Flint Castle

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Flint Castle
Part of Flintshire
Flint, Wales
Flint Castle 01.JPG
The remains of the outer bailey's gateway with the 13th century donjon in the background.
Flint Castle is located in Wales
Flint Castle
Flint Castle
Coordinates 53°15′06″N 3°07′48″W / 53.251786°N 3.129956°W / 53.251786; -3.129956
Type Rectangular enclosure castle with isolated corner donjon
Site information
Owner Cadw
Controlled by The Crown
Condition Ruin
Site history
Built 1277-1284
Built by Richard L'Engenour
Later work attributed to James of Saint George
In use Open to public
Materials Millstone Grit
Demolished 1647
Events Welsh Wars
English Civil War
Listed Building – Grade I

Flint Castle (Welsh: Castell y Fflint) located in Flint, Flintshire, was the first of a series of castles built during King Edward I's campaign to conquer Wales.

The site was chosen for its strategic position in North East Wales. The castle was only one day's march from Chester, supplies could be brought along the River Dee and there was by a ford across to England that could be used at low tide.[1]


Building work began in 1277 under Richard L'Engenour, who would later become Mayor of Chester in 1304.[1] The castle and its earthworks were built by 1,800 laborers and masons using local Millstone Grit ashlar and sandstone. In November 1280, the Savoyard master mason James of Saint George began overseeing construction at Flint for Edward I.[2] He remained at the castle for 17 months.[1] James of Saint George then moved onto Rhuddlan to oversee its completion.

When work ceased in 1286, Flint Castle had an inner ward and an outer bailey. They were separated by a tidal moat and were connected with gatehouse and drawbridge. A plantation town was also laid out beyond the outer bailey. The inner ward had three large towers and a detached keep. This isolated tower protected the inner gatehouse and outer bailey. In total expenditure, Edward I spent £6068.7.5d. creating the fortress and the town[1] (£4.8 million as of 2008).[nb 1]

Flint, which was sited on the western shore of the River Dee estuary, could be supplied by river or sea. Its harbour was protected by a defensive wall. The castle lies opposite to the English shore and Shotwick Castle in England. Before the river's course was drastically changed in the 18th century, passage across the estuary at this point could be made directly by boat at high tide or by fording at low tide.

Unique fortress design[edit]

The isolated keep defended the gateway and drawbridge between the inner ward and outer bailey.

The castle is based on medieval French or Savoyard models where one of the corner towers is enlarged and isolated.[4] This independent structure served as both corner tower and keep or donjon, like at Dourdan, France. Flint's keep has been compared to the donjon at Aigues-Mortes, France. Edward I would have been familiar with Aigues-Mortes having passed through the fortress on the way to join the Eighth Crusade in 1270.[5]

The keep is an impressive structure. Its stone walls are 7 metres (23 ft) thick at the base and 5 metres (16 ft) above. Access was gained by crossing a drawbridge into a central entrance chamber on the first floor. Originally there would have been at least one additional storey. These floors had small rooms built into the thick walls. A timber gallery was built on top of the keep for the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales in 1301. On the ground floor is a vaulted passage that runs all the way around the inside of the keep.

Flint's design was not repeated in any other castle built by Edward I in North Wales. The layout at Flint remains unique within the British Isles.


The massive stone keep, curtain wall and three-storey corner tower.

Flint was the first castle of what would later become known as Edward I's "Iron Ring". A chain of fortresses designed to encircle North Wales and oppress the Welsh. Its construction began almost immediately after Edward I began the First Welsh War in 1277.

Five years later Welsh forces under the command of Dafydd ap Gruffydd, brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, besieged the castle in an attempted uprising against the English Crown. In 1294 Flint was attacked again during the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn; this time the constable of the castle was forced to set fire to the fortress to prevent its capture by the Welsh. The castle was later repaired and partly rebuilt.

With the conclusion to the Welsh Wars, English settlers and merchants were given property titles in the new town that was laid out in front of the castle. The plantation borough was protected by a defensive ditch with a wooden palisade on earth banking[6] .[7] Its outline remains visible in streets patterns.[8]

In 1399 Richard II of England was held by Henry Bolingbroke at Flint before being returned to London.

During the English Civil War, Flint Castle was held by the Royalists. It was finally captured by the Parliamentarians in 1647 after a three-month siege. To prevent its reuse in the conflict, the castle was then slighted in accordance with Cromwell's destruction order. The ruins are what remain today.

By the 19th century part of the site's outer bailey was used as Flintshire's County Jail. A quarry also operated nearby.

Present day[edit]

Flint Castle, which has been managed as public monument for 90 years,[9] is now maintained by Cadw, a Welsh-government body that protects, conserves and promotes the building heritage of Wales. Access is free and via a path. Most parts of the castle, such as the isolated keep, are open to the public.

In mid August 2009, the agency temporarily closed Flint Castle to the public because of problems with anti-social behaviour. Cadw said youths were drinking on the site and vandalising the castle.[9][10] Cadw is now[when?] liaising with North Wales Police to improve security at the castle.[11]

Later works[edit]

1838 watercolour painting of Flint Castle by J. M. W. Turner

In 1838 J. M. W. Turner painted a watercolour of the castle.

HMS Flint Castle (K383) was a Royal Navy Castle class corvette launched in 1943, named after Flint Castle.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Comparing relative average earnings of £6,068 in 1307 with 2008.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "Flint Castle". Fflint. 2009-10-18. 
  2. ^ Walker, David (1990). Medieval Wales. Cambridge University Press. pp. 134–5. ISBN 978-0-521-31153-3. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  3. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  4. ^ Taylor, Arnold J (1986). The Welsh Castles of Edward I. London isbn=978-0-907628-71-2: Hambledon. Unknown ID:NA497 G7T39 1986. 
  5. ^ Sancha, Sheila (1991). The Castle Story. London: Collins. p. 224. ISBN 0-00-196336-8. 
  6. ^ "Flint archaeological dig uncovers further samples of the town’s medieval defences". Daily Post. 6 Nov 2015. 
  7. ^ "Historic Flint Castle defences found under block of flats". BBC. 7 Jun 2015. 
  8. ^ "Flint archaeological dig unearths 800 year old town defences". Daily Post. 29 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Castle shut after vandal attacks". BBC. 27 Aug 2009. 
  10. ^ Hull, Liz (27 Aug 2009). "The castle that survived 700 years now conquered by the yobs of Broken Britain". Daily Mail. 
  11. ^ Parry, Ronnie (31 Aug 2009). "Flint Castle open for August Bank Holiday Monday". Flint Chronicle. 

External links[edit]