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Adrian Pettifer

...contributing editor to the Castles of Wales Web Site
e-mail:AdrianPettifer@msn.com

The Castles of Wales web site is pleased to welcome Adrian Pettifer as a contributing editor. Mr. Pettifer has a degree in Ancient and Medieval History from the University of Birmingham, where he specialised mainly in Greeks and Romans, though he "remains blissfully ignorant of their languages". He has long been a keen visitor of historic monuments, both in his native Britain and to a lesser extent in Europe. He concentrates primarily on castles, abbeys, churches and ancient sites. His visits have so far culminated in two books, English Castles (1995) and Welsh Castles (2000), both published by Boydell and Brewer. They are gazetteers intended to provide a concise history and description of every masonry castle and the more substantial earthworks. He visited his first Welsh castles during a wet childhood holiday in Prestatyn. He has returned many times and has generally found the weather more favourable! He now lives in Northumberland. Adrian Pettifer's e-mail address is: AdrianPettifer@msn.com.

The Castles of Wales web site is grateful for Mr Pettifer's contributions to this project which are found below and are also featured in his book, Welsh Castles. All text and information is copyright by Adrian Pettifer and Boydell & Brewer Ltd., with all rights reserved.

Follow this link if you would like more information, including purchasing details, for Mr Pettifer's guide books.

 

Excerpts from the Forward to Welsh Castles

This book is intended as a companion to my English Castles (Boydell, 1995). It serves the same purpose; to provide a brief account of every Welsh castle worth visiting. Although most Welsh castles were built by Anglo-Norman invaders, there are some striking contrasts with England. In a country with relatively few great churches and abbeys, and even fewer unfortified manor houses, the castles of Wales form the most imposing group of monuments left from the Middle Ages. In terms of grandeur they are second only to the dramatic landscape.

English masonry castles cover every period from Norman to Tudor times. However, Wales has only Chepstow to compare with the great Norman keeps of England, while Raglan is the sole Welsh example of the castle-palaces of the late Middle Ages. The vast majority of Welsh stone castles were built in the 13th century, a dramatic period when Wales was nearly united under native rule but then succumbed to Edward I's conquest. This struggle coincided with the zenith of the European castle. It was the age of the round flanking tower, the twin-towered gatehouse and the concentric outer wall.

Because of this, Wales has one of the most formidable groups of castles in Europe. Or, rather two groups, because the great castles are mainly located on the coastal plains and river valleys of the north and south. The Edwardian strongholds of North Wales - Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris - are justly famous and are now designated as World Heritage sites. However, they are matched in South Wales by the great baronial castles of Pembroke, Kidwelly, Caerphilly and Chepstow. In both north and south some fascinating castles of the native princes should not be overlooked, such as Criccieth, Powis and Dinefwr. Most of the castles of mid-Wales are quite fragmentary. This is a consequence of the poor local mortar, but their panoramic locations (as at Cefnllys, Castell Dinas and Castell Dinas Bran) amply compensate for the meagre remains.

The visitor will find that the vast majority of Welsh castles are ruined, or at least empty shells. Many became redundant once the English conquest of Wales was complete, and Civil War slightings increased the desolation. Inhabited castles are rare in comparison with England.

Thankfully the vast majority of Welsh masonry castles can be visited. Many of the greats are maintained by Cadw ('Guardian'), the Welsh historic monuments organisation. Cadw continues to uncover and consolidate some of Wales' more ruinous castles, particularly in recent decades those of the native princes. Hence a number of erstwhile fragmentary and overgrown sites have become interesting again. A number of privately-owned castles can also be visited, at least at certain times.

Adrian Pettifer
AdrianPettifer@msn.com

 

A Review of Welsh Castles from the Castles of Wales Web site:

It can be frustrating for those researching Welsh castles, because while it's relatively easy to find information on familiar castles like Chepstow and Caernarfon, finding something on lesser-known yet often historically significant castles can be challenging. The great advantage of Mr Pettifer's book Welsh Castles is that it covers dozens of these obscure castles right along side the more familiar ones.

The castles are listed alphabetically by county, and each entry includes OS coordinates, a short history of the castle, information about its accessibility and a valuable cross-reference listing of similar or closely related castles. A well-written synopsis of Welsh medieval history precedes the gazetteer.

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to finally find a book that's a valuable reference for both the casual tourist and the serious student alike. Needless to say, I enthusiastically recommend Welsh Castles, along with its companion English Castles, to anyone interested in learning more about the castles of Britain.

Jeffrey L. Thomas

 

Welsh Castles
by Adrian Pettifer
16 colour illustrations
236 pages
ISBN: 0 85115 778 5

Boydell & Brewer Ltd
http://www.boydell.co.uk/

 


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