with wide inward splays), all of which have been widened through blasting; squinching where the walls meet the tower. On the West side of the old town is a section which includes the site of the Exchequer Gate. (See record number 82445). (Listed Building Report)

Small irregular area on strong site. One good double-towered gatehouse, two round towers, and one square one, near which is a spur-work, capped by a beaked tower, giving access to a well. Denbigh town walls were erected from 1282, concurrent with the castle, with which they formed a single architectural and defensive unit. Constructed of uncoursed flush-faced limestone rubble with sandstone quoining. Section of enceinte from NE to S comprises the NE and Bastion towers, the rectangualr Countess' Tower, and the polygonal Goblin Tower. Damaged during the Civil War, the Goblin Tower stands 15m high, with a battered plinth on N side, and irregular openings to each face. The enclosed site, by the castle, is difficult to access and much of the town, including the market, moved outside the walls even as early as 1334. The town walls then functioning as a large outer bailey to the castle with a town outside its gates. Only the church and a few burgess plots remained within the walls.

The late C13 charter of Henry de Lacy, as translated by Williams, reads 'And the heirs, or the assigns of each of these (being English) shall find a man armed in the aforesaid Town of Denbigh, within the walls, to gaurd and to defend the aforesaid Town "Un homme defensable en ville de Dynebeghe dedenz lex murs a la garde et la defens." for each burgage and curtilage before named.' 39 Individuals are named.

Gatehouse Comments

Were these 39 armed men to be a permanent watch or an emergency response force?

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSJ052658
Latitude53.1825790405273
Longitude-3.41816997528076
Eastings305270
Northings365830
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Copyright Richard Ash and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 170-1
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 223, 225
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 44-45
  • Lilley, K.D., 2009, 'The Landscapes of Edward's New Towns: Their Planning and Design' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 99-113
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 27, 28, 29, 30, 98, 128, 139, 140, 147, 204, 217, 226, 245, 267, 274
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 65-6
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 64-5
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds), Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • Hubbard, E., 1986, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (Yale University Press) p. 145
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 121-26 (plan)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 106
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 347
  • Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 online copy
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 213-6
  • Beresford, M., 1967, New Towns of the Middle Ages (London) p. 547-8
  • RCAHMW, 1914, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Denbighshire (HMSO) p. 40-1 no. 122 online copy
  • Williams, J., 1856, Ancient and Modern Denbigh (Denbigh) online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Gee. T., 1829. An Account of the Castle and Town of Denbigh

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
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Smith, 1988, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 137 p. 108-112
  • 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
  • Ayrton, 1855-62, Chester Arcitectural, Archaeological and History Society Vol. 2 p. 53-5

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)
  • Butler, L.A.S., 1990, Denbigh Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Butler, L.A.S., 1976, Denbigh Castle, Town Walls and Friary, Clwyd (HMSO)
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1935, Denbigh Castle (HMSO) p. 29-32
  • Hemp, W.J., 1935 (abridged 1954), Denbigh Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Williams, J., 1856, Ancient and Modern Denbigh (Denbigh) p. 302-9 online copy (Contain translation of late C13 charter which mentions walls)