Conwy Castle in Wales, the 700 years old fortress

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Conwy Castle in Wales, the 700 years old fortress

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Edward I (Edward Longshanks) was a descendant of the Normans and a king of England from the Plantegenet House in the 13th century. In addition to England, he also subjected Wales and to curtail the various rebellions that would spring up against his rule, he built a series of castles and towns in the countryside around Wales and settled them with English people. Towering over the Welsh, these formidable castles and fortresses were meant to show them, who was their lord.

One of them was Conwy Castle built in just four years between 1283 and 1287, as part of a wider project to create the town of Conwy – the total cost of the project was £15,000. The site was previously occupied by Cistercian monks who were forcibly removed by Edward. Conwy Castle played an important role in many wars. It withstood the siege of Madog ap Llywelyn (part of the Welsh revolt against Edward I) in the winter of 1294–95, acted as a temporary haven for Richard II in 1399, was held for several months by forces loyal to Owain Glyndŵr in 1401 (another Welsh revolt against King Henry IV), and was held by forces loyal to Charles I during the Civil War. After the English Civil War in 1642, it was delibrately damaged by the English Parliament to prevent it being used in any further revolts.

Conwy Castle was finally completely ruined in 1665 when its remaining iron and lead was stripped and sold off. It became a destination for painters and artists in the 18th and 19th centuries and now is a major tourist attraction in Wales. It is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which considers it one of “the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe”.

As you drive down across the bridge to reach it, you can see it rising magnificantly at the mouth of the River Conwy, as it discharges into the Conwy Bay.

(Also check out the Roman Fort in Ambleside)

There are restored spiral staircases in its amazing towers and you can walk a complete circuit around the battlements of Conwy Castle. In the distance you can see the mountains of Snowdonia and spread out below are the harbour and narrow streets of Conwy. These are still protected by an unbroken 1,400-yard (1.3km) ring of town walls.

The fortress is exceptionally well preserved, containing the most intact set of medieval royal apartments in Wales. It has a high wall and eight towers rising loftily towards the sky, created by first master mason James of St George. They look impressive even now, so you can imaging how they looked 700 years ago. You can also see the remains of lime on the walls, which points to the fact that it was once painted white. There is also a 90 foot well that made the fortress self sufficient during sieges.

Edward I only stayed here once, when he was trapped by a Welsh rebellion in 1294, spending a miserable Christmas with just one barrel of wine in the castle cellar for comfort. His Queen Isabella only ever saw it as a building site. Their son, the future Edward II came to the castle to receive homage as Prince of Wales in 1301 and stayed for a couple of months. The only time the royal apartments were used was when Conwy Castle became the site of tense negotiations between Richard II and his eventual captors in 1399.

I spent lovely day walking around this brilliant fortress, looking at the royal apartments, the spiral staircases, the towers and the well.

All images: 360onhistory.com

Title music: Hovering Thoughts by Spence (YouTube Music Archive)

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I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.

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