Chirk Castle (Castell y Waun), Denbighshire
Chirk Castle was built by Roger Mortimer who was granted the area following the defeat of Llywelyn the Last. He built the castle upon the site of a native Welsh castle.
The castle has been occupied almost continuously for almost 700 years and sits on a hilltop with its best views over the Ceiriog valley to the south.
Today the castle is in a fabulous state of repair and has both a medieval and tudor feel to it. The interior of the castle is exceptional and well worth a visit.
Finding the castle and gaining access to it is very easy.
~ History ~
1282 ~ Following the defeat and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native prince of Wales in the Second War of Welsh Independence, the lands of Chrik are granted by King Edward I to Roger Mortimer, a powerful Marcher lord. He does this so as to share the financial burden and resources required to hold conquered lands with his richer magnates, and in doing so establishes a number of Lordships at Chirk, Denbigh, Hawarden, Holt and Ruthin. In each of these areas the Lord is responsible for building a castle to secure the area.
1295 ~ Work on the castle starts following a serious Welsh uprising, and continues for the next fifteen years. Roger Mortimer secures assistance from personnel who have worked with Master James of St George, the King’s chief architect, on the King's castles such as Beaumaris Castle. However the castle is never fully completed.
1322 ~ Roger Mortimer supports the rebellion of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. When the revolt fails, he is imprisoned in the Tower of London and his estates, including Chirk, are confiscated.
1326 ~ Roger dies in the Tower and the same year his nephew, Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, who is also imprisoned, escapes and flees to France. There he joins with Queen Isabella, King Edward II's estranged Queen, returning to overthrow the King.
The Mortimer estates are restored but Roger is himself overthrown and executed in just a few years later. Chirk once again reverts to the Crown.
1335 ~ King Edward III grants the castle to Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel. Richard is one of the richest men in the kingdom but as his family seat is at Arundel Castle in Sussex, he has little use for Chirk so it becomes neglected.
1388 ~ Richard is one of the Lords who rebel against King Richard II and force the King to govern under supervision.
1397 ~ When King Richard II finally regains control of his Government he takes revenge and has Richard, along with other rebel Lords executed. Chirk is confiscated by the Crown once more.
1399 ~ Richard's son, Thomas FitzAlan, joins forces with Henry Bolingbroke in overthrowing the King. Bolingbroke becomes King Henry IV and the FitzAlan estates are restored.
Thomas FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel makes significant modifications to Chirk Castle as a precaution against the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr which is now building.
1415 ~ Thomas FitzAlan, a loyal servant to King Henry V during his campaigning in France, dies from dysentery at the siege of Harfleur. Leaving no male heir Chirk Castle once more reverts to the Crown.
1485 ~ The castle's new owner Sir William Stanley makes the decisive decision to switch sides at the Battle of Bosworth Field, against King Richard III. In so doing the battle changes in favour of Henry Tudor whose forces are victorious and King Richard III is killed in battle.
1495 ~ Sir William Stanley falls out of favour and is executed by King Henry VII, whose throne he had secured, due to Sir William's support of Perkin Warbeck's claim to the throne.
Chirk Castle is again taken back into Crown ownership.
1529 ~ The south range of the castle is partially rebuilt reusing stone from earlier work.
1563 ~ Queen Elizabeth I grants the castle to her favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
1588 ~ Robert Dudley passes away at his lodge in Oxfordshire at the age of 56. His death comes as a complete shock to Queen Elizabeth, who for years had been one of his closest companions - not to mention the woman Robert had always wanted to marry. Though he has been suffering for some time with a recurring stomach ailment, his death is unexpected.
When Queen Elizabeth is informed of Robert's death, she locks herself in her room and cries for days, constantly reading the last letter he had sent her. She refuses to see anyone and wishes to mourn on her own, until Lord Burghley has the door to her chamber broken down days later. The letter that Robert had sent her six days before his death is treasured by Queen Elizabeth for the rest of her life, keeping it in a box on her bedside table with the words "his last letter" inscribed on the outside.
1595 ~ Chirk Castle is sold to Thomas Myddelton, a London merchant and founder of the East India Company.
Thomas Myddelton is the younger son of the Governor of Denbigh Castle but he had left Wales to make his fortune in London.
1613 ~ Thomas is knighted and becomes Lord Mayor of London.
Chirk Castle is not only his residence but also serves as the administrative centre for his Welsh operations, and he commences the wholesale conversion of Chirk from border fortress to stately home. His additions include a new north range, complete with fine dining and drawing rooms, plus a new hall, buttery and kitchen.
1631 ~ Thomas dies and is followed by his son, also called Thomas who becomes a prominent Parliamentary General partaking in numerous actions in the border region.
1643 ~ Wales however remains predominantly Royalist. Chirk Castle is seized by forces loyal to King Charles I.
1646 ~ Myddelton successfully bribes the Royalists to return control to him. He moves back into Chirk but grows increasingly dissatisfied with the Cromwellian regime.
1658 ~ Following the death of Oliver Cromwell and the ineffective leadership of his son, Richard Cromwell, prompts the Royalists to seize the initiative and, through a secret organisation known as the Sealed Knot, plan a nationwide coup to restore the Monarchy.
However most of the would-be ringleaders are arrested before the plot can be hatched. However in the North West, Sir George Booth successfully raises Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales against Parliament. Following an engagement with Parliamentary forces at Winnington Bridge the following year, the Royalists are dispersed.
The Parliamentary forces, under General Lambert, then moved on Chirk Castle and after a brief bombardment the garrison surrender.
1660 ~ King Charles II is restored to the throne and Chirk Castle returned to Thomas Myddelton.
1663 ~ Thomas dies leaving a 12 year old son called Thomas as his heir. During his minority his grandmother, Mary Napier, oversees the repair work on Chirk Castle.