Summary Description and Reason for Designation
The following provides a general description of the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The monument comprises the remains of a Medieval castle and fortified town built by King Edward I. Begun in 1282, Denbigh Castle and Medieval town featured a number of striking architectural designs. Located atop the summit of a steep and prominent rock outcrop, Denbigh was placed in a part of north Wales, between the river Conwy and the Dee estuary, that had been fought over for more than 200 years.
Denbigh was granted to Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, in October 1282 and building began in the same month. The construction of the castle and town falls into two main periods. The western and southern sides of the castle were built first, with plain half-round towers and relatively thin curtain walls; the adjacent parts of the town walls on the south and west were also built at this time, shortly after 1282. When the first ring of defences was complete, the next stage saw the castle built within the safety of the first enclosure, at its south-west corner. This was the highest and most easily defended part of the town.
The second period of building, completed after a Welsh revolt in 1294, saw the completion of the castle’s defensive circuit with the construction of a much thicker and higher curtain wall with internal defensive wall-passages, guarded at intervals by hexagonal or octagonal towers on the northern and eastern sides of the castle. The great gatehouse, impressively sited at the highest point of the hill, consisted of an elaborate triangular arrangement of three interconnecting octagonal towers, with a formidable entrance. The towers of the eastern wall sheltered the great hall and the private apartments of the lord and his household. The west side of the inner ward had a series of lean-to store sheds, smithies and stabling.
Protected by its walls, the town gave economic support to the military garrison in the castle. When the borough was originally laid out in 1285, some sixty-three burgesses (town dwellers) held an individual burgage plot, and there was an attempt to lay out these properties within the regular street plan. By 1305, however the town had already expanded beyond the walls, with just fifty-two houses within the defences and up to 183 outside.
In 1400 the defences were put to the test again, this time during the revolt of Owain Glyn Dŵr when Denbigh’s castellan, Henry Percy, became embroiled in the struggle for the Crown. Events of national importance continued to be played out at Denbigh during the Wars of the Roses (1455-85) and in 1468 the castle was attacked and the town burned. Peace eventually reigned and in 1563 the castle was granted to Robert Dudley, a favourite of Elizabeth I and an immensely powerful magnate. Created Lord Leicester a year later, he not only repaired the residential parts of the castle but also erected a large new church within the town walls. Denbigh was to play one final role as a military stronghold when it was held for the king by Colonel William Salesbury during the Civil War (1642-48). Defeat was almost inevitable and in 1660 the castle was deliberately slighted, rendered useless and left to fall into ruin.
The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance our knowledge of Medieval social, domestic and political life and warfare.
The scheduled area comprises the remains described and an area around them within which related evidence may be expected to survive.