In Denbighshire, atop its hill, Denbigh castle dreams
Of the borough it once knew that bustled brightly there;
I knew it too, when I rode here, so many winters hence,
But now it seems that all has gone save ghosts of places known.
Here was a town de Lacy made in lordship over Clwyd
By walling first an ancient site and crowning it with towers;
What majesty was made right here – what mighty monument –
A shining castle grandly cast in wondrous decoration!
Here stands a coronet of stone clustered thick with jewels:
A noble king sits richly here above the gatehouse strong;
Great towers three gang up at once in grandiose assertion
Of martial might and majesty, marvellous to mind!
Yet, look upon the hall that hailed with voices of that household,
See too the well-made mantlet, laid out in form majestic;
Walk wide abroad the old courtyard that once so thronged with life
And listen now for those I knew who have since rode away!
Yes, all now sleeps of those my friends who spoke and sang with me,
In centuries of silence soft, just whispers on the breeze.
There is a sadness here also that speaks of deeper loss –
De Lacy’s son, cries from below where he once slipped right down,
To force-feed his lungs with that foul water lapping in
Oh, Denbigh, Dinbych, dread and dour,
What stories can you tell?
Why do your walls and crumbled towers
Cast such a haunting spell?
About Denbigh/Dinbych Castle
The castle at Denbigh/Dinbych and its adjoining borough occupy a wilfully assertive position in the landscape. Originally the site of an earlier Welsh stronghold and administrative centre, the castle and borough walls were erected in the final two decades of the thirteenth century by Henry de Lacy and occupied an area of approximately 9 1/2 acres.
The town walls were erected first, enclosing not only the town but also forming two sides of the castle’s curtain walls. These lower walls were to be further protected by the creation of an outer walled earthwork or mantlet, in addition to a sophisticated postern gate and sallyport. The walls facing the town are of a greater size and were clearly designed to impress: the three-towered gatehouse, with its striking internal defences and mounted with a figure thought to represent Edward II, still impresses despite the site’s ruinous condition.
The castle was still unfinished when Madog ap Llewelyn took it by storm in September 1294. Recaptured by de Lacy the following year, the castle continued to be developed although it is thought that it was never fully completed, possibly due to the death of Henry’s eldest son. The town and castle were also attacked during Glyndwr’s rebellion and the Wars of the Roses.
The borough of Denbigh was to outgrow its original walls and migrate downhill; the castle itself was slighted under orders of General George Monck following the position the borough took as a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War. Despite the devastation wrought by Monck, there is still much to be enjoyed at the castle in addition to the town walls, some of which can still be accessed.
The view from the castle of the great bowl of landscape within which it stands give a dramatic impression of the stance the town and borough must have held within the landscape before the town’s expansion.
The castle today is managed by Cadw; details here
Details of the Coflein/RCHMW listing for Denbigh/Dinbych castle can be found here