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Chronicle - Your place in history

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle

Stretching over a thirty-acre site in the centre of Caerphilly, this imposing Castle is a striking testament to the turbulent times of medieval Wales. Located close to the site of a former Roman fort, the building of Wales' largest castle began in 1268, under orders from the Anglo-Norman Lord Gilbert de Clare. Its construction acted as powerful symbol of Anglo-Norman rule and reinforced de Clare's control over the conquered lands of the 'Marchia Wallia'. Its magnificence no doubt struck fear into the hearts of the local people. Its formidable stone and water 'concentric' defences provided protection from the Welsh and in particular against the threat of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn - the Prince of Wales. Llywelyn launched his first attack against the Castle even before its defences were complete. The fortress also played an administrative role, replacing the local court of the 'commote' as the centre of administration and revenue collection.

Throughout the late thirteenth and early fourteenth Century, the Castle continued to be the focus of Welsh attacks. In 1316 Llywelyn Bren, a noble of Senghenydd, raised an army of ten thousand men and attacked the Castle. The attackers failed to breach its defences, although much of the town of Caerphilly was destroyed. By the mid-fourteenth century relative calm had fallen upon Caerphilly and parts of the Castle were probably abandoned. However, its upkeep continued throughout the fifteenth century, when the Beauchamp family spent a considerable sum of money improving its domestic accommodation. At the end of the century the Castle was leased to the Lewis family. They 'robbed' its stone to improve their own home at Van Mansion.

The Castle's role in the Civil War is far from clear. Reputedly, its massive medieval defences were damaged by gunpowder, but there is no evidence to support this. Beyond these defences an earthen 'redoubt' was built. Whether this gun platform was raised by the Royalists or Parliamentarians is again unclear, as is the nature of any battle that ensued.

In the late eighteenth Century the Marquess of Bute acquired Caerphilly Castle. His descendants would oversee its 'great rebuilding'. Restoration of the Castle began in the late nineteenth Century, under the direction of the immensely wealthy third Marquess of Bute. This work continued throughout the last century under the fourth Marquess and later the State. The result of this extensive and painstaking work is the Castle you see today.

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