Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey
5 miles N.E. of the Menai Bridge
A545 / B5109
The beautiful marsh covered with bulrushes on the Isle of Anglesey must have inspired the Norman name of this great castle of Edward I, has today more of less drained away and become instead a flat pastureland. Sitting majectically on the shores of the Menai Straits, looking across to mainland Wales, this powerful castle took more than 35 years to build, and even so was never completely finished. It was the last of the great castles built by Edward I following his conquest of Wales, and was designed by Edward's most famous castle-builder, Master James of St George.
In its day the castle with its wide moat, high walls, strong towers and perfect concentric defensive layout, was considered to be impregnable. However, this was never put to the test during its short uneventful history. Less than 20 years after building work had stopped on the still-unfinished castle, there were reports that it was already falling into decay.
There is a large car park behind the castle and another on open ground near the shore, therefore plenty of parking with easy access to the castle.
Beaumaris Castle is the picture perfect castle in terms of design and is a must for any Castle Finder.
~ History ~
1284 - With the execution of Dafydd at Shrewsbury following his brother, Llywelyn the Last, Prince of Wales's death and the subsequent end of the Welsh princes, Edward I lays down in the Statute of Rhuddlan his vision of English rule, based on shires and counties. One of these, Anglesey, has no castle.
1280's - The new castles at Conwy and Harlech are completed, older castles are repaired, completing Edward's chain of coastal castles that extend from Flint to Aberystwyth.
1294 - The Welsh rise in revolt under the leadership of Madog ap Llywelyn, against their compulsory enlistment for service in Gascony. Caernarfon, the very symbol and administrative centre of English rule is attacked and severely damaged. Many casualties are inflicted on the English including the king's favourite Roder de Puleson, being hanged by the Welsh rebels. Within a year, as winter sets in the revolt is quashed. The re-assertion of English power includes the eviction of the whole population of Llanfraes to make way for the King's new state-of-the-art castle within the 'beautiful marshes', Beaumaris.
1295 - The building of Beaumaris begins under the direction of Master James of St George, the master of the king's works in Wales, who has already built the castles at Builth, Aberystwyth, Rhuddlan, Flint, Conwy, Harlech and Caernarfon.
1298 - Master James joins Edward's campaign in Scotland.
1330 - The total cost of Beaumaris reaches £14,500. The project has employed more than 375 quarrymen, 450 stonemasons, 30 smiths, hundreds of carpenters and almost 2,000 labourers, from all over the country. Sea-coal, for the burning of lime, amounts to 2,428 tons, 16,200 free-stones quarried by four contractors and 32,583 tons of stone have been transported by 30 boats and 60 waggons. 640 quarters of charcoal; 42 mason's axes; 3,277 boards, ropes and chains; 8 loads of lead; 160 pounds of tin; 314 'bends' of iron; 105,000 assorted nails were used. Most of these materials arriving by sea onto the castle dock, which allows a 40 ton vessel to come fully laden right up to the gate of the castle.
With the war in Scotland and continued heavy expenditure in France, together with the reduced threat from Welsh rebellion, construction work is finally halted.
1343 - A survey for the Black Prince estimates completion costs of around £684, a considerable sum. Minor sums of money is continuously spent maintaining the existing structures already in place.
1403 ~ Owain Glyndwr's forces lay siege to Beaumaris Castle, along with every major caste in north-east Wales, Aberystwyth, Harlech, Conwy, Cricieth and Caernarfon. Castles further south such as Cardiff, Caerphilly, Newport and Usk still recovering from Glydwr's slighting.
King Henry IV sends four successive Royal expeditions into Wales to lift Glyndwr's hold Wales over the next two years, but each in turn are forced back into England. King Henry IV now faces trouble in both France and Scotland, severely restricting his ability to mount further campaigns into Wales.
1404 ~ Beaumaris Castle falls to a combined Welsh and French force after, Maredudd ap Cynwrig, deputy sheriff of Anglesey, having left the castle with most of its two hundred garrison, is ambushed with heavy casualties. Maeredudd is taken for ransom.
1405 ~ English ships sail from Dublin to attack Anglesey, recapturing Beaumaris Castle, Glyndwr's forces are forced to abandon Anglesey to the safety of Snowdonia across the Menai Straights.
Glyndwr calls a Parliament at Harlech Castle attended by ambassadors from France, Castile, Brittany and Scotland to discuss further support to the Welsh war effots and possible truce with the English.
1534 - Maintenance and repair work on the castle have long since dried up when a survey reports 'there is scarcely a single chamber in Beaumaris Castle where a man could lie dry '.
1538 - A further survey of the four main castles in North Wales, which includes Beaumaris as 'much ruynous and ferre in decay for lacke of tymely reparacons'.
1609 - Beaumaris and Conwy are officially classified as 'utterlie decayed', whilst parts of Harlech and Caenarfon usable.
1640's - Beaumaris is used by King Charles I during the civil war to ferry men and materials from Ireland.