Caerphilly Castle

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Caerphilly Castle is a Norman castle that dominates the centre of the town of Caerphilly in south Wales. It is the largest castle in Wales, the second largest in Britain (second to Windsor castle) and is one of the largest fortresses in Europe. Built mainly between 1268 and 1271, it is an early example of a concentric castle and is surrounded by large but fairly shallow artificial lakes to slow attackers and prevent the undermining of its walls.

Unlike many other Welsh castles, Caerphilly castle was not built by Edward I in his crack-down on the Welsh lords, but by Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, a powerful, redheaded nobleman of Norman descent as a response to a dispute between him and a nobleman of Welsh origin, Llywelyn who was later a supporter of Simon de Montfort.

The castle gradually fell into disrepair though some maintenance was done on parts of it, notably the Eastern gate house which was used as a prison. Despite being mostly untouched by the Civil War of 1642-1648, damage inflicted by the parliamentary army in 1648 led to one of the most notable features of the castle, its leaning south-east tower. The castle’s condition worsened until the later part of the 18th century when the first Marquess of Bute began preservation work. Three generations of Marquesses recorded the details of the castle, cleared structures built against its walls as leases ended and eventually undertook painstaking analysis and restoration of the fallen masonry. Finally it was handed over to the government in 1950 and restoration and preservation is continued to this day by Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments).

For more information and photographs see our new Caerphilly Castle page