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Pen y Mwd Castle

aka Abergwyngregyn Castle

in the village of Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd, north Wales

his is a very characteristic motte, standing close to the river and covering the point where travellers to Anglesey started their crossing of the Lavan Sands. The building of the castle is not recorded. It may belong to the aggressive campaign of Hugh of Avranches, the Norman earl of Chester, but it is not named in any document. The original Norman strategy was to build a castle at each conquered Welsh commotal center. Alternatively, the mound may have been built later by the Welsh princes, who adopted the Norman style of castle building, copying the model so closely that the two styles cannot be distinguished unless there is documentation.

The mound is almost circular, more than 6m high and 40m in diameter at the base. The level top, where a wooden keep would have stood, is oval (19m by 16m). The top is very flat, with no sign of any masonry structure, so it was probably never refortified in stone once the original wooden castle had decayed. The mound is built largely of clay and has retained its sharp profile, but is suffering erosion and damage from fallen trees. There is a hint of a protective ditch on the south side, but no sign of a bailey.

Abergwyngregyn was one of several royal maerdrefi or manors scattered across Gwynedd. Aberffraw was the chief residence, but Llywelyn ap Iorwerth is said to have preferred his llys or court here. Its exact location is unknown, but recent finds of stone foundations and 13th-century pottery suggest that it was close to the motte. Llywelyn's unfaithful wife, Siwan, died here in 1237, as did their unsuccessful son, Dafydd, in 1246.

The motte is on private land and permission to enter should be sought from Tyn y Mwd, the 1st in a group of slate-hung houses on the left close to the site.

A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Gwynedd, Frances Lynch, Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, London, 1995.

 


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Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas