It was the first day of the new year, 1295, and King Edward I of England feared all might be lost. Madog ap Llywelyn, who some dared to call Prince Madoc, was leading the Welsh against him. The rebels had already occupied four of Edward’s castles: Caernarfon, Hawarden, Ruthin, and Denbigh. With all in chaos, Edward had led his army here, to Conwy Castle in North Wales to quell the revolt–and found himself besieged instead. The guards had just sounded the alarm again…
Watch this YouTube motion comic video of knights in armor at Conwy Castle in 1295!
Luckily for Edward, his navy arrived in time to prevent Conwy Castle from being occupied as well. The battle raged on through spring and into summer until Madog and his Welsh army were defeated in the battle of Maes Moydog in Powys in 1295, after being ambushed by the Earl of Warwick.
- Conwy Castle and the walled town around it were named part of a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 that also includes: Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech coastal castle fortresses.
- Conwy Castle was built between 1283 and 1287 for English King Edward I, as a coastal fortress to protect British rule of Wales gained in 1282.
- 1.2 km of still intact stone walls surround the town.
- Visitors can walk the town wall and get beautiful photos of the sea filled with hundreds of boats and the hills beyond it.
- Eight massive towers that are each 70 feet high and 30 feet in diameter with walls up to 15 feet thick look out on the Conwy estuary to guard against an attack by water.
I spent a day visiting Conwy Castle and walking the amazing walls of the village, as well as the village. Aberconwy House, on Castle Street, was one of the most interesting stops–the oldest recorded house of its kind it Wales, with parts of the structure dating back to the 1300s. Inside, the house has been restored to three different periods by the National Trust. A photo tour is available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/sites/history/pages/aberconwy_house.shtml?1One of the most intriguing things about Aberconwy, though, is the ghosts that are reputed to walk through it!
Other stops of interest include:
- Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge and toll-keeper’s house
- St Mary and All Saints Parish Church
- Conwy Mussel Museum
I had two other favorite stops. The first was the smallest house in Great Britain, also known as the Quay House. It’s not as large as the average treehouse or playhouse you’d find in small towns across Saskatchewan, but has a main floor and an upstairs, and was once home to a fisherman named Robert James. He stood over 6 feet tall, so would never have stood up inside at all!
I also loved the statue of Llewellyn the Great, who was the defacto ruler of Wales for forty years, having made a treaty with King John of England in 1200 and reigning until his death in 1240. After a dispute in 1211 John invaded Wales again and Llewellyn was forced to give up all of the land east of the River Conwy. The following year, however, he allied with the other Welsh princes to regain the land and reunite the country. Llewellyn went on to ally with the barons and force King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.
And, if there’s one date I remember from the hundreds I memorized in high school history, it was the signing of the Magna Carta–the founding document of English liberties for the common man.
Enjoy this video from Rick Steves taking you through Conwy Castle and its history:
So, my interest in medieval history is what put the town of Conwy and Conwy Castle as #21 on my summer staycation revisiting trips of bygone years. If I could step into a time machine it would be dialed in to the British Isles during this period. I love castles–all castles, but it was especially interesting to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site that has remained intact for nearly 800 years.