Flint is thought to have been founded a little before 23 July 1277 when King Edward I chose the site for a new castle on the estuary of the River Dee ‘apud le Flynt prope Basingwerk'.  Certainly the Edwardian fortress was extensive, covering 2 wards and a fortified borough.  The castle was first mentioned on 23 August 1277 when King Edward made an agreement there with Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd (d.1283) that they would share Gwynedd when they took it from Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (d.1282).  Flint and Rhuddlan were recorded the same year as having been built by Edward with other castles to control the Welsh princes.  The building of the whole castle cost a recorded £6,068 7s 5d.  The castle was intended to be the caput of the new royal cantref of Tegeingl - a quarter of the old Perfeddwlad, despite the fact that it became a backwater with the conquest of Gwynedd in 1283.  Despite this expenditure it would appear that the castle was not completed before the next war broke out as the great tower required a temporary roof in the winter of 1282-83 - unless, of course the keep had been damaged by warfare.

In March 1282 the reconciled princely brothers, Dafydd and Gruffydd, jointly besieged the castle and wrecked the borough.  However, the fortress held out until relieved by Amery Savoy that May.  The damage done resulted in some major repairs and it was not until November 1284 that masons ceased to work at Flint.  Work on the town defences continued until November 1286 when the keep roof was also completed. 

During the revolt of Prince Madog of Meirionnydd in October 1294 the garrison of Flint was kept at 24 cavalry, 24 crossbowmen and 120 archers. 
 This proved a sufficient deterrent to the rebels attacking the fortress.  The castle later saw the capture of Richard II in 1399 and then, despite changing hands twice without fighting in 1643, a 1646 civil war siege that ended its life.  In 1652 it was described as almost buried in its own ruins.

The heart of the castle is the great double, rubble ashlar round tower, which appears never to have been finished and now stands only some 30' high.  This lay in its own moat and was only linked to the inner ward via a drawbridge.  As such it is quite dissimilar to other towers within keeps like Tretower.  The inner ward was rectangular and had a round tower at each angle, except for the SW where the keep stood.  These towers are now hollow shells of their former selves and look forlorn on the bleak Dee estuary seascape.  The gatetower was a puny thing under the walls of the keep, little more than a hole in the wall with a slightly thickened interior side.  The surviving sections of curtain to the south and west all appear to have been equipped with ground level crossbow loops, making this similar to the defences in the inner ward at contemporary Rhuddlan.
  Similar ground floor loops also appear at possibly Adare and certainly Dunamase in Ireland as well as at Beaumaris, Grosmont and Rhuddlan in Wales and in the early work at Goodrich and the 1220s work at Rochester in England as well as at Aguilar in France.  South of the inner ward at Flint lay a large, rectangular stone outer ward and beyond that the borough.  CADW has recently built a spiral stair to see the castle from the summit of one of the towers, from which spectacular views of the Dee estuary can be had.

Why not join me at other Lost Welsh Castles next Spring?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2017 Paul Martin Remfry