The site of Beaumaris was originally the location of the Viking village known as Porth y Wygyr, Port of the Vikings. This evolved into the village of Llanfaes, which was occupied by Anglo Saxons during the 9th century, and was held by Merfyn Frynch the King of Gwynedd as a strategic base during Welsh uprisings.
The Norman kings of England had conflict with the Welsh princes for the control of North Wales since the conquest, but during the 13th century it came to a head when in 1294 Madog ap Llywelyn rebelled against the English, and the Sheriff of Anglesey was killed. Edward I led a second successful campaign against rebel forces, and the decision to fortify Beaumaris, which had been delayed, was taken. He had built a series of walled castle towns along the coast of North Wales and colonise them with English people, these included Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech. Beaumaris as it appears today was begun in 1295 by Edward I as last of his chain of castles dominating the North Welsh coastline.
The castle was built on a flat coastal plain at the eastern entrance of the Menai Strait, named by the French masons “beaux marais,” the beautiful marsh. Beaumaris was the last castle to be constructed for Edward I by the Savoy mason James of St George. The castle stood at one corner of the town but, despite foundations being laid, no town walls were built. Although it was never fully completed due to changes in financial circumstances, it was a perfectly formed concentric construction due to no geological constrictions on its shape and size. To facilitate the building of the castle and town the local Welsh residents were evicted to a new town, Newborough, on the west coast of Anglesey.
In 1295 over two thousand workmen were employed on the construction, but by 1296 James of St George had to start laying workers off as debts mounted, and by 1300 the work had stopped completely. Edward was now involved in a war with Scotland which was taking much of his revenue, however the possibility of a Scottish invasion of Wales in 1306 spurred Edward into recommencing the construction. The castle had already fallen into disrepair, and by the time work finally ended in 1330 although the curtain walls had been completed but the intended height of the inner and outer defences were never achieved.
Beaumaris, like the other castle towns in North Wales, was given a Royal Charter which included expelling or limiting the rights of native Welsh and Jews within the towns, English immigrants being brought in to populate the towns. Edward I made Beaumaris his main port in North Wales. The centre of shipbuilding was off Osmund’s Eyre, a spit of land projecting into the Menai Strait, which became known as Gallows Point due to the town’s gallows being erected there.
Despite appeals from the townspeople for over a century, it was not until Beaumaris was taken by Owain Glyndwr in 1403, and its recovery by the English in 1405, that the decision was made to encircle the town with ditches and banks, followed in 1414 by a stone wall with three gates and watch towers. The castle was ill maintained and Castle Constables, Roland de Velville complained in 1534 about rain leaking into most rooms, and in 1539 Richard Bulkeley complained he was unable to defend the fortress against the Scots with only ten small guns and forty bowmen. Deterioration continued and in 1609 the castle was considered decayed.
When the Civil War broke out in 1642, Thomas Bulkeley held Beaumaris for the Royalist forces of Charles I, an important strategic location between the king’s garrisons in England and Ireland. In 1646, following Royalist defeats, Colonel Richard Bulkeley surrendered the castle to Parliamentarian forces, although local Royalists reoccupied the castle briefly in 1648. Unlike many castles, Beaumaris was not slighted following the war as the Parliamentarians were concerned that there could be a Scottish invasion, placing their own castle governor, Colonel John Jones in charge of a garrison. However when Charles II came to the throne in 1660 the Bulkeley family were reinstated as constables of the now ruined castle stripped of its lead, roofs and other valuable assets.
The castle was purchased by the Bulkeley family by Lord Thomas in 1807 and incorporated into a park surrounding the family stately home at Baron Hill, until it was handed over to the government in 1925 when it was restored and Grade I listed. Much of the stone from the town walls and castle was removed in 1829 for the construction of Beaumaris Gaol.
The Outer Curtain Wall and Moat
The Southern Gate
Entrance with Multiple Gates and Portculis
Northern Gatehouse Block, Inner Ward
David Hughes Grammar School 1603
Snowdonia and Menai Strait