Caerphilly Castle, Mid Glamorgan
9 miles North of Cardiff
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 King 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.
~ History ~
AD 75 - A Roman earth and timber fort is erected and garrisoned until the middle years of the second century when it is 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 remains 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, William the Conqueror arrives on the coast of south Wales. It is during this expedition that the 'town' and castle of Cardiff is built. However, Welsh magnates continue to exercise their rule in what is now Glamorgan.
1217 - After a long period in royal custody, the lordship of Glamorgan falls into the hands of the de Clare family. The founder of this long-lasting Anglo-Norman line is 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 become the most powerful magnate house in thirteenth -century England. By 1267 virtually all the native welsh kings have submitted to the de Clare's and their lands absorbed.
1262 - At the age of just 19, the young Earl Gilbert the Red attempts to gain immediate control of the vast de Clare estate following his fathers death. This is 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. They defeat 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 changes when de Montfort recognises Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as prince of Wales. The price of Llywelyn's support for de Montfort's cause is too much for de Clare and so he switches his allegiance and joins forces with the young Lord Edward, the future King Edward I. They confront de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham. Earl Simon de Montfort is 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 leaves Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as the only potential danger to King Henry III. In The Crown confirm to Llywelyn and his heirs the title of 'prince of Wales'. Even before the Treaty is signed de Clare goes on the offensive with rapid forays into the welsh uplands capturing its ruler, Gruffudd ap Rhys, imprisoning him in Ireland.
1268 - On the 11th April 1268 work begins on the castle of Caerphilly.
By the summer open warfare erupts when Llywelyn's forces invade vast areas of land just north of Caerphilly. A truce is signed but Llywelyn is losing patience as de Clare continues to build his castle, and so on 13th October he attacks and burns the rising fortifications of Caerphilly.
De Clare reacts furiously but is restrained from mounting an all out counter-attack.
1270 - By 1st June the building of Caerphilly begins once more. Llywelyn prepares for war. Again the king steps in and despatches the bishop of Coventry to take control of Caerphilly on behalf of the crown. Llywelyn agrees to withdraw.
1272 - 40 men at arms enter the castle and eject the bishop's men. When summoned to explain, the Earl claims no knowledge of the plan, and he cloakes the actions in such a way the King is forced to accept and Llywelyn has little choice but to agree to arbitration (which never materialises).
1274 - King Edward I, returned to England from the crusades, embarks on all out war against Llywelyn. Six years later, a second royal campaign results 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 King Edward imprisoning both. Within months both have their estates restored
1295 - The Red Earl dies aged 52 leaving control to his widow, Countess Joan of Acre, daughter of King 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 men, attacks but fails to take Caerphilly. A royal army is despatched and on 18 March Llywelyn surrenders and with him, his family imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1318 - Despite promises made by Llywelyn, the cruel and despised Hugh Despenser, now lord of Caerphilly, has him hanged, beheaded and quartered.
1326 - The fleeing King 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 have been taking place, Caerphilly Castle lays under siege by Queen Isabella's forces.
The Kings garrison of 130 men refuse to surrender until March the following year when a free pardon is 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 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 spends considerable sums of money improving accommodation, and during 1428-29 extensive repairs to the defences.
1485 - The battle of Bosworth brings King Henry VII to the throne, and the following year he grants Glamorgan to his uncle, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke. From this time onwards the castle falls into decay and by 1539 described as ruinous.