12 Apr 2009 - Caerphilly (Caerphilly Castle), Wales
Next on this Welsh tour was Caerphilly Castle, one of the truly great strongholds of medieval Europe. With its bold inner defences overlooking and commanding the lower outer walls and salients, Caerphilly is often cited as fine example of the 'concentric' or 'walls-within-walls' principle of fortification.
The castle was built at breakneck speed in response to the major political and military threat from Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd. By the 1260s the prince had advanced his frontiers to within a few miles of Caerphilly. In the event, Caerphilly's short history as a front line fortress ended with the punitive wars in North Wales by Edward I in 1276-77 and 1282-83. With the removal of the threat and that of smaller rebellions, from the mid 14th century this once magnificent castle was allowed to fall into gradual decay.
Caerphilly - Caerphilly Castle
Once the castle came out of use the artificial lake surrounding it was drained. The land on which the castle stood dried out and 'heaved' or slumped. This has pulled some of the walls away from the other structures. As with most very old buildings, successive generations have seen fit to utilise the structures as a stone quarry.
Caerphilly - Caerphilly Castle and postern gate
The postern gate and south tower in the southern wall. To the left of the castle and just out of the photo is a similar sized island called the Western Island. Known as the 'People's Fort'. This has low walls and it may have been intended as refuge for the townsfolk in the event of attack.
Caerphilly Castle - The South Dam
The outer face of the dam had a massive wall with a battery of projecting buttresses. On the other side is a long grassy strip that now house reconstructions of medieval siege engines. On this visit there was an impressive demonstration of their fire power, throwing heavy stone balls up to 80 meters into the lake. The space here was also used for tournaments with spectators accomodated on the damn wall walk.
Caerphilly Castle - Bridge to the Main Outer Gatehouse
Continuing forward from the South Dam leads to the main outer gatehouse, approached across two drawbridges over the outer moat. The gate survives particularly well, probably due to its long use as a prison for the district.
Caerphilly Castle - Main Outer Gatehouse
The wall to the right of the gatehouse is the North Dam which protected the northern bank of the fort. Projecting from the rear of the gatehouse is a defended wall that guards the approach to the castle from north dam. This castle is a marvel of medieval defensive design.
Caerphilly Castle - Northwest Tower to the North Dam
This is overlooking the outer wall, across the north lake to the inside of the North Dam. The shadow of the North West has been cast across the photo.
Caerphilly Castle - Northwest Tower and hourd
The northwest tower formed the inner defences with the curtain wall. A replica section of a wooden fighting platform called a hourd can be entered. The purpose of this typical medieval defence work was to overhang and protect the outer face of the castle walls. Relatively safe inside, defenders could aim missiles directly on to attackers caught below.
Caerphilly Castle - East Gatehouse
This vast gatehouse provides entrance to the inner ward. A drawbridge would extended from both sides with neither drawbridge long enough to totally span the gap. This huge gatehouse looms high and dominates the entire castle just as it did when it was first constructed. The front of the gate that can be seen here was reconstructed in 1931-33 but the inner courtyard side is almost entirely original.