UK Travel Guide


Chirk Castle

Description: Chirk Castle, has been occupied almost continuously as a castle and home for almost 700 years. It sits on a hilltop and replaced two known mottes in the area. It is thought that the builder was Roger Mortimer, of the powerful Marcher family, who was granted the area by Edward I after the Welsh defeat in 1282. Work may have started as late as 1295, perhaps as a response to the Welsh rising of 1294. The spirit of the 14th century structure is preserved in the Adam's Tower (near the well on the south-west), which has a magnificent dungeon on two levels and a number of upper rooms clearly showing the 5m-thick walls. Two of them contain 'murder holes', through which material could be poured on to anyone trying to batter or burn down the doors below. This tower, like the others, was originally at least one storey higher, the upper parts were probably removed after the Civil War bombardment of 1659. The south curtain was completed on the present line early in the 15th century, by Thomas, Earl of Arundel, probably against Owain Glyndwr's forces, who had strong local support. After the War of the Roses, the castle settled in royal hands when Sir William Stanley was executed in 1495. The south range was partially rebuilt in 1529. In 1563, the castle was given to Elizabeth I's favorite, Robert Dudley, later created Earl of Leicester and Baron Denbigh, who held it as part of his extensive north Wales properties until his death in 1588. The castle was purchased in 1595 for about 5,000 pounds by Sir Thomas Myddelton. He had the means to convert Chirk into a comfortable Tudor residence. Sir Thomas' son, the second Sir Thomas, took up residence on his marriage in 1612 and as MP for Denbighshire from 1625, found himself on the Parliamentarian side in the Civil War. Royalist supporters seized the castle in 1643, and held it for three years. Sir Thomas' Parliamentary forces meanwhile enjoyed some successes, including the capture of Powis Castle, although he could not bring himself to attack Chirk. The castle was eventually regained by bribery and Sir Thomas' son (Sir Thomas III) installed as governor. By 1651, however, the general had changed sides, and further payoffs were needed to dislodge the Parliamentarian garrison. Chirk was nevertheless besieged and taken by the Parliamentarians in 1659 as punishment for the Myddeltons' support of the Cheshire Rising. Most of the eastern side was demolished, and much of the rest burnt, leaving the family with a huge rebuilding task after the Restoration in 1660. After an abortive episode in 1762-4, when a scheme for a Gothic interior was abandoned at an early stage, the north range was extensively refurbished in neo-classical style by Joseph Turner of Chester in the later 1760s and 1770s, the drawing room being completed by John Cooper of Beaumaris in about 1796. In the 1820s, however, gothic vaulting was added, and from 1845 the interior was almost totally reworked in the Gothic manner. The castle remained in the hands of the Myddelton family, who still own and work much of the estate, until 1978. It is now in the care of the National Trust.
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Notes: The castle is open daily from April 1st to September 30th except on Monday and Tuesday and more information can be obtained by telephoning 01691 777701.