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An Afternoon at Ewloe Castle

...two narratives from 1854 & 1996

Photographs copyright 1996 by Dave Rutherford.

We are always enthusiastic here at the Castles of Wales to receive personal reflections from those who have visited some of the castles mentioned. One such reflection has recently been submitted by Dave Rutherford, with an interesting twist. Dave is in possession of his great-great grandfather's diary, which recounts, among other things, his visit to secluded Ewloe Castle in the year 1854. This year (1996) Dave decided to retrace some of his ancestor's footsteps as part of a walking tour of north Wales, in order to see for himself how things have changed since his great-great grandfather's day. What follows then, are two family narratives separated in time by some 140 years, linking the past with the present, using the common thread "an afternoon at Ewloe Castle." Many thanks to Dave for this most interesting submission. Enjoy!

 

Above: Alfred Barker's drawing of Ewloe Castle

 

Alfred Chester Barker (shown at right), July 16th 1854:

I started this morning for the purpose of seeing the Ruins of Ewloe Castle sittuated in a Glen which my Welsh Guide speaks well of and also to see if there are any Trout in Werpe Brook which I found by my map flowed past it and fell into the Estuary of the Dee 2 miles or so N. of Queens Ferry. As I found by enquiry that the way to the Castle would be difficult to find, I walked along the Flint road 2 miles till I came to the Stream and then followed it up knowing it would ultimately bring me to the Castle.

Werpe Hall appears to be a modern building but stands on the foundations of a much older ediface - mentioned in Doomsday Book, togeather with a Hamlet containing a somewhat limited population consisting of "One Villiane and Two Boors." The Wood of Ewloe (Coed Ewloe) is also mentioned and staited to extend for "One league and a half" a description which exactly coincides with its present dimentions.

I had by this time proceeded 3 miles up the stream and yet had seen nothing of the Castle. I looked at my watch and found it near 6 o'clock. I now thought it high time to make for the Holywell or Northope road, which I knew lay to my left but at what distance I could not say. I therefore packed up my rod and climbed an abrupt rocky hill to the left which was comparatively free from underwood and studded over with young Oaks. It was an "awful climb." I had sometimes to catch hold of the rocks and trees to keep myself from sliding down. I ascended in this manner for a 100 feet till I came upon a small patch comparatively open and covered with Heather and Blueberries here I stopped and looked about when a prospect met me of such romantic beauty as I was quite unprepared for.

The Glen below ran for about a 1/4 of a mile up and then branched off to the right and left - in the centre ofthese 2 glens rose a precipitous hill on the top of which stood the time worn remains of Ewloe Castle, almost hidden by trees. All three Glens are covered with woods from top to bottom and descend almost plumb down to the little burn I had just quitted the extreme depth from the top of these hills being about 200 feet. Though I was pushed for time and knew not with any certainty where I was, I could not refrain from lingering a few minutes to feast my eyes with the glorious prospect. (I must make a sketch from here at first opportunity) Having completed the remainder of the ascent I quitted the woods and found myself amongs corn fields with no vestage of a road - but seeing a mine in the distance, I made my way to it over sundry hedges till at length I found a path which I took it quickly brought me to a lane. I followed this to the left got into the road, and soon arrive at the Boars Head Inn, on the road to Mold."

     

 

Dave Rutherford (below) Tuesday, May 7, 1996, 13:35:

As I write this I am sitting in the sunshine near the top of the "Welsh Tower" of Ewloe Castle, fifty feet above the ground and another twenty feet above the bottom of the "moat". I've just come northward down the ravine of Wepre Brook and taken several clockwise circuits around the castle to relish the experience before climbing through a narrow, dark stairway inside the curved wall of the "keep". The sky is partly cloudy, with an occasional light breeze. It is quiet enough for me to hear a dove, an owl, and many other birds, including robins, singing in the surrounding oak trees. I can make out the sounds of someone constructing something nearby (the occasional clunk of a falling board) and the low roar of cars on the motor way a mile to the south. Alfred Chester Barker was right, this is a beautiful, secluded spot. I feel very good, but its chilly when a cloud covers the sun. It must be about 15C.

The castle is built of pale brown and gray sandstone held together with various batches of mortar, each with a different, pebbly texture; in several places the mortar has out-lasted the stones it was meant to hold. Some walls are smooth and straight-formed, while others are crude, like piles ofrubble. It appears that some parts of the walls were built from stones taken from the ruins of other parts. The whole structure sits on a verywell-built, tapered foundation. I can see below me a portion of wall displaying an eight-foot section of beautifully made quoins of uniform brown stone. Graffiti and litter do not detract from the peaceful effect of the place. Patches of lichen on the walls give it an ancient feeling. The three-foot-thick oak trees standing about must have been seedlings long after the castle was in ruins. One of them has grown in the courtyard and now stands taller than the uppermost part of the castle above me."

Dave notes that "The Boar's Head Inn (where Alfred used to stay) in Ewloe is still open for business."

 

Lise Hull visits Ewloe Castle
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