Conwy Castle, North Wales


Conwy is another of the designs of James of St George, Edward I's master castle builder. He created a castle of tremendous military strength, a dominating position coupled with compactness of design. The eight massive towers and high curtain wall make Conwy one of the great fortresses of medieval Europe. The fact that the contemporaneous town wall and the castle have both survived at Conwy, shows the original medieval character of a Welsh castle-town.

Conwy was of the key parts of Edward I's iron ring of castles designed to control the native Welsh, work began on the castle in 1283. As there was to be an English colony here as well, a town, complete with great town walls was also built at the same time

The castle dominates Conwy, it has eight great towers and connecting walls which are all intact, forming a rectangle as
opposed to the concentric layouts of Edward's other castles in Wales. During King Edward I's second campaign in Wales, he  gained control of the Conwy valley in March 1283. The new castle was started almost immediately. The site had  natural
advantages of geography, and could also accommodate a  garrison town with its own defences. The whole complex was completed in the four years from 1283-87.

The geographic position of Conwy dictated that the castle could not be of the favoured "concentric" design that offered the best defensive capabilities. Instead a linear castle had to be built with a  barbican at each end. The interior was divided by a cross wall into two quite separate strongholds, so that the defenders could if necessary hold either

Sumptuous private apartments for King Edward were built, and indeed King Edward was actually besieged at Conwy during the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn in 1295.The castle and Edward withstood the rigors of siege.

Some alterations were carried out under Edward, the Black Prince in the 14th century.

In 1399 Richard II surrendered to Henry Bolingbroke at Conwy Castle

In 1403 the castle to Owain Glyndwr, was held by his men for some time and later ransomed back to the English.

Conwy saw some action in the Civil War, but afterwards was left to the decay until the last century.

No visit to Conwy is complete without a complete walk round the town walls. Some 1400 yards in length with 21 towers and three gateways, they are one of the most complete medieval town walls in the world

Today, the Conwy Suspension Bridge appears to be an integral part of the castle. In fact it was  built by Thomas Telford, the great  bridge builder of the19th Century. The Conwy bridge was one of the first suspension bridges to be built in the world. Work started in 1822, and it took 4 years to complete.. The suspension bridge no longer carries cars, but you can walk across it.

In 1846, Robert Stephenson, the son of the famous railway engineer George Stephenson, began building a Tubular Railway Bridge made of steel plates riveted together. It was finished in 1849.

At night the floodlighting of the town is particularly dramatic. The eight  castle towers are individually lit with spotlights, as are sections of the curtain wall, the town walls at Conwy. and the old suspension bridge. 

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