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Introduction ~ General Castles ~ Caernarfon ~ Caerphilly ~ Pembroke ~ Rhuddlan
Caerphilly Castle

There is no doubt that had Caerphilly not suffered from the effects of gunpowder during the English civil war, today it would have rivaled the great castle of Windsor as the prominent castle in the land. Perhaps even the English royal family would be staying there at weekends, who knows.

It was the Romans who first noticed the strategic importance of the site on which the castle stands. During their continued advance to the west they constructed a fort on the site to house some 500 auxiliary soldiers in AD 75. When some 50 years later the site was abandoned by them, it was not until the Norman forces of William The Conqueror entered Glamorgan was the site reoccupied, built upon and started a war.

It was the powerful Marcher lord Gilbert de Clare who stoked the fires of war. Hearing that the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd intended to advance south into Glamorgan after his capture of Breconshire, de Clare mobilized his forces and advanced on Caerphilly. The capture and subsequent death of the local prince Gruffudd ap Rhys while doing so, sparked the flames of war; when he proceeded to build Caerphilly the following year the spark burst into flames.

The castle from the North Medieval War Engine Caerphilly from Moat
South Curtain Wall Inner Ward South Facing Main Gatehouse Inner Ward Gate House

From his battle headquarters at the castle of Bere, on hearing what had happened at Caerphilly, Llywelyn sent instructions to his brother Dafydd at Denbigh castle to march south from northern Gwynedd at all speed. When the two brothers met with their respective army's south of Builth Wells on a cold wet morning in October of 1270, the battle group was also joined by the forces of Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn of Powys. Within a matter of days of their meeting, under Llywelyn's command, the three Welsh princes and their men began crossing the mountains to the south of Brecon on their way to Caerphilly.

Nothing was left after the Welsh army had completed its attack, it was even burnt to ensure that the timbers couldn't be used again. However, intervention and skillful negotiation by king Henry III, avoided a complete all out war. Gilbert de Clare was severely reprimanded and Llywelyn, thinking that was then the end of the matter, withdrew. By the spring of the following year the castle was being rebuilt.

So for the next few years the castle continued to rise and begin its domination of the local skyline. However, as more and more building work continued to complete the castles intricate defence system, so the Clare family were finding the cost enormous. It came as no surprise when one heard that the de Clares had conveyed it to the Despenser family.

In 1316 Llywelyn Bren made a futile attack against the powerful fortress during his rebellion. Unfortunately Llywelyn was captured during the attack, his demise in 1318 by the order of Hugh le Despenser nearly caused another national uprising. Unfortunately there was no Prince of Wales to lead an attack.

During the English civil war the castle saw very little action, but as one can see by the leaning tower today it saw the use of the new invention .............

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