WOW!! Getting to the end of September and suddenly summer is here. It’s Saturday and Monday is officially the end of summer, but today is another warm day. Not blazing sunshine but very pleasant nonetheless.
I haven’t been across to Anglesey for a while so today I’m going to Beaumaris Castle. This is different to other castles built by Edward 1, as it was built on a marsh, not raised on rocks. Building started in 1295 and Beaumaris was the last royal stronghold to be built in Wales by King Edward.
The plan of this castle took full advantage of the flat site, not fettered by the usual constraints that shaped the castles of Conwy and Caernarfon (being built on rocky outcrops). It was built using a concentric-walls within walls-principle with four rings of formidable defences including a wide water-filled moat.
Beaumaris is not as immediately impressive as some other castles, and is not as well preserved as some, but it is a formidable place.
When building work finished in the 1330’s many parts of the castle were not completed, but it is easy to see what an incredible place this was.
This is the outer west wall and the wide moat, the first obstacle facing anyone trying to get into this place
This is the south wall and moat with the “Gate next the Sea”. Where the wooden bridge now leads into the castle would have been a drawbridge.
To the right hand side of the Gate-next-the-sea is the dock. The channel leading to the Menai Strait has been filled in, but ships would sail up the channel and dock here. The metal rings where they would tie-up can still be seen in the walls.
The Gate next the Sea. This gate contained the first of 15 obstacles to deter any intruders.
First was the drawbridge, then 2 parallel “murder- slots” over the gate passage, then a heavy two-leaved door.
After passing through the door is a right-angled turn to the door into the barbican, it’s interior commanded by a shooting platform running around 3 sides.
Once through the gate you enter the outer ward, the open space between the lower walls and towers of the outer curtain and the massive walls and towers of the inner curtain. Here you can see the eight-sided layout of the castle, and it’s complex construction.
The north gatehouse. Still an imposing structure, originally the plan was for it to have been about twice this size, with another storey and another 5 windows.
The south gatehouse, with the Menai Strait behind. Not as complete as the north gatehouse, but probably intended to be almost identical.
The inner ward covers an area of three-quarters of an acre, and in 1295 would have been full of huts to house the workforce.
The northern section of the eastern curtain wall. The great hall would have been built here, but little remains of the exterior. There would have been a number of rooms here, and this area would probably have been the main residential suite.
In the left hand corner was the north-east tower, and on the right-hand side the chapel.
To the right of the north-east tower are the remains of two huge fireplaces, so there were obviously two storeys here.
To the right of the fireplaces is an arched doorway which would have led to the chapel royal.
The chapel royal occupies the first floor of the tower which stands halfway along the eastern curtain wall. It has lost it’s colour and fittings, but is still one of the highlights of Beaumaris today
On the left is the ceiling of the chapel royal.
On the right is the wall passage leading to the chapel.
A number of these stone diaphragm arches still remain intact. They were capable of supporting a heavy floor, so another chamber would have been at second floor level.
The remains of a fine hooded fireplace, which would have been in a first storey chamber.
The view looking south across the Menai Strait towards Snowdonia.
A reconstruction of how Beaumaris may have looked had it been fully completed.
Illustration by Terry Ball, 1987
Beaumaris is not the huge imposing fortress stood on a rocky outcrop, but is impressive just the same.
It is wonderful to see the planning of these fortresses, and how mpregnable they were with imaginative defenses built into them.
It is also a wonder that they are still standing, maybe not complete but we can still see the workmanship that was used. How many of todays building will still be standing in 700 years time I wonder?