My theme is castles. So it is appropriate to discuss the great castle builder – Edward the First. During his reign he had built or refortified seventeen castles in Wales. The construction of the ring of castles was a massive undertaking and it enabled him to crush any Welsh rebellions.
Many of these great castles remain standing and of them, Conwy, is my favourite. Situated on the coast, it encompasses eight concentric towers and a wall that surrounded the town, and still does. A World Heritage site, it dominates the town and has breathtaking views of the coast.
Edward was helped in his endeavours to leave a lasting impression on Wales by his master mason, James of St George, who was responsible for building twelve of Edward’s castles, plus others in Europe and Scotland. What an achievement for an architect! He was paid well – two shillings a day – and retired to a manor granted by the king.
Built between 1283 and 1289, Conwy castle cost £15,000 to build – a small fortune. It survived wars, including the English Civil War, but eventually stripped of metalwork, it crumbled and instead became a feasting ground for landscape painters.
Changing times brought rail and road, and Thomas Telford constructed a suspension bridge in 1826, one of the first in the world, right next to the castle. Another great architect.
So, one castle, lots of history, and it rather sums up what I love about castles. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if Telford and James of St George met up and compared notes?
“So, this is another one of your castles?”
“Aye. I’m rather pleased with the double barbican. You’re partial to bridges?”
“Just a few. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve built. Canals too.”
“Your bridge fits in nicely with my castle. I like the added touches, the parapet and portcullis details.”
“That’s the idea.”
“What’s with the cables?”
“They hold it up.”
“Up? Strange notion. How’s it work?”
“Fancy a pint? I can draw you a picture.”