Denbigh – city defensive walls


   Denbigh borough was founded after 1282 and received town rights in 1290. During this period, the construction of the town walls and the castle was initiated on the initiative of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. The main north-eastern section with the Countess Tower was completed around 1290, and until 1295 a section was erected that extended beyond the perimeter to the east, which was to protect the spring or well located there. This was important due to the drying of the castle’s well in the summer. Work on strengthening the fortifications also continued in the fourteenth century, at that time, the Countess and Goblin Towers were built.
A serious test Denbigh fortifications passed during the seventeenth-century civil war. The town was besieged by the forces of Parliament under the command of generals Middleton and Mytton. Particularly fierce battles lasted for the Goblin Tower and taking control of the water source. The commander of the garrison, Colonel William Salesbury, lasted for 9 months, despite the weak artillery and lack of hope for relief. Eventually, king Charles I sent the commander a message, personally ordering him to give up the defense of Denbigh. After negotiations, Salesbury agreed to surrender on honorable conditions.


   The upper town occupied a larger part of the hill surrounded by a defensive wall, which closed 3.8 ha of land. The circumference of the fortifications had an irregular plan with two bulges from the north and a castle located in the southern corner. In the north-east part of the wall, the wall was extended east from the main defense line, beyond the steep rock, to cover the water source there. This protrusion was protected by a powerful polygonal Goblin Tower. It had 15 meters high and large buttresses reaching 5 meters from the north.
The defensive walls were erected from unworked limestone supplemented with brown sandstone, mainly on rock foundations. The length of the circuit was about 1,100 meters. The height of the wall today reaches up to 5 meters, but it was definitely higher at first, as the upper part topped with a battlement did not survive. At the top, in the thickness of the wall, the walkway of the defenders ran.
The defensive wall was reinforced with a semi-circular, two-storey north-eastern tower and the Countess Tower located to the east of it. In this place the fortifications ran near the rocky edge of the hill. The Countess Tower was in fact a complex of two four-sided towers and a corner, two-level building. Another reinforcement was the already described Goblin Tower and the semi-cylindrical tower in the southern part of the circuit, near the castle’s defensive walls. Originally, it had three floors and a plaid decoration made of yellow sandstone, similar to the Burgess Gate.
Only two gates led to the city: Burgess Gate from the north-west side and Exchequer Gate from the west. Both gates consisted of two towers protecting the passage between them. The towers of the Burgess Gate were erected on the plan of a horseshoe, made of limestone and yellow sandstone, which formed a plaid pattern. The original height of the gate could reach 18 meters.

Current state

   To this day, a large part of the defensive walls has survived along with two gatehouses and four towers. In the best condition has survived the Burgess Gate, only the foundations are visible from the Exchequer Gate. The best preserved section of the walls is on the east side, where the wall ran from the Countess Tower to the ruined Goblin Tower and on the west side between the town gates.

show Burgess Gate on map

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Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Website, Denbigh Town Walls.
Website, Denbigh Castle and town walls.