Published Booklets on Gwynedd Castles

Castell Dinas Emrys, Gwynedd (ISBN 1-899376-08-9) [1995] includes a discussion of the early Norman Conquest of North Wales during the reign of William the Conqueror and the campaigns of Gruffydd ap Cynan which led to the eventual liberation of Gwynedd in the reign of Henry I. From this a conclusion is reached that the castle may have been the work of either Robert Rhuddlan or the earl of Chester in the late eleventh century rather than a later Welsh foundation. The castle remains are examined in detail and the results of the two excavations which occurred on the site this century are analysed. Also examined are some of the prehistoric defences which included a long causeway entrance. The shattered ruins of the keep set on a spur beneath Snowdon is shown opposite.

Available for £4.95

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A Brief Report on Pen y Bryn and Aber, Gwynedd (1-899376-87-9) [2012].

Both a castle and a palace stood near the ancient settlement of Aber.  The history of the sites have yet to be studied in detail, but the evidence strongly suggests that the first major inhabitation stood on the ridge of Garth Celyn.  Celyn would appear to have been a Welsh leader of the fifth or sixth centuries.  Many years after his death the Norman invaders came and Robert Rhuddlan (d.1093) was probably responsible for building the castle in the valley at the river crossing.  In the late eleventh century the river at Aber probably had a wider more sluggish course at this crossing point, which was probably near the site of the ancient Roman road.  After Robert's killing on 3 July his cousin, Earl Hugh of Chester, took over the castles of North Wales, but he failed to stop the Welsh from overwhelming his garrisons.  It was probably at this time the castle fell.  The next we hear of Aber is in the thirteenth century when the princes of Gwynedd were established at the llys.  There has been much argument over where this llys stood.  A royal repair document of 1304 seems to clearly place the site at Peny y Bryn on top of Garth Celyn.  Certainly in 1282 Prince Llywelyn and Gruffydd and his brother Dafydd, together with the descendants of many of the princes of Wales, met at Garth Kelyn and debated with Archbishop John Peckham of Canterbury on how to end the current Welsh war.  In this they failed and within the month Llywelyn was killed.

The palace of the princes of Gwynedd was maintained by his successors, the kings of England and their first born sons, who were created princes of Wales.  By the mid fifteenth century the palace had fallen into ruins, but between 1553 and 1586 it was rebuilt by the Thomas family, who claimed descent from the princes of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren.

The current house of Pen y Bryn, standing upon Garth Celyn, contains many interesting fragments from its turbulent past and this book makes an iniitial attempt to sort them all out.  The book is entitled 'a brief report', but it stretches to 114 A4 pages and includes many photographs and plans to explain the site, as well as castles and llysoedd in North Wales.

The book may be purchased for £29.95 through the Paypal symbol below.

Harlech Castle and its True Origins
This book contains groundbreaking research that will revolutionise Edwardian castle studies.

Harlech has always been a favourite destination for tourists as well enthusiasts of our medieval history.  To me Harlech has always been a strangely sterile and cold castle and it was with reluctance that I was persuaded to visit and reappraise this Edwardian fortress after thirty years researching original history.  What I thought would be a rather mundane trip down well trodden paths, in fact turned out to be exhilarating and exciting - since the re-examination showed that the path was not so well trodden after all.  
    Again and again in castle studies the mantra must be repeated - what do the original sources say and do they agree with the ‘history' that has accrued around the site?  Further, if original evidence is at variance with received wisdom, then surely it is time to throw out the so-called ‘wisdom' and replace it with a more authentic account.  To facilitate this, much time has to be spent examining original Welsh, Latin and French material and explaining its meaning in the modern world.  This involves trying not to allow later accounts to sully the purity of the original evidence.  To this end the historiography of Harlech castle is examined to see how some of the more ill-conceived legends about the site grew up.
    Comparison with the records concerning King Edward I's other North Welsh castles shows that the ‘old walls' of Harlech castle, on which the Edwardian castle was built between 1286 and 1289, could not have been built in the period 1283 to 1285 as is repeatedly asserted.  This book shows conclusively that Harlech castle began life as a Welsh llys, progressed to be a major castle of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and finally was modified into the fortress we have today by kings Edward I and Edward II of England.
    At Harlech, under the austere modern rebuildings, we have a living fortress that was begun some time in the lost mysterious past of the Mabinogion.  This evolved through the age of the princes, maturing into what could have been a great castle of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd.  However that plan was cut short by the collapse of the principality of Wales in 1283 and Harlech became a major and largely irrelevant stronghold of King Edward I and his descendants, guarding a wild and sparsely populated country which not even a military king like Edward IV could find the time to properly conquer due to its isolation.

This is the true Harlech castle.

Harlech Castle and its True Origins consists of 305 pages of A4 with 259 figures, diagrams and photographs.   It covers not only the development of Harlech and its environs, but attempts to sort out the itinerary of Giraldus Cambrensis around Meirionydd in 1188 and explains the mystery of Castell Deudraeth and the so-called Castell Aber Ia.

The book may be purchased for £39.95 by clicking on the PayPal 'Add to Cart' symbol below.

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