« PreviousContinue »
the walls at the west side of this court in front of the hall, that a kind of cloister or verandah of wood was carried round three sides of it as a shelter from arrows shot over the walls at a high elevation, and that a portion on the left was an open shed for the protection of the lord's horses, the curtain wall protecting the fourth side without any pent roof; also that another apartment or two, of two stories, existed behind the hall for the withdrawing room and chamber. The hall has very thin walls, and was, with the chambers, most likely built of oak in the upper portion. This is not at all unusual for the internal offices of a castle. Conway (1286) hall was of timber. The character of the lower walls of the hall at Dyserth are fitted only as the base for timber superstructure. There are some valuable details of the windows and battlements among the fragments, the former showing how the glass was fixed in moveable wooden frames. We know that when castles were not occupied by their owners, the glass was removed and stowed away. The loophole from the battlement is cruciform, with circular oeillets and triangular foot. A beautiful moulding, either from the kitchen fireplace or some fragment of the chapel, was also found.
"When the excavations opened the various chambers, they were found to be whitewashed on the stone; very little plastering was used in the interiors. Thus we have an exactly dated instance of the use of whitewash. The fact that the domestic buildings are withdrawn towards the south or Welsh side of the Vale, and that the strongest points of resistance are turned towards the road to Flint and Holywell, to prevent a foe marching round the flank of the Vale by these or the low ground, are (in addition to its abandonment as a base of operations by the English) strong presumptive evidence of the defensive purpose being the main
1 Llywelyn Fardd 1230-80; Myv. Arch. 249; Towyn Church "Eglwys wen wyngalch wynhaed."
object of this strong fortress. In the character of its military engineering, but not in its office and use, its analogies are strong with Denbigh; so much so as to suggest a common designer. The angular and polygonal bastions, the separate well-tower, and the system of outworks, have much in common with the larger castle. The grouping of the towers towards the line of attack also recalls the arrangements of the older portion of Chester Castle, also built by Henry III.”1
The excavations have shown a large quantity of charred timber. Through part of the north wall the gallery of a mine has been run, but its use is uncertain. The larger portion of the débris appears to have been taken down by manual labour, as will later on be verified. The metal gratings have been wrenched out of the windows. The floors of the tower are unpaved, and are made of beaten clay, well laid and hard. The window, door casings, and quoins, are of a fine white freestone, probably brought from Storeton near Birkenhead by sea. The masons' marks are identical with many in Bebington, though of a later period, and might indicate the employment of Wirral masons, several of whom are named in the succeeding reign as master masons and contractors employed at Conway and Carnarvon Castles.
It has been suggested by Pennant that a Welsh port existed on the site of Dyserth Castle, prior to this fortress built by Henry III, but I have not yet met with any real evidence relating to it. We learn from Domesday (1086) that the berewicks of Dicolin, Rahop, and Wicestan (Bay Town), were a waste in the time of Edward the Confessor, and no mention whatever is made of a castle or post; yet in the immediate vicinity, we have Ruestoch' (together with Prestetone), a name clearly indicating the former existence of a stockade."
1 Cox, "Diserth Castle," Chester Arch. Journ., 1895.
5 Welsh Rhiw-y-stoc; and Rustock in an Agreement of 1272 A.D.
The position of affairs in North Wales at the building of Dyserth Castle shows that towards the end of the career of Llywelyn' the Great, his health gave way, and the direction of affairs passed to his son David. Llywelyn henceforth chiefly concerned himself with the succession of the Principality. He released from prison, after six years of confinement, Gruffydd, a half-brother of David, and gave him some land in Carnarvonshire. Llywelyn again acknowledged King Henry as his feudal over-lord.*
In the year 1238, Llywelyn convened his Welsh vassals to a meeting at Strata Florida, at which they swore fealty to David. Having arranged his affairs, Llywelyn assumed the monastic habit, and died on April 11th, 1240, in the Cistercian monastery at Aberconwy.5
This most brilliant of Welsh princes adopted the policy of frankly admitting the suzerainty of the English King, and devoting his energies to prevent any encroachment on Welsh lands, he took his place among the great vassals of the realm, and we may reasonably suppose that he intended his successors to follow a similar course. David, however, treacherously seized his half-brother Gruffydd, with whom he had been for some time at feud, and imprisoned him. then received for the second time the submission of the Welsh vassal lords, and himself did homage to King Henry at Gloucester. Gruffydd, however, had partisans in Gwynedd, foremost among whom was Richard, Bishop of Bangor, who lost no time in
1 Ll. married Joan, daughter of King John, Powell and Wynne,
2 Palsy, according to Powell and Wynne, 258.
3 His sister, Gladys (sometimes known as Gladys Ddu, Powell and Wynne, 270), married Ralph, Lord Mortimer of Wigmore; she was therefore mother of Sir Roger.
4 Powell and Wynne, 258.
5 Powell and Wynne, 259.
6 Powell and Wynne, 261.
excommunicating David and interviewing the King, whom he induced to take an interest in Gruffydd's grievances. In addition to receiving homage of rebellious royal tenants, David gave aid to the enemies of Roger Mortimer, under which circumstances King Henry decided to make an expedition into Wales and advanced towards Gwynedd. Without striking a blow, terms were made at a place called Gwern Eigron, near St. Asaph, on August 29th, 1241. Under the arrangement Gruffydd was to be transferred to the care of the King; the quarrel was to be submitted to the King's court; Mold was to be given to the seneschal of Chester; and Gruffydd ab Gwenwynwyn and other Welsh lords, were conceded their claims in Powys and Merionethshire. David was ordered to attend the court in London,3 and proceeded there in October, when a further agreement was forced upon him by the King's government-that the Principality should be surrendered to the English crown if he died without heirs of his body.
Gruffydd was confined in the Tower, where he was well treated, but, trying to escape in 1244, he fell and broke his neck. David returned to North Wales, and the years 1241-1243 were peaceful. Between 1238 and 1241 the King decided to build a castle near Diserth, and selected for the site the rock of Maelan. In Annales Cestrienses the site is described
1 Powell and Wynne, 261.
2 Sometimes called Alnet, Alnetum, a grove of alders, being a translation of Gwern. Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 264.
3 Powell and Wynne, 262.
4 Powell and Wynne, 263.
5 Annales Cambria, 1241. Rex Angliæ omnes Walenses sibi subjugavit, castrumque firmavit in forti rupe juxta Disserth in Tegeygell obsidibus acceptis a David nepote suo pro Gwyneth sibi relicto ipsum David necando usque Londoniam ad concilium celebre ibi constituto.
6 From Maelan or Faelan, a market, we get the corruption
as "forti rupe iuxta Diserth (fortified rock near Diserth), and in Brut y Tywysogion, "Kastell y garrec yn ymyl y Disserth" (Castle of the rock near to the Disserth). This, however, was not the first site contemplated, for, in the first instance, the site chosen for the Castle was situated further up the hill, on the opposite side of the present highway, and considerable progress had been made with the building before a
command' was issued at Chester on September 3rd, 1241, to John L'Estrange, Justice of Chester, in the following terms:
"It is well pleasing to the King that he fortify that
Ffailon, which means something different. The rock stands in the township of Trecastell. Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 258, 267, 278; Rhys' Welsh Philology, 206; 2nd edition, 202, 380.
1 Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 258.