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'
who took as a second name the placename of his major holding,
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.
then passed back and forth between 'Norman' and Welsh
In 1210 Llywelyn
was expelled from the castle by Earl Ranulf of Chester (d.1232), but
returned soon after peace was restored. After Llywelyn's
and burial at Aberconwy
1240 the site was massively rebuilt by Henry III
in the 1240s, but
by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d.1282) in 1263. This long siege
November 1258 until the September of 1263. During this five
period Llywelyn would appear to have built at least one siege castle
which still commands the site. Edward I began to rebuild
1282, but abandoned the work in favour of Conway
castle across the
The main work, comprising a masonry enceinte with projecting D shaped
towers, lies on the rock to the west (left). It appears to
long barbican approach somewhat similar to that found at Castell Carreg Cennen, Denbigh 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.
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
but a twin-towered rectangular gatehouse to the west. The
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
English examples survive at
Beeston, Bungay, Clifford,
Dover, Longtown, Pembridge, St Briavels, the
Tower of London
In Wales they exist at Caerphilly,
Carmarthen, Chepstow, Criccieth,
Dinas Bran, Llawhaden, Neath, Oystermouth, Powis, Rhuddlan, Tinboeth and White Castle.
they can be found at Kildrummy
and finally elsewhere in Ireland at Carrickfergus,
Castle Roche, Limerick and Roscommon.
Paul Martin Remfry