Holt Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHolt Castle
Alternative NamesChastellion; Castrum Leonis; Castle Lions
Historic CountryDenbighshire
Modern AuthorityWrexham
1974 AuthorityClwyd
CommunityHolt

Holt Castle was built between 1282-1311 and demolished between 1675-83. The surviving remains include an irregular pentagon of walls, about 20-24m across set upon and against a boss of natural rock. The castle is reached by a causeway from the north, and is raised about 10m proud the expansive floor of a quarry that has subsumed any traces of ditches, moats or ourworks. Old prints and plans show that the present remains represent a courtyard around which were ranges of apartments within a towered curtain. There are associated fishponds about 600m to west. (Coflein)

The remains of the present structure date back to the second Edwardian campaign of 1282-3, however it is probable that the site had been of strategic importance for many centuries before. Bronze Age remains have been found on the site. The Edwardian lordship castle was built by the Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne. When John Noren visited the site in 1620 he described it as 'nowe in great decay'. It is however clear from his drawings that it was a single ward castle, planned as a regular pentagon, with buildings ranged against each curtain wall and a tower at each angle. Four towers were round, with watch turrets and battered plinths while at opposing ends there were square towers, one of which was a gatehouse barbican. The castle changed hands at least twice during the Civil War. The castle was demolished between 1675 and 1683 to provide building material for Sir Thomas Grosvenor's Eaton Hall.

The remains stand upon an artificially-shaped boss of red sandstone upon and around which the castle was originally constructed. Sandstone blockwork survives, the S side being the best preserved with a doorway and steps leading into the interior

(Listed Building Report)

Holt Castle, known as Chastellion or Castrum Leonis from the lion sculpture above its gateway, was built some time between 1282 and 1311 by John de Warren, who was granted the area after Edward I's final defeat of the Welsh. The King's architect may have been responsible for the design of the castle. An irregular pentagon of walls, c.20-24m across, set upon and against a boss of natural rock, reached by a causeway from the N, and raised c.10m proud the expansive floor of a quarry that has subsumed any traces of ditches, moats or ourworks. It was probably intended to guard the river crossing. The visible remains are difficult to interpret since almost all the stonework was removed between 1675 and 1683 for the construction of Eaton Hall. A survey of 1562 shows all the towers as round with a rectangular external annexe containing the chapel running full height of the south-eastern tower opposite the gate as square or rectangular. (Butler 1987)

Gatehouse Comments

Has undergone a re-interpreation based on documentary and other evidence found since Lawrence Butler's comprehensive historic survey of 1987. The Castle Studies Trust is looking at the various options to best show the excellent work of Chris Jones-Jenkins and Rick Turner in its entirety and the basis for conclusions. See Castle Studies Trust.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* 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 ReferenceSJ411537
Latitude53.0779190063477
Longitude-2.88021993637085
Eastings341130
Northings353770
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Books

  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 54-58
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 21, 222, 335
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 48-49
  • 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
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 237 (listed)
  • 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. 66
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 93
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 75
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • Butler, l., 1987, ‘Holt Castle: John de Warenne and Chastellion’ in Kenyon, J.R. and Avent., R. (eds), Castles in Wales and the Marches: essays in honour of D. J. Cathcart King (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) p. 105-24
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 42-3
  • Hubbard, E., 1986, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (Yale University Press) p. 183
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 144-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 103-4
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 358
  • 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. 334-5
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply, and Building Stones (London) p. 24
  • RCAHMW, 1914, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Denbighshire (HMSO) p. 74-5 no. 238 online copy
  • Palmer, A.N., 1910, The Town of Holt, in County Denbigh: Its Castle, Church, Franchise, Demesne, Fields, etc., together with The Parish of Iscoed adjoining (London) (This book, first serialised in Archaeologia Cambrensis, seems to be given several titles such as The History of Holt etc.)
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 386

Antiquarian

  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1906, Leland's Itinerary in Wales  (Bell and Sons; London) p. 69 online copy

Journals

  • John Kenyon, Chris Jones-Jenkins, Rick Turner and Neil Guy, 2015-16, 'The Castle Studies Group Conference 'Castles of North-East Wales' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 29 p. 90-99
  • Pratt, D., 2012, 'Living like a lord - the 'Great House' at Holt (Castle), 1495' Clwyd Historian Vol. 66 p. 28-34
  • Booth, P.H.W., 2000, 'The corporation of Holt, the manor of Farndon, and the bridge over the. Dee, Denbighshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 146
  • Grenter, S., 1988, ‘Holt Castle’, Archaeology in Clwyd Vol. 10 p. 6–8
  • 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
  • Pratt, D., 1965, 'The medieval borough of Holt' Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions p. 8-74
  • Hemp, W.J., 1935, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 90 p. 357-8
  • Palmer, A.N., 1908, 'The town of Holt in county Denbigh' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 63 p. 155-63 online copy
  • Palmer, A.N., 1907, 'The town of Holt in county Denbigh: its castle, church, franchise and demesne' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 62 p. 1-34, 311-4, 389-402 online copy
  • Jones, H. F.J., 1875, 'Holt Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 30 p. 91-3 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1894, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1307-13) Vol. 1 p. 405 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 162-3
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 179, 363, 380 online copy Vol. 2 p. 99, 103, 308 [online copy > http://archive.org/stream/memoirsofcivilwa02philiala#page/99/mode/1up]
  • LR2/249 (Survey of temp. Henry VIII) The National Archives reference (in [Palmer 1907 p. 312-14 > http://archive.org/stream/archaeologiacam12assogoog#page/n344/mode/1up]
  • Survey of 1587-8 in Palmer 1907 p. 317-8)
  • B.M. Harleian MS. 3696 (Survey of 1620) British Library collection information (in [Palmer 1907 p. 389-92 > http://archive.org/stream/archaeologiacam12assogoog#page/n421/mode/1up])
  • C145/263(5) (Survey of 1397) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference