Criccieth Castle, Gwynedd
1 mile west of Llandilo
Perched high above the sea, Criccieth crowns a rocky peninsula overlooking Tremadog Bay. From the top of the castle hill there are truly panoramic views, the strategic value of this commanding position clearly evident.
In origin, Criccieth is a native castle of the Welsh princes, started in the 1230's by Llywelyn the Great, expanded upon by Llywelyn the Last in the 1260's and further strengthened by King Edward I in the 1280's.
The castle was finally captured by the Welsh under Owain Glyndwr and never repaired. Today the ruins are much as Glyndwr left the castle.
The site of the castle is quite perfect, set high on its rocky crag, with the sweep of its wide bay and backdrop of mountains. A very picturesque and important castle.
~ History ~
1239 - Dafydd, Llywelyn the Great's son, imprisons his half brother Gruffudd, and Gruffudd's son, Owain, at Criccieth castle. This is probably the earliest reference to a castle at this site.
1241 - A year after his fathers death, Dafydd suffers a humiliating defeat at the hands of King Henry III. As one of the terms of the resulting settlement, he is forced to hand over his prisoners to the English king who claims right to arbitration. Gruffudd is one of these. In the event, Gruffudd, still a prisoner, falls to his death whilst trying to escape from the Tower of London.
1246 - By the time of his death in 1246, Dafydd had lost all the power and territorial gains that his father had acquired. It was left to Dafydd's nephew, Gruffudd's son, Llywelyn (the last), to reasserting the authority of the house of Gwynedd across Wales.
1258 - Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg, ruler of south-west Wales and ally to Llywelyn, switches sides and declares his allegiance to the English King Henry III.
1259 - Maredudd is captured by Llywelyn's forces and brought to trial on 28th May 1259. Convicted of treason by his peers, he is imprisoned in Criccieth Castle until Christmas of that year, when he is released upon the forfeiture of land and having given his son as a pledge of future obedience.
1282 - Palm Sunday. Dafydd, Llywelyn's half brother, mounts an attack on Hawarden castle, precipitating the second war between King Edward I and Llywelyn. By the end of the year Llywelyn is dead, struck down in a skirmish with English troops near Builth. Dolwyddelan Castle, in the heart of Snowdonia, falls to the English on 18th January 1283. From here a detachment of troops march against Criccieth. By 14th March Criccieth too is in English hands
1284 - By a charter dated 22nd November 1284, King Edward I establishes a free English borough at Criccieth. On 23rd December of the same year he appoints Sir William Leyburn as the new constable of the castle at an annual fee of £100, out of which he has to maintain a garrison of thirty men. Over the next eight years about £500 is spent on further building works to the castle.
1294 - Madog ap Llywelyn, a distant cousin of Llywelyn the Last, leads a Welsh uprising against the English which rapidly spreads throughout Wales. Caernarfon town and castle are overrun and set on fire. The castles of Criccieth, nearby Harlech, and Aberystwyth are beseiged and throughout the winter they have to rely on supplies from the sea. The garrison at Criccieth, consisting of 29 men under the command of Sir William Leyburn, along with 41 people from the town to seek refuge within the castle. It holds out until the following April when the castle is relieved with supplies brought in from Ireland.
1296 - The castle reverts to its earlier role as a prison.
1307-1327 - Under King Edward II a further £250 is spent on the castle, repairing towers and heightening the gatehouse.
1400 - Unrest in Wales erupts into open revolt under the leadership of Owain Glyndwr.
1403 - Criccieth castle, along with every major English stronghold is beseiged by the Welsh forces of Owain Glyndwr.
1404 - The garrison is increased to six men-at-arms and fifty archers.
A French fleet in the Irish Sea supporting Glyndwr stops provisions from reaching English held castles of Criccieth, Aberystwyth and Harlech.
The vice-like grip on the castle finally takes its toll on the garrison as another Welsh attack leads to its capture. The castle and town is burned by the victorious Welsh. The castle is never again rebuilt and its ruins left to decay.