The construction of Aberystwyth Castle was started on the initiative of the English king Edward I in 1277. It cost over £ 4,300 (a price comparable to that of the Flint and Rhuddlan castles). Although the stronghold was completed only in 1289, the main works were carried out in the first three years. In 1282 an unfinished castle was conquered and burnt along with the town by the Welsh. However, already in 1294, during the rebellion of Madog ap Llywelyn, it withstood the next Welsh siege, mainly thanks to its seaside location, allowing to deliver supplies to the castle.
In the mid-fourteenth century Aberystwyth Castle was in bad condition. The main gate, the drawbridges, the royal hall, the long chamber, the kitchen and the ward were especially ruined. It was used by Owain Glyndŵr, who in 1404 won the stronghold during the Welsh uprising. In 1406, Owain retorted the English siege, carried out by prince Henry, future English king Henry V, but in the second siege, two years later, Henry recaptured castle, thanks to the use of heavy cannons.
In 1637, the castle was turned into a royal mint, in which silver shillings were produced. A few years later, during the English Civil War, it was garrisoned by Royalists, which caused the attack of the Parliamentary forces in 1646, and consequently its blowing up and destruction. What has survived, unfortunately, was used in the following years as a source of free building stone for the developing city.
The castle was situated on a naturally defensive site, near the sea coast, north of the mouth of the Rheidol River, the riverbed of which together with the shoreline formed a small headland. It was built on a diamond plan consisting of a double circumference of the defensive walls, with the second curtain on the safest south-west side, erected only during the reconstruction after 1282.
The entrance to the castle was possible from the east, from the town area, through two gates equipped with two D-shaped towers, flanking the middle passages between them. The main inner eastern gate, like in Harlech, from the side of the courtyard had two cylindrical turrets, housing spiral staircases. An additional, smaller, but also two-tower gate was located in the outer curtain of the wall on the north-west side. It was directed to a small bay in which there might have been a harbour. After passing this gate, a small postern from the zwinger area, embedded in a semicircular tower, led to the main inner ward. Probably in the late Middle Ages, the outer eastern gate received a foregate, located on the outer side of the ditch that secured the castle headland.
The walls of the castle were reinforced with towers in each corner, and in addition, the north-west and south-west curtains of the inner perimeter were equipped with semi-cylindrical towers in the middle. Residential and economic buildings adjoined the inner face of the castle walls, and certainly also the residential chambers filled the massive inner eastern gatehouse. The stronghold was coupled with the town defensive walls surrounding Aberystwyth, located east of the castle.
The outer circumference of the defensive walls with the north and south corner towers has survived to the present day in the best condition. In the form of a far-reaching ruin there is an inner eastern gate, and from the inner circumference of the fortifications only the western tower, currently the most characteristic element of the castle, has survived. The whole site is comprehensible thanks to the preservation of foundation parts.
Gravett C., The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307, Oxford 2007.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Lindsay E., The castles of Wales, London 1998.
Taylor A. J., The Welsh castles of Edward I, London 1986.