Flint Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameFlint Castle
Alternative NamesFflint; Flynt
Historic CountryFlintshire
Modern AuthorityFlintshire
1974 AuthorityClwyd
CommunityFlint

Flint Castle was commissioned by Edward I in 1277 to dominate the region which had been brought under firm English control following the rise of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. The masonry fortress and fortified town served as a base for further invasion into north Wales, and was instrumental in the final collapse of organised Welsh resistance to the English Crown when it was attacked on Palm Sunday 1282 by Dafydd ap Gruffudd, drawing his brother Llywelyn into the revolt that was to lead to his death at the end of that year. The castle comprised an almost square inner ward with round angle towers on three corners, and a detatched round tower on the south-eastern corner. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it served as a financial and administrative centre for the county, and was thus retained in good order. It was then garrisoned by royalists in 1642, and served as a base for the harrying of Chester during the English Civil War, during which it passed repeatedly from royalist to parliamentarian control before eventual surrendering to parliament in 1646. Flint Castle was demolished on the orders of parliament following the end of the Civil War, together with a number of other fortifications in Wales, including Rhuddlan Castle (NPRN 92914) and Raglan Castle (NPRN 93387) (Coflein)

Edwardian stone castle of 1277 possibly on site of 1157 castle. Four towers surrounding courtyard, one of which was set further out and separated from the castle by a moat which was probably filled at high tide. The outer ward was protected by another moat. In 1785-1976 a red sandstone building occupying most of the outer bailey was used as a Gaol. The inner ward measures 160 x 145 feet and is c. 0.5 acre in area. South, west and north towers in ruins in record of 1618-24 and thieves tower recorded as not able to keep out the rain (Williams, J G 1988, 5). Castle is built on a low promontary of sandstone rock among the marshes bordering the shores of the Dee

Evaluation trenches to west of outer ward. Site levelled in 20th century. Trace of 19th century chemical works and waste located. To the south the outer wall was located below the car park. Limits of outer ward defined (Hannaford, H R 1988, 71). Excavations were carried out at Flint Castle from 1971 to assist in the conservation of structures and to enhance their display. The inner moat was sectioned against the inner curtain wall and the South-West tower, showing that it originally had a nearly vertical outer face 20ft high. Excavation within the outer ward revealed road surfaces, boundary gullies and a large post hole, but no remains of major buildings. the deep moat between the outer ward and the town was found to be crossed by a submerged rock causeway, at the castle end of which were the remains of a masonry gatehouse which had contained a pivoting bridge. This gatehouse sealed construction-period timbers and part of a turf revetment. Stone supports for a multi-span timber bridge, contemporary with the gatehouse, survived on the rock causeway. A stone-revetted causeway replaced the bridge in the early C17th. The north-east end of the outer curtain wall was examined: it continues towards the Great Tower as a narrower wall revetting the make-up of the outer ward. Part of a construction-period mason's lodge was seen here. A well-preserved ashlar wall revetting the deep channel of the outer moat was revealed nearby. In the town of Flint, part of the Edwardian defences was sectioned (Miles, T J, 1996, 67-151). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

First of castles built by Edward I during his conquest of North Wales; the town of Flint was founded at the same time, as a fortified market town. Unique great tower of the castle was based on the Tour de Constance at Aigues Mortes. Construction known to have begun 1277, but following Edward's treaty with Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, building slowed and not complete by 1282 when the town was burnt, and the castle besieged by Welsh forces. In 1399, Richard II surrendered to Henry IV at the castle. Following sieges in Civil War, castle dismantled on orders of Parliament, and by 1652 was almost buried in its own ruins.

Description: Ruinous. Brown, yellow, and red stone, quarried from site, and across Dee on Wirral. Inner bailey consists of almost square enclosure with sides of approximately 50m (E-W) by 40m (N-S), and corner towers. Medieval curtain wall survives to S, and at NW corner (most of other curtain walling is modern on line of medieval walls). South curtain wall has arched openings to N, with arrow slits and remains of gatehouse (E); 2 similar openings in NW wall, and traces of others. Round towers (approx 11m in diameter) at SW, NW, NE corners quarter-engaged in curtain wall; towers have remains of stairs and arrow slits. Bailey has foundations of buildings, and well. At SE corner is unique great tower, or donjon (approx 20m in diameter). Basement and part of one upper floor survive (but evidence that tower rose higher). Stone vaulted passage has steps down to central chamber of tower; arrow slits, latrine shutes, well to S. One of the 5 radial first floor rooms was chapel, facing E; stoup and springing for barrel vault. To SW of castle is section of revetment wall of ditch (tidal moat) to former outer bailey of Castle. Opposite Castle Street are modern steps on site of gateway (higher masonry to R). Wall parallel to Castle Ditch Street for approx 120 metres (broken towards N), then turns at right angles at SE end for 30 metres. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Begun in 1277, one of the first castles to be built in Wales by King Edward I. Its most impressive feature is a solitary round tower, isolated from the rest of the inner ward. It is sited on a rocky outcrop on the estuary of the river Dee which may have been the site of an earlier castle. Consists of an almost square inner ward, c.52m by 57m, with round angle towers except on the SE, where there is a detached round tower, c.22m in diameter. On the SW is an outer, much ruined, sub-rectangular enclosure, c.100m NW-SE by 68m. The largest tower, which was never finished, overlooks the small gate. Unlike most castles little evidence has been found for domestic buildings within the wards. The castle was surrounded by a deep moat and outer defences of timber were still being maintained in 1337. "In the long term, the great tower of Flint was more admired (and therefore more imitated) than any other building begun by Edward I. It is a sad irony, therefore, that it remains amongst both scholars and visitors the least loved of all the royal castles." (Goodall, 2009, p. 162). Much of the glory of the great tower of Flint would have been in the 'carola lignee nobili et pulchra' (noble and beautiful timber gallery) built by Master Henry de Rihull (Turner, 2009, p. 50). The loss of this, and the complexity of the tower's design, make it a difficult building to understand and appreciate, particularly if one looks at castles as primarily military buildings. It may be the limited view of earlier castellologists have lead to them basically ignoring this important building because it did not fit into that view.

- 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 ReferenceSJ247733
Latitude53.2517700195313
Longitude-3.1298201084137
Eastings324700
Northings373300
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Books

  • Perfect, V., 2012, Flint Castle: the story of Edward I's first Welsh castle (Cilcain: Alyn Books)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 46-48
  • 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
  • Turner, R., 2009, 'The Life and Career of Richard the Engineer' in Willams, D. and Kenyon, J. (eds), The Impact of the Edwardian Castles in Wales (Oxbow) p. 46-58
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 84
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 123-6
  • 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. 72-5
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 83-4
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles of North Wales (Malvern) p. 68-70
  • Burnham, H., 1995, A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Clwyd and Powys (Cadw, London)
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 173
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 117-8
  • Williams, J G , 1988, The Castles of Wales during The Civil War, 1642-1647
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, The Welsh Castles of Edward I (Hambledon Press) p. 16-26
  • Taylor, A.J., 1986, ‘The building of Flint: a postscript’, in Taylor, A.J., Studies in castles and castle-building (London: Hambledon Press) p. 165–72
  • Hubbard, E., 1986, The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd (Yale University Press) p. 348-9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 152-3
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 352-4
  • 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. 308-18
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (London) p. 166-7
  • Neaverson, E., 1947, Mediaeval Castles in North Wales: A study of Sites, Water Supply, and Building Stones (London) p. 41
  • Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 155-7
  • RCAHMW, 1912, An inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Flintshire (HMSO) p. 25-8 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (Methuen and Co) p. 123-6
  • Taylor, H., 1883, Historic Notices of Flint (London) online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 409-12 online copy
  • Lewis, Samual, 1849, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales online copy
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 125-6 online copy
  • Grose, Francis, 1785, The Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 7 p. 26-29, 39 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 391

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. 42-49
  • 2015 Sept, 'Historic Flint Castle defences found under block of flats' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 20 p. 21 (new of archaeological investigation)
  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Coldstream, N., 2003, 'Architects, Advisers and Design at Edward I’s Castles in Wales' Architectural History Vol. 46 p. 19-36
  • Miles, T.J., 1996, ‘Flint: Excavations at the Castle and on the Town Defences 1971-1974’ Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 145 p. 67-151
  • Morgan, D., 1996, ‘Flint Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 36 p. 87
  • Hannaford. H.R., 1988, ‘Flint Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 28 p. 70-1
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1984, ‘Castle gates and garden gates’ Architectural History Vol. 27 443-5 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1981, ‘Flint Castle’ The 128th Annual Meeting in Chester, 1981, CAA p. 10-11
  • Miles. T J. 1977, ‘Flint Castle’, in P J Davey (ed), Medieval Pottery from Excavations in the North West (Institute of Extension Studies (Liverpool)) p. 104
  • Miles, T.J., 1973, ‘Flint Castle’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 165-6 download copy
  • Miles, T.J., 1972, ‘Flint Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 12 p. 28
  • Miles, T.J., 1971, ‘Flint Castle’ Archaeology in Wales Vol. 11 p. 23
  • Miles, T.J., 1971, ‘Flint Castle’ Medieval Archaeology Vol. 16 p. 186-92 download copy
  • Tucker, N., 1969-70, 'The final sieges of Flint' Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 24 p. 44-55 online copy
  • 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
  • Craster, O.E., 1965-6. ‘The supposed outer ditch of Flint castle’ Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 22 p. 71-2 online copy
  • Hurst, J.G., 1966, 'Early eighteenth century pottery from Flint Castle' Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 22 p. 73-4 online copy
  • King, D.J.C. 1958. ‘The Donjon of Flint’ Journal of the Chester and North Wales Architectural, Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 45 p. 61-69
  • Taylor, A.J., 1957, 'The Building of Flint a postscript' Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 17 p. 34-41 online copy
  • Edwards, J. Goronwy, 1952, 'The Building of Flint' Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 12 p. 5-20 online copy
  • Taylor, A.J., 1946-7, 'Rhyl Report' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 99 p. 323-5
  • Edwards, J. Goronwy, 1944, 'Edward I's Castle-Building in Wales' Proceedings of the British Academy Vol. 32 esp p. 32-7, 68
  • Simpson, W.D., 1940, ‘Flint Castle’. Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 95 p. 20-6
  • 1937, Archaeological Journal Vol. 94 p. 323-5
  • Hemp, 1927-8, Llandudno Field Club Vol. 14 p. 31-6
  • 1922, Flintshire Historical Society Vol. 9 p. 45-51 online copy
  • Taylor, H., 1899, ‘Guide of Flint Castle’ Topographical Tracts 1898-1900 p. 6

Guide Books

  • Renn, Derek and Avent, Richard, 2001, Flint Castle — Ewloe Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • From an original text by the late Hemp, W.J., 1987 (rev edn), Flint Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Hemp, W.J., 1929, Flint Castle (HMSO)

Primary Sources

  • Brut y Tywysogion 1277 (Several transcriptions and translations exist the best being Jones, T., 1952, Brut Y Twysogion (University of Wales, History and Law series 11)–based on the Peniarth MS 20 version. There is a flawed translation Williams ab Ithel, John, 1860, Brut Y Twysogion or The Chronicle of the Princes (Rolls Series) online copy)
  • Luard, H.R. (ed), 1890, Flores Historiarum (Rolls Series 95) Vol. 3 p. 56 online copy
  • 'Chronicon vulgo dictum Chronicon Thomae Wykes' in Luard, H.R (ed), Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 4 p. 287 online copy
  • 'Annales Prioratus de Dunstaplia' in Luard, H.R (ed), 1866, Annales Monastici (Rolls Series 36) Vol. 3 p. 291-2 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. 198-9
  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 365
  • List of Constables of Flint Castle
  • SC12/22/96 (Survey of 11 Edward III) 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. 190-96 Download via
  • Hannaford, H.R., 1989, Flint Castle. Archaeological evaluation of sites to the west of the castle in 1988 CPAT report 2. January 1989
  • Giffords, 1994, Report on an archaeological evaluation at Flint Castle. Moat embankment