The first castle was built in 1081 during the Norman invasion in Wales. It was created as one of a number of strongholds protecting the newly captured Cardiff and controlled the route along the Taff ravine. Probably already in 1093, the castle was abandoned, because of the establishment of the Norman rule in Glamorgan, changing the course of the border.
Castell Coch was rebuilt in the mid-13th century by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who wanted to secure the area between the newly erected Caerphilly Castle and Cardiff. It was erected from sandstone, the color of which gave it the name Castrum Rubeum, meaning the Red Castle. The newly built stronghold was attacked in 1314 by Welsh rebels, who probably undermined and destroyed the building.
In 1760, abandoned and forgotten ruins were bought by Earl of Bute. The third Marquis of Bute, John Crichton-Stuart, inherited the castle and the great family fortune in 1848. In 1871 he turned to his chief engineer, John McConnoch, to dig up and cleanse the ruins of the castle from the vegetation. Marquis then employed the architect William Burges, and the reconstruction of the castle began in 1875. Although Burges died in 1881, his plans were continued by a team of his craftsmen and assistants, and the reconstruction was completed at the end of the 19th century.
The first castle from the end of the 11th century had the form of a timber keep, placed on an artificial mound of earth, about 35 meters in diameter at the base and 25 meters in diameter at the top.
The castle from the mid-13th century was a cylindrical tower with a small inner ward, where the building of the great hall was placed, adjacent to the defensive wall on the oval plan. Later in the years 1268 – 1277, two more cylindrical towers (Kitchen and Well), a four-sided gatehouse with a drawbridge were added and a defensive wall was reinforced. The cylindrical south-east tower was 12 meters in diameter and had massive spurs at the base. In the thirteenth century turret containing latrines, adjacent to it from the south-west. Its today’s name – Keep Tower, is a nineteenth-century concept, it is uncertain whether it served such a function in the Middle Ages. A south-west tower called Kitchen was also 12 meters in diameter and had a base with spurs. Originally, it had two floors and contained a medieval kitchen. The walls of the two towers were approximately 3 meters thick at the base. The Well Tower with a diameter of 11.5 meters was slightly narrower, and the name came from the well in its lowest chamber. This tower had no spurs and had a rather simple wall from the side of the ward, which brought its shape to the horseshoe.
Today’s castle is largely a 19th-century reconstruction, but by the standards of that period, its final appearance did not go away from the medieval original. The external façades of the towers are the most compatible with it, while their conical finials are more reminiscent of fortifications in France or Switzerland, than Anglo-Norman castles. Such finals were probably chosen because of their “greater pictoriality” and providing additional rooms in the castle. The lower parts of the towers with the vaulted basements are original, especially the southern hall, the north-eastern and south-western towers (Kitchen and Well) have a lot of original, medieval walls. The interiors of the castle are already only in the Victorian neo-gothic style. Currently, the castle is under government protection and is open to visitors.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Castell Coch.
Website wikipedia.org, Castell Coch.