Glyndyfrdwy Castle, also known as Owain Glyndŵr's Mount, was a twelfth century motte fortification. The site later evolved into a medieval moated manor which, by the early fifteenth century, was owned by the rebel/freedom fighter Owain Glyndŵr. It was destroyed by English troops in 1403.
Glyndyfrdwy Castle was a motte fortification built on a cliff top overlooking the River Dee and is in close proximity to a moated manorial site. Little is known about the early history of Glyndyfrdwy but it is probable the motte was constructed first and formed part an earth and timber castle built by Norman invaders in the twelfth century. However there is no evidence of a bailey, nor any defensive earthworks around the motte, so it is possible the mound could simply have been a watchtower for another facility, perhaps Rug Castle which was located four miles to the west. The moated manor is undated but might date from the thirteenth century when such sites became common. It would have been the hub of a larger farmstead and would also have had an administrative function serving the surrounding area.
The motte stands almost seven metres tall and had a summit twelve metres in diameter that was probably topped with a timber palisade and tower. There is no evidence of a ditch around the base of the mound, nor any outer defensive works. Two hundred metres to the east of the motte was the manorial site which was a triangular platform enclosed by a wet moat. The platform would have originally hosted a manor house protected by a timber palisade and gate. In the later years of the site's occupation the manorial house may have been rebuilt out of the enclosure.
By the early fifteenth century the manor was owned by Owain Glyndŵr. He was descended from the Princes of Gwynedd but had nevertheless attempted to prosper under the English regime; he had trained as a lawyer in London and was married to an English wife. In 1400 a land dispute started between Glyndŵr and Reginald Grey of Ruthin Castle over a parcel of land at Croesau (now called Bryn Eglwys). Grey seized control of the land and, when Glyndŵr petitioned the English Parliament for their support, his plea was ignored. Furthermore, Grey sought to aggravate the situation by undermining Glyndŵr firstly by failing to deliver a Royal summons and then letting it be known that he intended to "burn and slay" the Welshman's territory. When Glyndŵr wrote back promising to reciprocate, Grey had him denounced as a traitor. Glyndŵr was outraged and on the 16 September 1400 at Glyndyfrdwy he proclaimed himself as Prince of Wales.
Fuelled by repressive and discriminatory legislation, the Glyndŵr rebellion quickly spread across the Principality and a trail of destruction followed as Denbigh, Flint, Hawarden, Holt, Oswestry, Rhuddlan and then Welshpool were sacked. Henry IV tried to bring him to battle but Glyndŵr avoided a pitched engagement and instead led a guerrilla war against the English. In 1403 Royal forces arrived at Glyndyfrdwy where they burnt the manor house and decimated the wider manor. There is no evidence the manor house was ever rebuilt. The rebellion eventfully petered out but Glyndŵr himself was never caught.
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Glyndyfrdwy Castle consists of the remains of a twelfth century motte and the slight earthworks associated with a medieval moated manor.
Motte. The motte occupies a dominant cliff top position overlooking the River Dee. It is not clear whether it was a standalone structure, such as a fortified watchtower, or part of a castle. The motte probably remained in use until the early fourteenth century.
River Dee. The motte was positioned to offer a commanding view of the River Dee. Today much of the waterfront is wooded but this wouldn't have been the case during the medieval period and the castle would have had a clear view of activity along the river in both directions.
Manorial Site. The Manor House was surrounded by higher ground on all sides. Part of the wet moat around the site of the manor house survives albeit it is heavily overgrown.
Glyndyfrdwy Castle is found directly off the A5 between Llangollen and Corwen. Car parking is difficult but there are a number of on-road options on nearby side roads.