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Beaumaris castle

Beaumaris castle, on the south coast of Anglesey, was started for Edward I after the Welsh revolt of September 1294, although it may have been planned as early as 1283/4. Edward's castle-building was directed at maintaining control of Wales by isolating the area of Snowdonia, the focus of Welsh resistance, and separating it from Anglesey, the main grain-growing region. Beaumaris formed part of a strategic ring of fortresses designed to make Edward's conquest permanent. The castle was built over the site of Llanfaes, a Welsh royal manor and principal port of the island. The houses of the town were dismantled and re-erected in the new English borough of Beaumaris, close by, the inhabitants being transported to Newborough or re-established in the English town. Work, under the direction of Master James of St George, was pushed forward rapidly, and the project demonstrates the resources Edward was able to deploy. By the end of the first building season, in November 1295, over £6,700 had been expended. This included over £2,000 on materials, together with the wages of the 450 masons, 375 quarriers, and 1,800 other workmen employed, plus payment of the garrison. Master James reported to the Exchequer that nowhere were the walls less than 20 feet high; that the majority of the towers had been begun and that gates had been hung and could be locked at night. But by 1300 all work on the castle had ceased, as Edward diverted resources into the Scottish wars. Work was resumed between 1306 and 1330 but the castle was not completed. Its defences were not threatened until 1646, when it was garrisoned for Charles I in the Civil War.

Lynda Rollason

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