The castle is a most odd structure.  It may have existed from an early date, but there is no reference to the castle before 1277, when it was given to Prince Dafydd ap Gruffydd.  The placename Ruthin dates back to the Dark Ages at least.  On 12 August 1211 Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth quitclaimed the Perfeddwald to his father in law, King John.  In this he specifically mentions the cantref of Dyffryn Clwyd with Ruthin.  He similarly mentions Rhufiniog with Denbigh.  The implication is that there might already have been a castle in both places.  However, in the same document he granted John the castle of Degannwy with Rhos, while no castles are mentioned at Ruthin or Denbigh.  On the rebellion of Dafydd ap Gruffydd (d.1283) in 1282 the castle was reduced by King Edward and then granted to the Greys of Wilton.  In the rebellion of 1294, Denbigh, Ruthin, Mold and Hawarden castle fell to Prince Madog, but the castle is not recorded as being damaged.  Probably they were all merely pillaged although one chronicle states that they were all 'wasted to their foundations'.  The castle withstood an eleven month siege in 1646 and was then slighted by parliament.

Prince Dafydd is stated to be responsible for building both wards of Ruthin castle in the period 1277 to 1282, despite the fact that they are both quite different.  The upper ward is pentagonal and consists of large D shaped towers and has a twin towered gatehouse to the east.  Some of the work in this gatehouse is very reminiscent of Wilton castle in Herefordshire which was owned by the Grey family who held Ruthin from 1283.  Yet the north and NW tower are far more reminiscent of Welsh work.  So too is the
peculiar hole in the wall style gate with a corbelled out round turret above in the lower ward.  This lower ward is rectangular and had round towers at its two exposed corners.  Much of the interior of the fortress has been demolished and a Victorian hotel built within.

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