Friday, 31 January 2014

Conwy Castle

Conwy, dominating the estuary of the river of the same name, is one of Edward I's great castles, built as part of his campaign to subdue north Wales. Construction began in 1283 and took ten years, directed by Edward's chief castle architect, James of St. George, who built Caernafon castle at the same time.
This is the view across the river, from the east side.

The castle is considered one of the finest examples of mediaeval military architecture in Europe. It is long and narrow. Entry is from the north-western end, passing through two wards separated by a middle gate. There are eight fortified towers, which are still largely intact, and a suite of royal apartments, now roofless. Conwy was besieged in autumn 1294, in a Welsh revolt led by Madog ap Llewellyn. Edward arrived with reinforcements in the New Year, and launched a successful counterattack in March. The castle had proved its value.

This is the interior of the castle from one of the eastern towers.
The town of Conwy grew up below the castle, and the old part of it is still encircled by the town walls. It was a planned town, laid out on a grid pattern, with English settlers encouraged to take up residence. There are some noted buildings to be found within the walls: the "smallest house in Britain" down by the quay, a mediaeval merchant's house called Aberconwy House, and Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan gentleman's house with exotic plasterwork.

Looking back eastwards from the castle ramparts you can see three bridges crossing the Conwy estuary. George Stephenson's railway bridge (right) and Thomas Telford's footbridge (centre) make some effort to blend in with the castle; the 1950s road bridge (left) does not. Nowadays the traffic bound for the seaport at Holyhead on Angelsey passes in a tunnel under the river and the castle.

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