Caerphilly Castle - one of the largest castles in the UK
Occupying over 30 acres, Caerphilly Castle (Castell Caerffili) is second only to Windsor Castle in terms of its sheer size. A ground-breaking design, the castle is heralded as having first introduced the classical concentric design to Britain in the thirteenth century. Built by lord Gilbert de Clare, the castle was a scene for fierce fighting between the Norman invaders and the native Welsh princes. It remained an active fortification until the English Civil War. With its violent past now consigned to the pages of history, the castle is a significant and popular tourist attraction.
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Fear the Welsh Prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd!
It is claimed that fear of the inspirational Welsh Prince, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was the main reason behind the construction of Caerphilly Castle. Operating from his ancestral headquarters in Gwynedd, North Wales. Llywelyn had largely united the Welsh and presented a real and significant threat to the Normal lords. The response was a tremendous fortification, built in surprisingly quick time. During its construction, Llywelyn and his army attacked the castle on two separate occasion, causing substantial damage. Building work continued however, and eventually, Gilbert was able to complete the project and take control of the region. This initial threat to the castle subsided with Llywelyn’s death. Sporadic attacks by his successors continued, culminating in the period surrounding the revolt of Owain Glyndwr. Following this period, the castle suffered a steady decline. The focus of barons and lords moved to newer palaces, particularly in Cardiff.
Caerphilly castle is famous for its architecture. A mighty set of defensive walls to the east, protected by the northern lake and the east moat. The central and western islands with their own formidable fortifications are protected by the southern lake. Built of locally sourced Welsh pennant stone, the ground-breaking design was the first example of concentric castle defences in Britain. Its significance is confirmed by a highly intricate set of dams and moats. The moats considered by many to be the most elaborately engineered in Britain. These features combined, make for an important and significant example of military architecture. This helped shape the design of the country’s castles for centuries later.
The Peoples Castle
By the sixteenth century, the castle’s elaborate defences had fallen into decline. Much of the stone had been collected by local builders for use in nearby dwellings whilst the moats and lakes had largely drained. In the eighteenth century, the Marques of Bute acquired the castle, which was subject to extensive restoration works by the family over the following years. In nineteen fifty, the castle was handed over to the people of Wales, whereby the moat and lakes were reflooded, and the grandeur restored to one the country’s most important historical sites. The castle and its grounds are now managed on behalf of the people of Wales by CADW and has developed as a thriving historic attraction. Alongside its majestic ramparts and imposing water defences, Caerphilly Castle is also well known for its own leaning tower. In fact, its lean is even more than its famous namesake in Pisa.