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Castell Coch

near Cardiff, Cardiff, south Wales

Map link for Castell Coch


Photographs Copyright © 2011 by Bill Damick


This building is chiefly known as a romantic folly supposedly reproducing a small medieval Welsh chieftain's stronghold, built in the 1870s, for the 3rd Marquess of Bute to a design by William Burges, and possessing the most remarkable interior decoration. However, it was built upon the remains of a genuine 13th century castle built in two stages. Evidence was found of the building having been deliberately slighted by mining.

The castle was probably founded by a Welsh lord in c1240-65 and had a round tower keep at the SW corner of a tiny D-shaped courtyard with a hall on the south side, all built of rough rubble sandstone from which the building took the name Castell Coch, or "Red Castle." It stands upon a platform commanding the gorge of the Taff and was protected towards the higher ground by a deep dry moat from the bottom of which the walls rise with a very broadly battered base. The keep contained vaulted rooms, and probably had a fourth storey and a conical roof like it has now. The walls are over 3.3m thick above the square battered base from which it rises with pyramidal spurs.

The two eastern towers, the square gatehouse between them, and the upper hall on the south side were superior ashlar faced buildings added slightly later, perhaps by Gilbert de Clare, who is likely to have taken over the castle in the 1270s or 1280s. These works were more damaged than the older part and not much survived of the towers above the rooms at courtyard level. The curtain wall also thickened at the second building period and now has two fighting galleries, a series of embrasures at courtyard level, and a roofed over wall walk open to the court on the inner side.



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Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas