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Gwydir Castle

Text and photograph copyright by John Northall
with acknowledgements to Peter Welford and The Wales Tourist Board.

Gwydir Castle is 1 mile west of the ancient market town of Llanwrst and 12 miles south of Conwy Castle. Although it is not regarded as an authentic castle it has a sturdy defensible core that, although much modified, has strong parallels with Llewelyn the Great's keep at Dolwyddelen Castle.

 

Below: The Solar Tower and Meredith's Hall viewed from across the inner court.

Gwydir lies on the edge of the flood plain of the river Conwy and is overlooked by the nearby Carreg-y-Gwalch (Falcon's Rock). The Conwy valley (Nantconwy) provides a fertile plain which was bitterly contested over many hundreds of years and it was necessary for this important manorial centre to be capable of withstanding attacks by the many local bandits.

By the 14th century it belonged to Hywel Coetmore who commanded a force of bowmen for the Black Prince. In the following century Gwydir was probably destroyed by act of retribution during the Wars of the Roses. After a Lancastrian attack on Denbigh in 1466, the Yorkist King, Edward the 4th, ordered the Earl of Pembroke to lay waste to the whole of Nantconwy.

The castle was later sold by one of Hywel's decendents to Meredith ap Ieuan (born 1460), a decendent of Owain Gwynedd. Meredith had fought to wrest control of Nantconwy away from the bandits who had been operating out of Dolwyddelen Castle. During the 1480s he obtained the lease for Dolwyddelen from the King and he rebuilt Gwydir around 1500. At this time the castle consisted of the rectangular keep-like Solar Tower and the adjoining hall block.

John Wynn ap Meredith (Meredith's son) enlarged the castle using masonary from Maenan Abbey which had been dissolved in 1538. The square turret at the rear of the Solar Tower Tower contains a spiral staircase taken from the Abbey and many elaborately carved stones can also be seen on site. The turret was added around 1540 and John Wynn's initials can be seen above the main entrance in the courtyard gatehouse along with the date of 1555.

The castle was enlarged into a double courtyard mansion by Sir John Wynn in the 17th century. Most of this work was demolished in 1816 but the fine porch that Sir John added to the front of the Solar Tower remains.

The oldest part of Gwydir is without doubt the Solar Tower. The hall block was added onto the side of this tower some time after the tower was built - this can be seen because the original garderobes chutes were covered by the new building as was the original chimney breast. The large chimney breast at the opposite end of the tower was evidently a later addition, perhaps built at the same time as the front porch or rear stair turret. Although the tower now has an exposed pitch roof it may have replaced an earlier set of battlements.

Gwydir remains in private hands and is being restored with the help of Cadw. Follow this link for more details.

Visit the official Gwydir Castle website
Additional articles by John Northall


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