Holt Castle was erected in the 13th century during the Welsh Wars of Edward I. In 1282, Edward I transferred the lands with the castle to his loyal Lord John de Warren, Earl of Surrey, who was also entrusted with the task of completing the construction. Until 1311, the castle was finished, and next to it a new town was established, to which English colonists were brought. At that time, the stronghold was known as Castrum Leonis, meaning the Lion’s Castle, in reference to the stone sculpture that dominated the entrance.
A century later, in 1400, the town was burned during the Welsh Owain Glyndŵr uprising, but the castle remained unconquered. In the 15th century Holt passed into the hands of the Stafford family, but was confiscated when Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, was executed for treason in 1483 by Richard III. It was then given to Sir William Stanley for his support during the Battle of Bosworth. However, in 1495 Stanley was executed for treason for supporting the pretender to the throne, Perkin Warbeck. Holt was again taken over by the Crown and later given to William Brereton, until he was also executed, in this case for adultery with queen Anne Boleyn. For the remainder of the sixteenth century, it remained in the royal hands, but gradually began to fall into ruin.
For most of the English Civil War, Holt was garrisoned by a Royalists. It was captured by the forces of Parliament in 1643, but the royal army recaptured it in 1644. Finally in 1647, after a nine months siege, Sir Richard Lloyd handed Holt to the commander of Parliamentarians, Thomas Mytton. In the same year, for the order of Parliament, the castle was demolished to prevent its re-use during the war.
The castle was erected from local sandstone at the top of a 12-meter hill. It was given the shape of a pentagon with an extended, cylindrical tower in each corner. As the only one, the south-east tower had a four-sided annex in the form of a tower, added at the end of the 14th century. There was a chapel and a water gate in it, thanks to which it was possible to enter the castle from the river. Earlier in this place there was only a side wicket gate leading to a small harbour.
The entrance to the castle was from the north-east and led through a drawbridge over the irrigated moat and an additional four-sided gatehouse tower. The moat was fed with water from the nearby river Dee, which at the same time secured the castle from the south. In the area of the outer bailey there was a barn, a brewhouse, an oven, a dovecot, a forge and a stable.
To this day, only the lower part of the pentagonal core of the castle has been preserved, with a visible entrance portal leading to the former inner ward.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Taylor A. J., The Welsh castles of Edward I, London 1986.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Holt castle.