CONWAY (CONWY) CASTLE – NORTH WALES

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NORTH WALES

“Tanto c’est un vieux fort, qui, du haut des collines.
Tyan de la contrie, effrei de ses vassaux,
Portait jusqu’au ciel I’orgueil de ses crenaux;
Qui, dans ces temps affreux de discorde et d’alarmes,
Vit les grands coups de lance et les noble faits d’armes
De nos preux chevaliers……..
Aujourd’hui la moisson flotte sur ses debris.”

CONWAY, or more properly Aberconway — so called from its position on the
river of that name — makes no inconsiderable figure in the page of ancient history. It
appears, on the testimony of Suetonius, the Roman governor in Britain, that the chief
motive entertained by his countrymen in their occupation of this coast was a pearl
fishery at the mouth of the river Conway; a specimen of which, presented by Sir R.
Wynne to the Queen of Charles the Second, is said to have found a place among the
jewels that now adorn the British diadem.

The town of Conway is large, though not populous, and in situation and
appearance highly picturesque. It is surrounded by lofty embattled walls, a mile and a
half in circumference, well preserved, defended by twenty- four round-towers and four
gates, and presenting at all points a striking picture of the ancient style of fortification.
From the side towards the river ran two curtain-walls, terminating in watchtowers, but of
which only one remains.

The castle, a truly grand and imposing structure, was built in 1284; an epoch
which gave origin to so many of those native fortresses, which will long continue to be
the subject of interest and admiration to every traveler in this romantic country.

Conway had, unlike Carnarvon and other fortresses situated on a level, no
imposing portal to usher into the interior. Its two entrances were small, both practiced
for security, between an advanced work flanked by two small towers, one ascending
by winding stairs from the river, the other, from the interior of the town, crossed the
defensive moat by means of a drawbridge, and passed through a portal and outwork of

small turrets into the great court of the castle. This stands on a rock, its courts flanked
by eight enormous battlemented round-towers of unequalled beauty of proportion, those
next the river having in addition small turrets. Of these towers, all are perfect as to their
exterior save one, called Twr Dwu, or the broken tower, of which the lower portion, with
the rock that sup- ported it, has fallen away, exposing to view the immense solidity of its
fractured walls. The interior of each tower was occupied by several stages of spacious
apartments, the flooring and roof of which are entirely gone, with the fire-places, and
lancet windows, the interior yawning in vacant desolation, blackened, weather-stained,
and overgrown with rampant weeds and briers. There were stairs to ascend to the
upper apartments from the courts below, and a way round the battlements, which
may still be followed out. The interior of the castle consists of two courts, comprising
the different apartments. As we enter the grassy area, surrounded by ivied walls, and
picturesquely surmounted by the battlemented turrets, the great hah appears on the
right; three spacious windows of pointed architecture, and formerly highly enriched with
mullions and tracery, lighted it on the side next the court, and the side wall, furnished
with six lancet windows, with recessed and raised seats, looking out upon the creek,
which, running up from the Conway, defended the walls on the south. Two carved fire-
places of ample dimensions warmed the immense and royal apartment, supported
by several gothic arches, some of which, clothed with ivy, still span the vacant space
above, while beneath, among nettles and brambles, yawn the offices below. At the
extremity of the hall is a noble arched window. The walls are now mantled thick with ivy,
and the nettle and bramble overgrow what remains of the floor of this royal apartment,
where Edward, whose statue m Westminster Abbey is of unequalled beauty, and Queen
Eleanor, with masque and antique pageantry, entertained the throng of knights and
barons bold, who had assisted in the subjugation of the Welsh, who besieged, however,
the potent monarch in his own castle, and would have starved him into a surrender,
but for the timely arrival of a fleet bearing soldiers and provisions. Since that period,
its history is little remarkable. It was held in the civil war, for Charles I., by Archbishop
Williams, who, being superseded by Prince Rupert, assisted the Parliamentarians in
effecting the reduction of the place.

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