Sitting on the banks of the Menai Straits on the Isle of Anglesey, North Wales, this striking remnant of past Medieval times is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Grade I Listed Building.
The land required to build the castle was private, but that did not stop Edward I. He swapped the land for other land and even gave it to the original owners rent free – he must have been desperate to get his hands on the location.
But why THIS location? It was on the opposite side of the Menai Straits to a castle owned by the Welsh Prince of Wales, Llewellyn ap Gryffyd – Edward I’s enemy.
Beaumaris Castle was built by Edward I in 1295 – well, he started it in 1295. Work commenced until 1330, but it was left unfinished. The cost of building Edward I’s castles in Wales was immense. Little wonder it was not completed!
Stone for the site was shipped in from nearby Penmon, and lead was supplied for the roofing. A plumber from Liverpool was responsible for all of the plumbing at the site. A well is once described as having been located in the cetral area of the castle.
The castle sits on a piece of lowland, which originally was a marsh. The site was chosen for the marsh to act as a natural water barrier for those who would wish to attack it. But this never happened. The castle has been sieged but never attacked, and because of this it remains largely intact. Even the English Civil War spared it!
As the English were trying to suppress the Welsh, the construction of the castle was not looked upon favorably and there were constant skirmishes between the towns people and those constructing the castle. This small town had a population increase of over 400 craftsmen, over 1,00 labourers and 200 carters – enough to cause issues in any small place. You can still see some of the makers marks on the masonry if you look closely. There was also trouble between the towns people and the garrison, and at one point Edward removed the garrison until things calmed down.
During the Civil War the site was used as a base for men and ammunition being bought over from Ireland to support the Royalist cause. When the castle did surrender it did so intact. A letter from General Mytton stated that he required, Beaumaris Castle and all the forts and garrisons of the island to be delivered into his hands. The letter was dated 26 May 1646, and still survives.
Here is a timeline for the site…..
Sir William Pickmore was appointed the first Governor of the castle.
1284 Plans were drawn up for the castle.
1294 Building work had not commenced due to a Welsh uprising.
1295 Building work commenced under Master James St. George.
1296 Building work stopped for a while due to the Scottish Wars.
1306 Work commenced again. The delay had caused much of the work to fall into disrepair.
1330 Work on the castle stopped.
1343 A Royal survey of the castle was undertaken.
1400 The site was under siege by the Welsh, led by Owain Glyndwr.
1403 The Welsh took the site.
1405 Retaken by the English.
1440 William Bulkelegh was appointed Constable of the castle.
1492 Roland Bulkelegh was appointed Constable of the castle.
1534 In disrepair. The roof was leaking and recorded that most of the rooms were letting in rain.
1539 Constable Richard Bulkeley complained at how lightly the castle was being defended.
1561 Sir. R. Bulkelegh was appointed Constable of the castle.
1562 Sir. R. Bulkelegh was appointed C1st Mayor of Beaumaris.
1609 Mentioned as being in a state of decay.
1642 Held for Charles I by Colonel Richard Bulkeley.
1646 Surrendered to General Mytton, and Parliament.
1648 A Royalist rebellion took place at the site.
1650 Roland, 2nd Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1660 In ruins.
1701 Richard, 3rd Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1705-1715 Richard, 4th Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1724 Richard, 5th Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1741 James, 6th Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1781 Up until: Thomas James, 7th Viscount Bulkeley, was appointed Constable of the castle.
1807 Purchased from the Crown by Lord Thomas Bulkeley.
1832 Princess Victoria (Later Queen Victoria) visited the site when the Grand Eisteddford was held there.
1835 Painted by J. W. M. Turner.
19th C Part of a park.
1925 Richard Williams-Bulkeley the owner, placed the site in the hands of the Commissioner of Works. They undertook restoration work including removing the vegetation from the walls.
1950 Stated as being one of the finest examples of Edwardian Welsh castles.
References and Bibliography
Clark. G. T. 1884. Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Volume 1. Wyman & Sons.
Cliffe. C. F. 1851. The Book of North Wales. London: Hamilton Adams & Co.
Hilliam. D. 2003. Castles and Cathedrals: The Great Buildings of Medieval Times. New York: Rosen Publishing Group.
Johnson. M. 2013. Behind the Castle Gate: From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Routledge.
Llwyd. R. 1832. Beaumaris Bay: The Shores of The Menai, And The Interior Of Snowdonia. J. Parry.
Nicholas. T. 1872. Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales: Containing a Record of All Ranks of the Gentry … with Many Ancient Pedigrees and Memorials of Old and Extinct Families, Volume 1. London: Longmans.
Pettifer. A. 2000. Welsh Castles: A Guide by Counties. Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer.
Phillips. J. R. 1878. Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches, 1642-1649. Longmans
Pickering. W. 1894. Archaeologia Cambrensis: A Record of the Antiquities of Wales and Its Marches and the Journal of the Cambrian Archaeological Association. Chas. J. Clarke.
Pounds. N. J. G. 1994. The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nelson. T. & Sons. 1862. Old Castles of England. T. Nelson & Sons.
Shaw. G. 1873. Shaw’s Tourist’s Picturesque Guide to North Wales. Simpkin Marshall & Co.
Taylor. A. 1986. The Welsh Castles of Edward I. London: The Hambledon Press.
Timbs. J., & Gunn. A. 1870. Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales: Their Legendary Lore and Popular History.