Beaumaris Castle was the last of the eight great castles built in Wales by Edward I - his so-called ‘ring of steel' contrived to keep the Welsh in check. Guarding the entrance to the Menai Straits, Beaumaris, meaning ‘beautiful marsh', was constructed as a direct consequence of a Welsh rebellion led by Prince Madog in 1294.
Perhaps the finest of his eight strongholds in Wales, Edward I allowed his architect James of St George complete freedom of expression in his design, resulting in a classical example of a near impregnable concentric castle. Work on its construction began in 1295, with four hundred masons, thirty smiths and carpenters and two thousand labourers, employing stone from nearby Penmon. It was conceived so as to take full advantage of the natural defences provided by its proximity to the sea. The inner ward was square, protected by unassailable 15ft-thick walls rising 43ft in height, six sturdy towers and two imposing gatehouses. A mural gallery was constructed mid-height within the walls, offering access to both gatehouses and towers.
An outer bailey was added to further strengthen the defences of Beaumaris. This comprised a lower curtain wall of eight sides defended by 16 impressive drum towers and two massive gatehouses, which were offset. The distance between the inner and outer defences was not substantial. Beaumaris boasted its own dock for supply ships where boats tied up when the tidal currents flooded the moat - the small dock was protected by Gunners' Walk. The moat was connected to the sea by a canal. Much of the castle is still intact, is virtually surrounded by its original moat and retains its ancient dock.
Beaumaris took some thirty years to complete but was never tested in serious battle, as the threat from rebellious Welsh insurgents had subsided. There were few events of any significance in its history and the only substantial threat to the castle materialised during the Civil War of 1642-49. The castle was garrisoned for Charles I by Thomas, Lord Bulkeley, who upheld the Royalist standard at Beaumaris until 1646, when he offered-up the castle to the Parliamentarian, Major-General Mytton. News of Mytton's recent defeat of a Royalist army had persuaded the defendants that resistance was futile. Rumour has it that Hywel of Llandona, a Royalist diehard, was so disgusted with this feeble capitulation, that rather than surrender he rode his horse over the edge of a nearby cliff.
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