The twin crags that go to make up Degannwy castle have a long history that dates back to post Roman times.  By the late 1080s the site had been refortified by a 'Norman'
called Robert who took as a second name the  placename of his major holding, Rhuddlan.  In July 1093 he was awoken from his afternoon slumber in the castle by news of a Welsh raiding party.  He died that very afternoon in conflict with these raiders on the beach beneath his castle.  His defeat and death in the very one-sided battle led directly to the expulsion of the Normans from North Wales.  The castle then passed back and forth between 'Norman' and Welsh ownership. 

In 1210 Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was expelled from the castle by Earl Ranulf of Chester (d.1232), but the prince returned soon after peace was restored.  After Llywelyn's death and burial at Aberconwy abbey in 1240 the site was massively rebuilt by Henry III in the 1240s, but destroyed by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d.1282) in 1263.  This long siege lasted from November 1258 until the September of 1263.  During this five year period Llywelyn would appear to have built at least one siege castle which still commands the site.  Edward I began to rebuild Degannwy castle in 1282, but abandoned the work in favour of Conway castle across the river.

The main work, comprising a masonry enceinte with projecting D shaped towers, lies on the rock to the west (left).  It appears to have a long barbican approach somewhat similar to that found at Castell Carreg CennenDenbigh and Dinefwr.  There are also remains of a round tower keep that was some 50' in diameter
when excavated in the 1960s.  Such large towers are discussed under Pembroke.  Excavation also revealed the great hall whose foundations, like the keep, can still be traced.  A tower on the north side of the main castle rock is of similar dimensions to the tower at Pen y Bryn.

The Mansell tower, named after one of Henry III's ministers, lay on the crag to the east (right).  Between the two crags was set the castle bailey.  This has the remains of a long Welsh style entrance to the east, but a twin-towered rectangular gatehouse to the west.  The masonry of this structure is strewn across the castle ditch on this side.  Whether this is in testimony to the thoroughness of the destruction of the site by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd in 1263 or the demolition work of Edward I when the site was pillaged for stone to build Conway in the early 1270s is unknown.  What is known is that the gatehouse, which must predate 1256, was of a style that was common in England and Wales.  Various English examples survive at BeestonBungay, Clifford, Dover, Longtown, Pembridge, St Briavels, the Tower of London and Whittington.  In Wales they exist at Caerphilly, Carmarthen, Chepstow, Criccieth, Dinas Bran, Llawhaden, Neath, Oystermouth, Powis, Rhuddlan, Tinboeth and White Castle.  In Scotland they can be found at Kildrummy and Urquhart and finally elsewhere in Ireland at Carrickfergus, Castle Roche, Limerick and Roscommon.  


Copyright©2016 Paul Martin Remfry