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Ruthin Castle Timeline

Photograph and text copyright by John Northall

With acknowledgements to The History of Ruthin Castle by Reginald de Hereford,
The Royal Commission into Ancient Monuments in Wales, and A Guide to Ancient
and Historic Wales, Clwyd and Powys
by Helen Burnham.

Above: Ruthin Castle stands on a sandstone ridge near the head of the Vale of Clwyd (Dyffryn Clwyd), 100 feet above the great marsh (Y Gwernfor). The overgrown walls of the upper and lower bailey can be seen to the left of the photo and the former marshy ground on the floor of the valley can be seen in the background.

Follow this link for a reconstruction drawing, description and site plan of Ruthin.
or this link for photos of the upper bailey of the castle.
or this link for photos of the lower bailey.
or this link for photos of the gatehouse.

Iron Age

The place name of Ruthin is derived from the Welsh words 'rhudd' (red) and 'din' (fort) and the origins of the name are more obviously seen in Welsh spelling of the name - Rhuthun. There are Celtic iron age forts on many of the hills that line the Clwyd valley and it's probable that the Red Fort at Ruthin was situated on the red sandstone ridge now occupied by the castle.

Medieval Period

1277 - King Edward I of England granted Ruthin to Dafydd, brother of Prince Llewelyn ap Gruffudd in return for his treacherous help during the invasion of North Wales that year. Edward may have begun a new castle here but it is possible that he bequeathed an existing castle to his Welsh ally which was then strengthened under it's new master. Dafydd also had castles at Caergwle and Denbigh.

1282 - War flared up again after the English barons had begun to help themselves to Welsh lands. The Welsh garrison capitulated quickly when faced with the large army led by Reginald de Grey who had advanced westward along the valley of the river Dee. Edward granted the cantref of Dyffryn Clwyd, including its chief stronghold at Ruthin, to Reginald for his loyalty. Reginald erected a protective wall around the small town of Ruthin to protect the new English townsfolk and craftsmen that he had brought with him.

1294 - Reginald used Ruthin as a secure base for his 5000 troops during the Madoc revolt, thus protecting the lands to the east of Ruthin as far as Chester.

1295 - The castle was strengthened and extended by Reginald when he had completed his term of office as Justiciar of Chester. The works were overseen by Master James of St George, the King's architect who was the mastermind behind the Edwardian castles of Wales.

1400 - The town of Ruthin was captured and burned during the revolt of Owain Glyndwr (depicted right) but the castle was not captured.

1508 - The castle was sold to the crown by George de Grey, 5th Baron of Ruthin. It was granted to tenants for safekeeping, notably Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick.

Civil War Period

1632 - King Charles I had been searching for new sources of revenue to offset the depreciation of the coinage and the castle and estate was sold to Sir Thomas Myddleton of Chirk. A survey stated that the castle was not worth quarrying for its stone as the original quarries were easier to work. The gatehouse had a decayed roof of slate and including the wooden joists, doors and hinges it was valued at not above five pounds.

1642 - The English civil war caused the hasty repair of the castle at Crown expense and it was garrisoned against the Parliamentarians, including its legal owner!

1646 - Parliamentary forces under the command of Major-General Mytton were tasked with the reduction of the castles of North Wales and their first target was Ruthin. The castle withstood an eleven-week siege during which time the walls were bombarded with artillery. The defenders capitulated only when the attacking forces announced their intention to mine the walls. Honourable terms were given for the surrender and the defenders marched away, flags flying, led by Governor Reynolds.

1648 - The castle was dismantled following an act of parliament which was passed to stop the reoccupation of fortresses by belligerent forces. The walls were torn down and the timber and stone was carted away for use elsewhere.

Modern Period

1826 - Following the death of the last male heir of Chirk, Richard Myddleton, the castle and its estate passed to one of his three daughters, Maria. She had a new castellated two-storey, double-block house built which straddled the upper and lower baileys. The two blocks were joined by a covered stone bridge across the inner moat.

1849 - The house was extended and formal gardens were planted by the Myddleton-Wests.

1963 - A luxury hotel (below) was created out of the house by new owners and guests remain free to explore the romantic remains of the 13th century castle.


Ruthin Castle Upper Bailey page
Ruthin Castle Lower Bailey page
Ruthin Castle Gatehouse page
Ruthin Castle reconstruction drawing, description and site plan (main page)
View Mr Northall's other contributions to the Castles of Wales web site

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