Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle,  Mid Glamorgan

~ History ~

AD 75 -  A Roman earth and timber fort was erected and garrisoned until the middle years of the second century when it was abandoned. For over a thousand years, the site of Caerphilly seems to have remained essentially unoccupied.

1072 - Six years after the Norman conquest the site remained under Welsh rule and in this year under the kingship of Caradog ap Gruffudd, a formidable figure who appears to have come to some sort of arrangement with the Norman invaders.

1081 - Following the death of Caradog in 1081 William the Conqueror arrived on the coast of south Wales. It was during this expedition that the 'town' and castle of Cardiff was built. However, welsh magnates continued to exercise their rule in what is now Glamorgan.

1217 - After a long period in royal custody, the lordship of Glamorgan fell into the hands of the de Clare family. The founder of this long-lasting Anglo-Norman line was Richard de Clare who, along with his brother Baldwin, took part on the invasion of England in 1066. In acquiring Glamorgan through marriage inheritance, at one stroke they became the most powerful magnate house in thirteenth -century England. By 1267 virtually all the native welsh kings had submitted to the de Clare's and their lands absorbed.

1262 - In the summer of 1262 at the age of just 19, the young Earl Gilbert the Red attempted to gain immediate control of the vast de Clare estate following his fathers death. This was rebuffed by King Henry III.

1263 - Earl Gilbert finally takes control of his fathers estate.

1264 - Earl Gilbert sides with the rebel barons under Simon de Montfort In May of that year they defeated the King at the battle of Lewes, with de Clare's support a significant factor in the victory.

1265 - However, de Clare's support soon changed when in June 1265 de Montfort recognised Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as prince of Wales. The price of Llywelyn's support for de Montfort's cause was too much for de Clare and so he switched his allegiance and joined forces with the young Lord Edward, the future King Edward I. On August 4th 1265, they confronted de Montfort at the battle of Evesham. Earl Simon de Montfort was slain, his army utterly defeated.


1267 - De Clare and the other 'rebel' lords have their lands restored following a march on London.

The end of the baronial revolt left Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as the only potential danger to King Henry III. In September 1267 the Crown confirmed to Llywelyn and his heirs the title of 'prince of Wales'. Even before the Treaty was signed de Clare went on the offensive with rapid foray into the welsh uplands capturing its ruler, Gruffudd ap Rhys, imprisoning him in Ireland.

1268 - On the 11th April 1268 work began on the castle of Caerphilly. By the summer open warfare erupted when Llywelyn's forces invaded vast areas of land just north of Caerphilly. A truce was signed in September of that year but Llywelyn was losing patience as de Clare continued to build his castle and on 13th October he attacked and burnt the rising fortifications of Caerphilly. De Clare reacted furiously but was restrained from mounting an all out counter-attack.

1270 - On 1st June 1270 the building of Caerphilly began once more. Llywelyn prepared for war. Again the king stepped in and despatched the bishop of Coventry to take control of Caerphilly on behalf of the crown. Llywelyn agreed to withdraw.

1272 - 40 men at arms entered the castle and ejected the bishop's men. When summoned to explain, the earl claimed no knowledge of the plan, and he cloaked the actions in such a way the King was forced to accept and Llywelyn had little choice but agree to arbitration (which never materialized).

1274 - Edward I, returned to England from the crusades and by November 1276 embarked on all out war against Llywelyn. Six years later, a second royal campaign resulted in the death of Llywelyn, and with him all hope of Welsh independence.

1287 - During a short-lived Welsh revolt de Clare builds another castle at Morlais sparking four years of conflict with Earl Humphrey de Bohun resulting in Edward imprisoning both. Within months both had their estates restored

1295 - The Red Earl dies aged 52 leaving control to his widow, Countess Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I.

1314 - The last Earl Gilbert dies in the battle of Bannockburn and so ends the line of the de Clare family.

1316 - A Welsh revolt led by Llywelyn Bren with a force of 10,000 attacks but fails to take Caerphilly. A royal army was despatched and on 18 March Llywelyn surrendered and with is family imprisoned in the Tower of London.

1318 - Despite promises made by Llywelyn, the cruel and despised Hugh Despenser, now lord of Caerphilly, had him hanged, beheaded and quartered.

1326 - The fleeing Edward II and his favourite Hugh Despesner hide in Caerphilly castle but are betrayed and later captured. Within months both meet barbaric deaths. While these events had been taking place, Caerphilly Castle lay under siege by Queen Isabella's forces. The kings garrison of 130 men refused to surrender until March 1327 when a free pardon was issued.

1329 - Eleanor de Clare has the lordship of Glamorgan restored to her but is abducted by the keeper of Glamorgan Lord Zouch. The pair marry without royal consent and they even lay siege to Caerphilly Castle.

1337 - The Castle passes to the restored heir Hugh, Lord Despenser.

1403 ~ Glyndwr's welsh forces capture the castle, but later in the year Caerphilly is retaken by the English.

1405 ~ Glyndwr returns with additional French forces and retakes the castle, holding it until thefollowing year when it is again retaken by the English.

1416 - The lordship of Glamorgan, together with the castle, passes to Richard Beauchamp who spent considerable sums of money improving accommodation and during 1428-29 extensive repairs to the defences.

1485 - The battle of Bosworth brought King Henry VII to the throne, and in 1486 he granted Glamorgan to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke. From this time onwards the castle fell into decay and by 1539 described as ruinous.



9 miles North of Cardiff


Off B4623


CF83 1JD

Caerphilly stands on the important route between Cardiff and Brecon. Built by Gilbert de Clare 'the Red Earl' during the late 13th century, is second only to Windsor Castle in size covering some 30 acres, was one of the earliest concentric castles in Britain, predating all the welsh castles built by Edward I and constructed within just three years between 1268-1271. Remarkably the castle was raised with private funds by the immensely powerful earl of Gloucester and Hereford, and Marcher lord of Glamorgan.

It is easy to see why Caerphilly, with all its elaborate fortifications set in a vast expanse of water, was one of the most formidable strongholds in all of Europe. Caerphilly is simply one of the finest and most ambitious architectural creations ever raised during the Middle Ages.