Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle, Denbighshire

~ History ~

1277 ~ North-East Wales finally passes into English hands following a determined offensive by King Edward I against prince Llywelyn. Under the terms agreed between the two leaders Llywelyn's brother Dafydd is granted swathes of land including the area of Denbigh. From this ancient princely seat Dafydd makes Denbigh his principle stronghold and court.

1282 ~ Palm Sunday, the discontended Dafydd swoops upon Hawarden Castle, sparking open revolt and subsequent war with the English. King Edward I begins his massive military campaign against Llywelyn. Before the year is out Llywelyn is killed and all Wales is in English hands. Denbigh is granted to the area campaign commander Henry de Lacy and together with King Edward I and his master mason James of St George, they plan the building of a new castle at Denbigh.

1283 ~ June, Dafydd is captured and dispatched to meet a grim death in the Tower of London.

1284 ~ The building of Denbigh Castle and its town walls are well underway.

1286 ~ With the contribution of the King's master mason, the great tri-octagonal gatehouse is near completion.

1294 ~ The Welsh, led ny Madog ap Llywelyn, a distant cousin of the last Welsh prince, rises in general revolt, attacking several English castles. The incomplete Denbigh Castle is overrun. Despite Henry de Lacy's efforts to relive the garrison, his army is driven back. Only when the rebellion finally collapses does de Lacy manage to recover his castle.

1308 ~ Henry de Lacy's eldest son Edmund, falls to his death into the castle's well. Later his younger son John, falls from the battlements of Pontefract Castle whilst chasing a ball.

1311 ~ On the death of Henry de Lacy the castle is near completion, although the great gatehouse is never fully completed as he had intended. Without a male heir, the castle passes to his eldest daughter Alice, who later marries the powerful Thomas Earl of Lancaster. With his considerable wealth further building work at the castle is undertaken.

1322 ~ Earl Thomas is tried and executed for treason by King Edward II, at his own castle of Pontefract. The castle is granted by the King to his favourite Hugh le Despenser, Earl of Winchester.

1326 ~ Hugh le Despenser is beheaded for treason.

1327 ~ King Edward II is murdered. The castle passes to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.

1330 ~ Following the capture of Queen Isabella (Edward II's estranged wife) and the beheading of her lover Roger Mortimer, the castle is granted to William Mortague, whol holds it until his death in 1343. The castle is then returned to the Mortimers.

1400 ~ September. The town is attacked by Owain Glyndwr's Welsh rebellion, its inhabitants seek refuge within the castle walls. The castle is held for King Henry IV by Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland.

1403 ~ April. Henry 'Hotspur' Percy defects to Glyndwr's cause. Four months later Hotspur raises the standard of rebellion against the King. Unfortunately Glyndwr's support never arrives and Hotspur is killed at the battle of Shrewsbury.

1457 ~ The Lancastrian King Henry VI appoints his half-brother Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, to the post of constable. However, the castle is in the hands of the Yorkist Mortimers.

1461 ~ Jasper finally captures and holds Denbigh Castle, although this is short-lived and within months it is again lost.

1468 ~ Jasper's second attempt fails and so he takes his anger out on burning the town.

1530 ~ A survey carried out describes the great gatehouse as capable of repair at little cost, although 'all the rest are much in decay in the timberwork, and most in the lead'.

1645 ~ Following a defeat in a skirmish near Chester, King Charles I retreats to Denbigh Castle.

1646 ~ Colonel Salisbury withstands a six month siege from Parliamentary forces. Finally, after all hope of relief for the 500 man garrison has gone, the castle is surrendered. For the remainder of the war it is used as a prison for captured royalists.


Castle Lane, Denbigh


Off B4501/ A543


LL16 3NB

Denbigh Castle crowns the summit of a steep and prominent rocky outcrop at the heart ofthe Vale of Clywd.

It is a site too, with several features of striking architectural ingenuity. The design of the great gatehouse in particular shows touches of sonsiderable genius, John Leland in the 1570's commenting it "might have counted among the most memerable pieces of workys yn England".

The castle was built by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln in the 13th century.