Ruthin Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameRuthin Castle
Alternative NamesCastell Rhuthun; Castell Coch yn Gwern-for
Historic CountryDenbighshire
Modern AuthorityDenbighshire
1974 AuthorityClwyd
CommunityRuthin

A substantial masonry castle constructed from 1277, presently overlain by a hotel, formerly a private mansion, and incorporated into C19 garden landscaping. The castle consisted of a strong, roughly pentagonal, moated court, c.94m NE-SW by 60m, defined by curtain walls and rounded mural towers, with a twin-towered gate facing SE, away from the unwalled med. town, with a second, subsidiary, similarly defined court, c.52mNE-SW by 60m, adjoining on the SW. Built on a red sandstone ridge during Edward I's campaigns against the Welsh. It has suffered much rebuilding and is now a hotel, however several fairly substantial pieces of C13 work remain, in ruined state, in the hotel grounds. (Coflein)

Started in 1277 by Edward I, as part of a Royal building programme of border castles, and contemporary with those at Flint and Rhuddlan. Ruthin became a Marcher Lordship in 1282 under Reginald de Grey. It was attacked in 1400 during the uprising by Owain Glyndwr. The castle was ruined during the Civil War, some of the stone re-used elsewhere in the town; it was purchased by Sir Richard Myddelton in the C17. A house, now Ruthin Castle Hotel, was built over much of the lower bailey from 1826. The upper bailey is now gardens, some of the ruins embellished in gothic style in the C19.

Built along the crest of a hill on a SW-NE axis, in the form of an elongated pentagon with pointed E end, and surrounded by a moat. It has an upper bailey to the NE and a lower bailey to the SW. The castle is constructed of substantial blocks of coursed red and grey sandstone. It consists of the following main elements: a substantial curtain wall, battered towards the base and particularly high on the NW (down-hill) side; large round towers to the angles of each bailey; a gatehouse to E with twin D-shaped towers; postern gate to NW curtain wall, in N corner of lower bailey. Internally, the remains of the hall survive to the upper bailey

The gatehouse to the E consists of 2 projecting D-shaped towers, that to the E surviving to 1 storey, with a pointed-arched doorway to the straight rear wall. The W tower survives up to 2 storeys high, with 2 denuded Tudor-ached openings to the front. Its E side, and the central entrance have been gothicised: The gateway has a wide Tudor arch of stone voussoirs, containing double cast iron gates with scrollwork, flanked by miniature turrets with pierced quatrefoil decoration, over which are crenellated parapets. The flanking walls step down to L and R, behind which a walkway leads over the gateway, reached by stone steps. At right-angles to L, the E wall of the adjoining tower contains a doorcase with 2 octagonal shafts with capitals, supporting a stone cornice, inside which is an arched boarded door; this is flanked by pointed-arched windows, that to R with a diamond grille, boarded behind. The internal side of this wall forms part of a staggered passageway with gothic detail, including decorative cobbled flooring, which leads from the hotel to the gateway steps. Underneath the medieval towers are a series of chambers, probably including prison cells: these are reached by stone staircases, the vaulted roofs supported by chamfered Tudor-arched transverse ribs. Two chambers survive at ground level on the N side of the entrance towers. The curtain wall running W from the gatehouse joins Ruthin Castle Hotel, its face surviving to the lower parts. It has a small doorway, with Tudor-arched head of stone voussoirs, now infilled. To the NE of the gatehouse, a narrow pointed doorway set at an angle leads to a further section of curtain wall. The NE tower is located at the pointed end of the upper bailey, and survives to a low level; a narrow pointed-arched doorway leads into it. Running towards the W, the curtain wall is better preserved and contains angled slits, including red sandstone blocks with angled oval openings. Turning towards the SW, the high curtain wall has 3 round towers along its length. The NE tower survives about 1m above ground level and contains the base of a winding staircase. The hall is located between the NE and central towers, a large rectangular building with high wall to NW, and low wall to SE. The end walls are not well-preserved, but there is a narrow Tudor-arched doorway to N corner. Between the NW wall and curtain wall was a narrow corridor, possibly containing service areas. It has tall round-arched doorways with red sandstone dressings to each end, and pointed-arched window openings to the curtain wall. However, the NW wall of the hall was gothicised, with crenellated parapets and stepped buttresses to the inner (hall) side. The corridor appears to have been re-used as a garden structure, possibly a hot-house. It had 2 fireplaces with stone lintels to the inner wall, now infilled with brick, recessed arches to both sides, and evidence for a lean-to roof. To the SW, the wall of the central tower stands c1.2m high and has recesses for 4 window openings. Adjacent to this is a probable wheel-pit, with leat in N corner which could have provided water for an overshot wheel. This structure could have been associated with the castle entrance, a mill within the castle, or a C19 garden feature. Beyond the central tower is the lower bailey, the ground level falling sharply, and with spiral and straight stairs leading down. At the bottom, the curtain wall contains a low postern gate (visible from outside), and a gateway to its SW, a wide archway of stone voussoirs, with grooves for a portcullis; there is evidence for a tower structure above this. The curtain wall was partly damaged during the Civil War. The SW tower was rebuilt in red sandstone in the mid C19, and forms part of the formal gardens of Ruthin Castle Hotel. A wall runs SE from the tower and then terminates. (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 ReferenceSJ123580
Latitude53.1122512817383
Longitude-3.31170010566711
Eastings312320
Northings358020
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Books

  • Davis, Paul, R., 2011, The Forgotten Castles of Wales (Almeley: Logaston Press) p. 176
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 112-5
  • 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. 67-8
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge)
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 129-30
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 82-3
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 35-7
  • Hubbard, E., 1986, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (Yale University Press) p. 271-2
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 378
  • 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. 327-9
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply, and Building Stones (London) p. 25
  • RCAHMW, 1914, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Denbighshire (HMSO) p. 178-80 no. 624 online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 269 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • Newcome, R., 1829, Account of Castle and Town of Ruthin (Ruthin) online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 387

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. 100-117
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 319
  • Howell, P., 1977, 'Country Houses in the vale of Clwyd' Country Life p. 1906-9
  • 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
  • Patterson, S W, 1959, ‘Ruthin Castle’ The 106th Annual Meeting at Ruthin, 1959, CAA p. 7-13
  • Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • 1921, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 76 p. 316-7
  • 1887, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 42 p. 351-2 online copy

Primary Sources