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Caernarfon, north Wales, 8 miles southwest of Bangor; castle and walled town. Maintained by CADW.
Occupying a strategic position at the southern end of the Menai Straits, the town of Caernarfon has been fortified (possibly intermittently) since Roman times. About 1090, the site of the present castle was fortified with a motte-and-bailey castle by Hugh, Earl of Avranches, which was taken over by the Welsh by 1115.
The current castle was started in the spring of 1283, as part of Edward I of England's consolidation of his victory over the Welsh. Work was forced at a fast pace; the castle was substantially complete by 1287, and the construction of the exposed walls and towers appears to have been completed by 1292. Work on the wall facing the town (which had itself been walled by 1285) was more leisurely. Plans made to reopen work on them were interrupted by Madog's Rebellion in 1294.
Caernarfon, as one of the main centers of English control, was attacked and taken; the town wall was damaged and the town taken, and the Welsh then overran the incomplete walls of the castle and burned all that they could inside. By the summer of 1295, the English had recovered the town, and by mid-September the town walls had been rebuilt. Work on the townward walls of the castle was immediately started, and building on the castle continued at least until 1330.
The castle was besieged in 1403-1404 by Owain Glyndwr, but successfully held out. After the accession of Henry Tudor to the English throne, the Welsh began to be assimilated, and the castles that had symbolized English power were allowed to fall into ruin. Narrowly escaping demolition in 1660, the castle was used in 1911 and 1969 as the site of the investiture of the Prince of Wales.
Copyright © 1992, 1996, 1998 Leif Bennett. All rights reserved.