Beaumaris Castle: History, Facts & Location

Instructor: Amy Jackson

Amy has a BFA in Interior Design as well as 19 years teaching experience and a doctorate in education.

Would you like to visit a truly remarkable castle? A trip to North Wales to see Beaumaris Castle will leave you impressed with its architectural symmetry and imposing defensive structures. In this lesson, we will visit Beaumaris and see why it is such an important piece of Welsh history.

Who Built Beaumaris and Why?

The son of Henry III, King Edward I ruled England from 1274-1307. Edward set out to be all that his father wasn't; where Henry was a weak king who had a difficult time making decisions and was more interested in art and culture than conquering enemies, Edward was headstrong and ready to fight for England. Edward was fighting in the Eighth Crusade when he learned of his father's death and subsequently returned to England to assume the throne. Unlike his father, Edward wanted to enforce his ultimate authority in the British Isles. His first order of business was to invade Wales and defeat the Welsh people.

Edward I then began to build a series of castles around the northern coast of Wales. He referred to this as an 'iron ring' built to dominate the Welsh. Five castles made up this iron ring: Conwy, Harlech, Rhuddlan, Caernarvon, and Beaumaris. Beaumaris, the last of these castles to be built, was built to fortify the island of Anglesey that sits in far northern Wales. The building of Beaumaris along with the fortified city surrounding it began in 1295. Unlike the other four iron ring castles, Beaumaris sat in a flat field rather than atop an outcropping. This gave the castle and town its name, Beaumaris, meaning fair marsh.

Beaumaris Castle - As It Was Designed
Castle plans

What Makes Beaumaris Special?

Designed by James of St. George, the king's architect, Beaumaris is one of the finest examples of a concentric castle in the world. A concentric castle design means it is a castle within a castle and was meant to be impregnable, or undefeatable. The flat land and absence of any current towns or buildings gave James a chance to pull out all the stops. The lay of the land and the proximity of the Menai Straights, adjacent to the Irish Sea, also allowed a system of docks that would allow ships to bring supplies by water in case of a siege. Even though Beaumaris was designed to withstand any battle, the castle was never attacked.

Map of Beaumaris and its Fortified Township

Inside an 18 foot wide moat is an outer wall 15 feet thick with 16 towers and only two gates. This wall was 27 feet tall but shorter in height than the inner walls which allowed archers to fire upon anyone trying to get past the outer wall.

Beaumaris Castle and Moat
Castle and moat

If you were to try to invade the castle and made it inside, you would have to go through more than 15 lines of defense. If forces made it past the first wall they would have to make it across the 60-foot wide outer yard with archers shooting down on them. The square shaped inner ring has walls measuring 16 feet thick and close to 43 feet tall. This wall has round towers on each corner, D-shaped towers midway down two sides and double gatehouses midway on the other two sides. This wall also has 164 arrow-slits from which archers could fire on intruders. The inner yard is huge, covering almost ¾ of an acre. Original plans called for grand staterooms that could accommodate the king and queen plus the contingent of royal officers and local government officials.

Entry Into Beaumaris Castle
Castle entry

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