Denbigh Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Denbigh Castle

Denbigh, Wales, United Kingdom

Denbigh Castle is one of the ring of castles built by King Edward I in order to establish his dominance over Wales.

Lily Johnson

13 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle is a 13th century castle in Wales, whose fascinating history of conflict covers everything from Edward I’s conquest of Wales and the subsequent Welsh uprisings, to the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War. Today, its atmospheric ruins provide a glimpse into the world of medieval Britain and an exciting day out for all the family.

Denbigh Castle history

Constructed in around 1282, Denbigh Castle is one of the ‘iron ring’ of fortifications built by King Edward I to establish his dominance over Wales. Edward invaded Wales in 1277, defeating Prince of Wales Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llywelyn the Last), and proceeded to encircle it with a striking physical reminder of his authority.

Denbigh Castle’s construction was particularly symbolic, as it was built atop the ruins of the Welsh fortification of Ilys, once a royal residence for the Princes of Wales. Not without Welsh rebellion however, Denbigh Castle’s construction had to be halted in around 1294 when Welsh forces lead by Madog ap Llewelyn briefly took hold the fortification.

Originally in the keeping of Edward’s commander Henry de Lacy, Denbigh Castle would pass through a number of different hands over the coming centuries. Famous owners include scheming favourite of Henry II, Hugh Despenser, fierce knight Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, and Richard Plantagenet, father of Edward IV and Richard III.

During the Wars of the Roses it also passed many times between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, before in 1486 the Lancastrian Jasper Tudor set the walled town of Denbigh alight. This forced a mass exodus of its citizens, leaving it largely abandoned by the following century.

Denbigh was again caught up in civil unrest during the English Civil War however, and in 1645 Charles I stayed there for 3 days following his defeat at the Battle of Rowton Heath. The following year Denbigh suffered a 6-month siege at the hands of the Parliamentarians, before at last surrendering on Charles’ command. They eventually ‘slighted’ the castle, ruining it beyond further military use.

Denbigh Castle today

Today, Denbigh Castle is managed by Cadw and is open to the public, with its ruins a picturesque sight. Despite being in a more ruined state than its counterparts of Edward I’s campaign – namely Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech – Denbigh Castle is an important reminder of the conflicts witnessed in both the medieval and early modern periods.

Entering over the drawbridge and through the triple-towered gatehouse, the immersive sounds of the castle’s history will greet you, with chains clanking, soldiers marching, and horses braying as you pass through! Inside, the vast remains of the curtain wall may be explored as well as a number of the castle’s intriguing features, from its 50ft-deep well to the elaborate postern gate, used as the stronghold’s second entrance.

Getting to Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle is located in the town of Denbigh in Wales, and can be reached via the A525, A543, or B5382 roads. There is a car park at the site, with further parking available in the town at Vale Street Car Park. Rhyl train station is 11 miles away, from which the 51 MAX or 51B bus services run to the Library and Museum stop in Denbigh, a 10-minute walk to the site.

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