Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle from the fortified dam.

In the town of Caerphilly, 10 km north of Cardiff, Wales. Maintained by CADW.

Model of Caerphilly Castle. Caerphilly Castle from the lake shore. Caerphilly Castle from the lake shore.

The castle was built by the English earl Gilbert de Clare (1243-1295), substantially between 1268 and 1271. Much of the dam fortifications and some additional work on the island were completed later.

The fortified dam at Caerphilly Castle. Dam spillway at Caerphilly Castle. Dam gatehouse, Caerphilly Castle.

Gilbert de Clare built the castle during a time of disputed borders, to strengthen his (and England's) claim to upland Glamorgan. The Treaty of Montgomery (1267), making peace between England and Wales and confirming Llywelyn ap Gruffudd as prince of Wales, did not state whether upland Glamorgan was Welsh or English. Within a few months of the start of construction, Llywelyn occupied the northern (upper) area, and then settled in when a truce was arranged. Construction continued through the two years of truce, until Llywelyn burned some of the fortifications at Caerphilly (13 Oct 1270).

Dam gatehouse, from the outer ward, Caerphilly Castle. Outer ward gate, Caerphilly Castle. Interior archway, Caerphilly Castle.

War seemed likely, but another truce was arranged. The church was to hold the castle during negotiations; one of the points of dispute involved who, Gilbert de Clare or Llywelyn ab Gruffudd, should have ownership of Caerphilly Castle. Several of Gilbert's officers gained possession of the castle through a ruse (Gilbert claimed no knowledge), and returned occupation to Gilbert. The negotiations were made moot when, in 1276, Edward I, King of England, declared war on Wales, and in a year's campaigning drove the Welsh out of the Marches and captured much of the rest of Wales. Caerphilly was no longer a border fortress, and when Welsh power was broken in a second royal campaign (1282-1285), was used mainly as an administrative center for the estates of the de Clare family.

Inner gatehouse, Caerphilly Castle. Inner ward tower, Caerphilly Castle. Central courtyard, Caerphilly Castle.

Caerphilly Castle survived a Welsh revolt in 1295 (the town was burnt), and was later beseiged for several months (winter 1326-March 1327) in the war between King Edward II and Queen Isabella.