Harlech Castle

Welsh Medieval Castles Map

 

Harlech Castle

  • The History of Harlech Castle
  • Information about Harlech Castle
  • When was this Welsh Medieval Castle built?
  • The Design, Layout and Architecture of
  • Harlech Castle and the "Men of Harlech"
  • The War of the Roses and  Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

The History of Harlech Castle
The History of the of Harlech Castle dates back to 1283. Harlech was a massive defensive castle. During the Welsh rebellion of 1294, thirty-seven men defended Harlech Castle against the entire Welsh army led by Madog.
The castle fell to Owain Glyndwr ( 1355 - 1415) a great Welsh revolutionary leader. In 1400  Owain Glyndwr declared himself Prince Of Wales and embarked on rebellion against the occupation of Wales by England. The revolution was successful and by 1403 the Welsh controlled most of Wales. After a long siege Harlech was captured by Owain Glyndwr in 1404. Harlech Castle was in turn besieged by English troops. Owain's son-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, died during the seige of exhaustion and starvation and the castle was recovered by John Talbot with an army of 1000 English troops in 1409. King Henry IV of England finally crushed the Welsh army in a series of Battles during 1410.

Men of Harlech
In 1461 the castle was held against seige by Lancastrian forces, during the War of the Roses, under the Constable of the castle, Dafydd ap Ieuan. The siege is said to have been held for seven years by these stubborn "Men of Harlech" who were immortalised in the famous Welsh song. The Harlech garrison held out long after other Lancastrian commanders in Wales had surrendered to the Yorkist faction. In 1468 famine eventually forced their surrender to Lord Herbert under honourable terms.

Key facts and Information about Harlech Castle

  • The location of Harlech Castle - Gwynedd,  Merionethshire, North Wales
  • The building of Harlech Castle started in May 1283
  • The building of Harlech Castle was completed in 1290
  • The Architecture / Style - Gothic Architecture aka Edwardian
  • The original cost of building Harlech Castle - 6,244

Harlech - A Concentric Castle Design
Welsh Castles including Harlech Castle, built by King Edward I, are referred to as Concentric Castles. The Gothic architecture of the Medieval era together with the design of Concentric Castles encompassed some, or all, of the following elements:

  • A Stronger central Keep or Main Tower
  • A Round or Circular Shaped Keep
  • A High wall, complete with towers surrounded the Keep and the Inner Bailey
  • At least one lower, outer wall surrounded the Inner High Wall
  • Several Outer Walls and Outer Baileys were often added!
  • Several Gatehouses were featured
  • Moats were added which surrounded the whole Concentric Castle complex

Concentric castles were bigger than any previous castles! The walls were thicker, stronger and higher with turrets! The Inner Walls were higher than Outer walls! Drawbridges were added! The interiors were more comfortable, even luxurious! Concentric Castles, like Harlech, were very expensive!

The Building of Harlech Castle
The history of the building of Harlech Castle is fascinating. In just a relatively short period of time a significant number of new Welsh Medieval Castles were built or modernised under the instructions of King Edward I
(1272-1307) including Harlech Castle.  King Edward employed the services of an architect and master builder called Master James of St George to carry out many of these ambitious plans for a chain of Medieval castles to be built in Wales. Harlech Castle is set on its towering rock above Tremadog bay. An important feature of Harlech Castle is its access to the sea. During the construction of Harlech Castle men, equipment and building materials were easily transported by boats to the site of the castle. Once Harlech Castle was built fresh supplies, provisions and reinforcements prevented the castle occupants from being starved into submission during siege warfare. The advantages of swift and easy accessibility via the sea ensured that the new fortified town, which was built at the same time as the castle, became a successful and prosperous stronghold for its English inhabitants.

Harlech - A Welsh Fortified Town (aka Bastide or Burgh)
Harlech Castle was constructed in conjunction with a new, fortified town. The idea of building fortified, purpose-built townships were based on a combination of the Bastides of Gascony and the Burghs, or Burhs, built by King Alfred the Great of England. Welsh Medieval Fortified Townships. The 'Bastide' at Harlech was a strongly defended town, the construction of which, had been subject to proper planning and architectural design. The layout of the town at Harlech took into consideration the following defence factors:

  • The layout of the town's houses and buildings in Harlech were planned so that they would not impede the circulation of troops
  • The rapid movement of the troops garrisoned at Harlech was ensured by building a main road which provided direct access to the curtain wall and the main gate and towers
  • The central public square in the Harlech township doubled as a mustering point for all troops
  • Wall Towers could only be accessed from a doorway on the battlement accessed via a moveable wooden staircase on the inside of the wall
  • The central public square doubled as a mustering point for all troops
  • The Town wall was defended by a number of towers
  • The weakest points of any building are the corners - these towers were therefore round
  • Wall Towers could only be accessed from a doorway on the battlement accessed via a moveable wooden staircase on the inside of the wall

Harlech Castle
Harlech Castle was one of the ten key Welsh Medieval Castles which were commissioned by King Edward I.
The Welsh Medieval Castles built by the English under the direction of King Edward I provided a power base for the Medieval Plantagenet King and ensured that the Welsh were subservient to the new English rule. Edward crushed the Welsh rebellion under Llewellyn ap Gruffudd and conquered his kingdom of Gwynedd in Northern Wales. Wales was conquered by Edward I and became incorporated into England under the Statute of Rhuddlan ( also called the Statute of Wales ) in 1284 - the building of Harlech Castle helped King Edward I to achieve his ambitions.
 

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle & Welsh Mythology

  • The History of Harlech Castle
  • Information about Harlech Castle
  • When was this Welsh Medieval Castle built?
  • Design, Layout and Architecture of Harlech Castle

Arthurian Legend
Welsh Medieval Fortified Townships

King Edward I
Master James of St George
Concentric Castle design

Caernarvon Castle Welsh Mythology


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