The castle was erected on the order of English king Edward I, right at the beginning of the First Welsh War of Independence in 1277. The English troops in the march along the North Wales coast quickly defeated the Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and deprived him of all territory east of the Conwy River. Edward strengthened his victory by building strongholds, which were later referred to as the “Iron Ring”, whose task was to obey Northern Wales. Flint was the first of them, it was formed on the deserted bank of the River Dee, just a few days walk from the royal city of Chester. The area was devoid of defensive hills, but for the English, access to the sea was important, which provided the opportunity to carry supplies. Construction was progressing very fast, it was supervised by Richard L’Engenour, but it was also visited by the main mason master of king Edward, James of Saint George. In 1282, the work was completed, and English colonists and merchants were brought to the castle’s settlement.
Five years after the construction started, Welsh forces under the command of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, besieged the castle during the next war against English rule. In 1294 Flint was attacked again during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn. This time the commander of the castle, William de la Leye, was forced to set fire to the town to prevent it from being captured by the Welsh. The castle remained unconquered, and the town was soon rebuilt. Flint until 1311 was certainly in good condition because it was visiting king Edward II. In 1399 king Richard II stayed in the castle, however, he was in the character of a prisoner, held by Henry Bolingbroke, future king Henry IV.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the castle once again confirmed its military value during the Welsh rebellion of Owain Glyndŵr. The invasion of 1403 destroyed only the town, while the stronghold remained unconquered until the uprising collapsed in 1408.
During the English Civil War, the castle was occupied by Royalist forces. Eventually, it was captured by the armies of Parliament in 1647, after a three-month siege. To prevent its re-use, the castle was destroyed on Cromwell’s order.
The castle was built on a rocky terrain protruding towards the river. The stronghold plan could be inspired by the fortified town of Aigures Mortes in France, where Edward spent some time during the Crusade. Flint referred to that building through a separate, cylindrical tower – a keep, located in the south-eastern corner of the castle. It was separated from the main castle by a moat and accessible only by the drawbridge. However, it did not have a portcullis. Steps led to the outer, vaulted gallery in the wall thickness, equipped with numerous arrowslits. The walls were 7 meters thick in the ground floor, above up to 5 meters thick. At the bottom was a well, above which there was a hole in the roof, allowing the delivery of water to the upper floors. Vertical gutters in the walls with outlets to the moat were used to clean the latrines from the upper floors. The first floor is the only upper level that survived, but there must have been at least a second floor. On this floor five rooms were accessible from the center of the tower. One of them was the chapel. When in 1301 the castle passed into the hands of Edward, Prince of Wales, a new timber structure was added to the top of the tower. Keep in Flint was the only one built in this way, among the castles of Edward I.
The remaining buildings consisted of a quadrangle of defensive walls and three cylindrical corner towers. Their upper floors were occupied by living quarters. The internal development of the ward were only timber buildings attached to the inner side of the defensive walls. The gate, located in a small tower, was in the the southern curtain of the wall. From this side the castle was additionally protected by a fortified outer bailey. An additional defensive zone was the moat and water of the Dee River.
Until today, the castle has survived in the form of ruin with three corner towers of varying degrees of maintenance, fragments of defensive walls of incomplete heights and a keep visible to the height of the first floor. Only a short fragment of the outer bailey’s defensive wall has survived. The surroundings of the castle changed drastically due to the lowering of the water level. The castle is available for free for sightseeing, including the possibility of entering to the keep.
Gravett C., The Castles of Edward I in Wales 1277-1307, Oxford 2007.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Taylor A. J., The Welsh castles of Edward I, London 1986.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Flint Castle.