In the twelfth and thirteenth century, Ewloe was a densely wooded area near the main road from Chester to North Wales. After the Norman conquest of England, this area came under the control of the marcher lords, but the political turmoil and civil war between queen Matilda and king Stephen, allowed the Welsh to re-occupy the land. The Ewloe Castle was erected around 1257 by the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in the times of the weak reign of English king Henry III, probably in connection with the attempts to recapture the Perfeddwlad region, occupied several years earlier by the English. It was built near the battlefield of 1157, during which English forces under Henry II were defeated in an ambush by the Welsh.
In 1277 king Edward I began the First Welsh War by moving his forces from Chester, building nearby Flint Castle and eventually quickly occupying all the lands east of Conwy. The Ewloe Castle was not mentioned at the time by the chroniclers, which suggests that the Welsh withdrew without a fight. Since on the orders of Edward, nearby strongholds were established in Rhuddlan and Flint, which could be supplied by sea, the Ewloe Castle seemed to be useless to English conquerors.
The only historical record of Ewloe in written sources referred to the year 1311, when an investigation was carried out to determine who the surrounding property belonged to. It was noted that the majority of the castle was still standing then, but of little importance, and that its builder was Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, who was to erect it “in the corner of the forest”. The abandoned building was already in ruins at the end of the Middle Ages.
The castle was built on a small hill in a valley to the south of the Wepre Brook River, to which the smaller New Inn stream joined to the east. The slopes descending towards the river ensured safety from the north and west, but from the south and east it was necessary to dig a ditch, wide enough that the area raising in the south would not pose a threat to the defenders. Castle was built of sandstone in the form typical of Welsh constructions (characteristic main tower on a horseshoe plan, not very developed defense of the entrance gate to the courtyard).
Central element of the castle was a tower built on top of a rocky hill in the shape of an elongated horseshoe with dimensions of 16 x 11.3 meters and a keep function. Its walls at the base were 2 meters thick, and the height was 11 meters. The walls of the tower were higher than its upper floor and topped with a wall-walk of defenders and battlement. At times of danger, the breastwork could be surrounded by a hoarding porch, mounted on a small four-sided openings in the walls. The first floor was occupied by a single chamber, located above the ground floor room, equipped with small windows with side seats and a latrine in one of the corners. There was no fireplace inside, but the heat was provided by an open hearth set on a stone pillar that also supported the timber basement floor. The communication between the wall-walk and the upper floor was provided by stairs placed in the wall thickness. A hatch in the floor and a ladder led to the room in the ground floor. The entrance was secured by a wall forming a passage with stairs on the south side of the tower.
The keep was surrounded by a defensive wall erected on a plan similar to a triangle with rounded corners. The entrance to it was provided by a simple gate on the north-eastern side. It was preceded by a wooden bridge over the ditch, to which an earth causeway led. The area between the perimeter wall and the keep was narrow, so it could not accommodate any more significant buildings except for smaller wooden or half-timbered sheds or huts attached to the internal faces of the fortifications. The south-east and north corner would be especially suitable for this, where a building related to the entrance gate could be located.
On the west side, a fortified outer bailey was located with a cylindrical tower with a diameter of about 12 meters, located on the rocky ground in the westernmost part of the castle. The tower probably housed two floors with a similar layout to the keep: the lower unlit storage room and the upper chamber for residential and defense purposes. There were probably wooden auxiliary buildings in the courtyard. A separate wooden bridge led to the outer bailey, located similarly to the main gate from the north-east side. Interestingly and unusual, there was probably no direct connection between the upper ward and the outer bailey, unless there was a makeshift footbridge between the curtains of the walls.
The castle has been preserved in the form of a ruin. There are three walls of the keep, defensive walls with incomplete heights and relics of a cylindrical tower. The monument is under the care of Cadw, the national heritage agency of Wales. Access to it and sightseeing is free. It is worth remembering that the castle is not located in the village of Ewloe, but north of it. There are two paths to the ruins, while a longer walk takes about 15 minutes.
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