HARLECH CASTLE

Harlech is a small town in Gwynedd on the A496 coastal road, 10 miles north of Barmouth.
The address is Castle Square, Harlech LL46 2YH
Telephone 01766 780552
For opening times and prices see http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/harlechcastle/?lang=en
SH 581313

Article adapted by Hugh Wood from one by Paul Remfry
For more photographs and information on Harlech castle visit
http://www.castlewales.com/harlech.html
http://www.castles99.ukprint.com/Essays/harlech.html

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Photo: Britain Express   http://www.britainexpress.com/

Harlech is a well known fortress built on a crag overlooking the sea. The castle still stands virtually complete except for its slighted battlements. It is renowned for being one of the most photogenic castles of Master James St George (d1309) and King Edward I in Wales

Work began on the castle in April 1283 when 560 infantry were brought to the site by Otto Grandison (d1328). During 1283 and 1284 a masonry rectangle was built with walls eight feet thick and fifteen feet high. This work included the two eastern towers and the lowest stage of the gatehouse. If you look closely at the inner ward walls of the castle you will notice that there is a distinct fracture line which marks the completion of this work. Beneath the line the blocks are larger and were undoubtedly quarried off site. The upper works have smaller stones which were most likely quarried from the castle ditch. Records show that this was cut in the summer of 1285 and cost the princely sum of £205. The unditched half-finished inner ward was, in fact, totally defensible and in 1284 the king placed the first garrison within the walls. This force consisted of thirty ‘fencible’ men of whom ten were crossbowmen, one a chaplain, an artiller, a smith, a carpenter, a mason together with janitors, watchman and others. In total Harlech castle cost the king some £9,500 and took 7½ years to build.

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Photo: Paul Remfry

Between 1403 and 1409 the castle was held by Owain Glyndwr (d1415). Its constable for that period was Edmund Mortimer, second son of Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March (d1381). This younger Edmund had been captured by Owain Glyndwr at the battle of Bryn Glas in 1402, but had subsequently married Owain's daughter Catherine and plotted with Owain and the Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy (d1408), to overthrow the Lancastrian Henry IV and carve up the kingdom between them - the so-called 'Tripartite Indenture'. When the castle was besieged by the young Prince Hal (later Henry V) Edmund refused to surrender and apparently starved to death in 1409.

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Photo: Chris Gunns (CC BY-SA 2.0)