Beaumaris Castle: Cost, Inspiration and Residence

Doorways and arrow slots at Beaumaris Castle

Hels from Art and Architecture, mainly asked some interesting questions about Beaumaris Castle and I promised to get some answers.  She wondered about the cost of the castles, whether they were built to protect against invaders or keep the locals in check, and whether King Edward I lived there.


In his wonderful book, The Medieval Castles of Wales, John Kenyon states that the total cost of the castle was £14,500 with over £6,000 spent in the first six months.  Kenyon calculates that these costs should be multiplied by 440 to get an estimate of the costs in the currency of today and thus, we are looking at a total current cost of £6,380,000.  As Ryan from Scotland Here and Now pointed out, Edward’s extravagances almost bankrupted the Crown.  Apparently large numbers of men were conscripted in from Shropshire and Staffordshire to complete the work.  I wonder if the use of the word “conscripted” implies that they were paid less than their standard wages in exchange for their upkeep?  I suspect so.


Following the Norman conquest of England beginning in 1066, the Anglo-Norman forces had begun a long, protracted subjugation of Wales that lasted for over two centuries.  This culminated with King Edward I and it was his intention to reclaim land that his father Henry III had lost and to quell further Welsh rebellions.  So he was not protecting against foreign invaders or those arriving by sea, and part of his conquest was his intention to introduce widespread English settlement in Wales.

The 1294-1295 uprising of Madog ap Llywelyn, the last native Prince of Wales, was suppressed in 1295 and construction of the castle began shortly thereafter. 


I don’t think that King Edward I would ever have lived in the castle, although he might have visited there.  According to Anglesey Today, it was only in 1298 that construction at Beaumaris was completed to the point where it could be defended and by that time, Edward was defeating William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk.  There were grave concerns regarding the structure in 1306 and Edward died of dysentery in 1307.  By the time construction ceased in 1330, Beaumaris Castle was still not completed.

So there you have it, a couple of questions answered about this magnificent castle.  I am sure you all know by now, but William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, live on the Isle of Anglesey so be sure to visit the castle when you are out royal-spotting.  The next castle we’ll visit is Caernarfon. 

The Last Days of Summer – Southwark

The Golden Hinde - Crows Nest
The Crow's Nest of the Golden Hinde

The more I discover about the history of Southwark and the Borough, the more fascinated I am by this area. It is steeped in history dating back almost 1,000 years and nearly everywhere you look, you will find some little astonishing tidbit of history or significance. 

Last week Stephen paid a rare visit to Southwark when he came through to give his support for our annual pub quiz against our students.  I took the scenic route from our office to London Bridge and enjoyed the opportunity to play tour guide.

Southwark Cathedral - north western aspect
Southwark Cathedral

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in the very last days of summer and eventually I could no longer resist the urge to take some photographs.  I’ve worked on Borough High Street for over four years and still find it hard to walk past Southwark Cathedral, The Golden Hinde or, indeed, The Shard, without taking a photo.

Southwark Cathedral - eastern aspect
Southwark Cathedral

These photos were taking using Instagram on my iPhone 3GS. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they came out, especially the first two. 

I decided to share the photo below because one of my friends remarked that it looked very “Hogsmeade”.  I think a lot of England does look magical and quaint and we take that for granted when we live here.  But I have to remember that I was once an Anglophile too, fascinated by everything British and loving the ideas that the Harry Potter books evoked.

In my next post I’ll feature an astonishing piece of architecture that sits just off a major high street.  It should thrill fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Borough Market
Borough Market

I'm happy to announce that The Shard has a baby sister.  The Place at London Bridge Quarter is currently at 20 stories but appears to have flown up in comparison to The Shard.  I cannot wait until all of this work is finished.  I want shiny and new already because dusty and in-progress is getting boring.

The Shard and The Place
The Shard and The Place at London Bridge Quarter

Melissa from Wanderlust is organising a meetup this Saturday at a ceramics cafe in Greenwich. You don't have to be a skilled pottery maker to join in as you are provided with a finished product which you can then paint.  It is a LOT of fun and if you are a blogger, expat or simply want to join in, please get in touch on Melissa’s blog or here.

Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey

Once upon a time, there was an ambitious young prince called Edward. Edward lived in the most exciting and turbulent of times during 13th Century Britain. By the time he turned 30, Edward had fought, been captured and released during the civil war against Simon de Montfort’s Barons and he had taken part in the Eighth and Ninth Crusades to the Holy Land. Edward was just 33 when he became King Edward I of England on 16 November 1272.  After a nine-month leisurely tour of Italy and France, Edward I returned home to England and set about restoring some of the law, order and land that his father, King Henry III, had lost.

At first, that involved imposing English law on Welsh subjects and crushing rebellions, but over time, Edward I embarked on a plan of massive English settlement in Wales.  His castles are testament to that ambition and in total, he built eight castles in Wales.  Four of these castles were proclaimed a World Heritage Site in 1986 (Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech)and we were lucky enough to see Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Harlech castles on our visit. 

The Gate Next to the Sea Beaumaris The Gate Next to the Sea, Beaumaris Castle

Edward’s castles added two important features to British castles.  First, there is the arrow slits in the walls, an Eastern influence that was discovered during the Crusades.  The second was the building of concentric castles where the outer defences completely surround the inner ward.  If you click on the photo above to enlarge it, you can see the lower outer wall and the south gatehouse leading to the inner ward.

Entrance to Beaumaris Castle - the Gate Next to the Sea Entrance to Beaumaris Castle, the Gate Next to the Sea

Beaumaris Castle was Edward’s final castle in Wales but it was never finished.  Incredibly, much of what we can still see today was built in one year (1294-1295) except for the curtain walls which were completed in the 1330s.

Gunners Walk Beaumaris Castle Gunners Walk

Once we had entered the castle though the Gate Next to the Sea, we climbed up the stairs to the outer curtain wall and walked along Gunners Walk.  That is mainland Wales you can see in the distance of the photo above.

Gunners Walk and South East Curtain Wall Beaumaris Castle Gunners Walk and the south eastern curtain wall

It was a cool, cloudy day but not as cold as it looks, thankfully.

Inner ward north gatehouse Beaumaris Castle The Inner Ward looking towards the North Gatehouse

The inner ward of Beaumaris Castle might look bare today, but in medieval times it would have been full of little buildings housing the kitchens, stables, banqueting halls and, of course, the living quarters of those lucky enough to reside within the castle walls.

The Haunted Chapel Beaumaris The Haunted Chapel

The chapel at Beaumaris Castle is haunted. Of course, I have no evidence of this bar my own experiences but a simple Google search told me that I am not the only person to have a strange experience in the chapel. 

Chapel Beaumaris The Chapel

At first, a dark shadow kept appearing in my photos and I was silly enough to delete them but then we saw the shadow on the LCD display of my step-mother’s camera and got quite a fright! Anyway, we have no proof but that chapel is haunted.

Within these castle walls Beaumaris Within These Castle Walls

For a reason that I cannot quite fathom, views such as the ones above and below really impress me.  Perhaps it is the proximity of the walls but I just felt that I really got a glimpse into how the castle might have looked 700 years ago.

Within these castle walls Within These Castle Walls

I love how grand and imposing castles are with their stones, archways, walkways and arrow slits.  I love how decorative the stone can look and how majestic they remain.

North Gatehouse Beaumaris Detail of the north gatehouse

That is my dad you can see in the bottom left of the photo. It gives an idea of how imposing these castle walls are.  They weren’t even that tall 700 years ago but perhaps they needed the height for the standards or spears.

View of the South Gatehouse View of the south gatehouse

The south gatehouse was never finished (its three portcullises were never installed) and there is a barbican located between the south gatehouse and the Gate by the Sea to make it harder for attackers to gain access to the inner ward. 

The Rear Curtain Walls Beaumaris The Rear Curtain Walls

Beaumaris was once surrounded by its moat but these days it only runs about a third of the way around the castle.

Views from Beaumaris Views from Beaumaris

The views from Beaumaris were quite beautiful and this young seagull was very kind to pose for me.

View of the South Gatehouse from the Curtain Walls View of south gatehouse from curtain wall

The view of the inner ward from the curtain walls was quite exquisite and you could get an idea of the overall design and function of the castle. Unfortunately, the chilly weather began to take its toll and we started to head downstairs for some lunch.

Spiral Staircase Beaumaris Spiral staircase

Ancient stone staircases are a little bit more fun when your toes aren't frozen solid.

View of north gatehouse Beaumaris View of the north gatehouse

The north gatehouse was one of the most completed parts of the castle and you can get an idea of how tall the castle was intended to be.  It is possible that there was a great hall behind the five windows.

Beaumaris Castle is certainly one of the nicest castles I have visited.  I would love to visit there one day when the sun is shining the cloudy weather did add to the sense of history and importance. I’d certainly recommend a visit.

Snapshots from Betws-y-Coed, Wales

Betws-y-Coed Station Clock

Betws-y-Coed (pronounced “bettus-uh-coh-ed”) lies in the Snowdonia National Park in Conwy, north Wales.  I remember announcing in January that we were going to visit Betws-y-Coed this summer but I can tell you now, you have no idea how beautiful it is until you visit there. 

I thought Alan from Master Clock might appreciate the photo of the station clock above.

Betws-y-Coed Station

There is a railway station at Betws-y-Coed and I would definitely like to travel there by train one day.  It was a very long drive to get there and our car had a flat tyre too!

We spent many mornings relaxing in the numerous cafes around the railway station.

Horse drawn postal express

There was a film crew there the one morning, filming a special on the old horse drawn Royal Mail express in the area.  The horses did not think it was all that much fun to stand there and wait while the film crew organised themselves!  Still, I love that about the United Kingdom.  Wherever you might be, there is always a little bit of history or intrigue around the corner.

Betws-y-Coed is a great area if you are in to climbing, hiking, canoeing or other outdoor activities.  We did a lot of walking and a lot of appreciating the exercise other people were embarking on.

A Secret Visit to Lincoln’s Inn, Holborn

As we were drawing to the end of our London Cab Tour, our driver Graham turned to us with a glint of mischief in his eye and said that he knew somewhere he could take us that he was quite sure we had never been before.  Graham had previously said that it was nice to have passengers that were familiar to London because we had been able to explore the city in a little more depth than usual but I could that he was itching to surprise us.

The Great Hall Lincolns Inn[3]

We drove up to an ornate gate and gained access into a private road. The guard was obviously familiar with Graham because this is not usually somewhere that members of the public can wonder around.

The Great Hall at Lincolns Inn[7]

We were in Lincoln’s Inn, Holborn and the photos above are of the Great Hall which was built in the 19th century.  In addition to being used for functions and dining, the Great Hall is where barristers are called to the bar.

Lincoln Inn[3]

Lincoln’s Inn is situated around the back of the Royal Courts of Justice and it is one of the four Inns of Court in London.  The Inns of Court are the professional associations to which barristers must belong in order to practice as barristers. 

It was all quite fancy and impressive and I just know I’ll be looking out for this beautiful, secluded location in the next episode of Law and Order UK.

Lincoln Inn Chapel[3]

There has been a chapel on this site since 1428 but it has been extensively built and rebuilt since then.  The current chapel was first built between 1620 and 1623 by the famous Inigo Jones, was rebuilt in 1685 in consultation with the equally famous Christopher Wren and was finally rebuilt in 1915.

New Square Chambers[3]

The offices around Lincoln’s Inn and New Square is where barristers have their chambers.  Barristers are the lawyers that wear the white wigs and gowns and they advocate in court.  In South Africa, we call them advocates.  The other type of lawyer is, of course, the solicitor which we refer to simply as lawyer in South Africa.  It is all quite involved which is why Law comes a close second to Economics in fields of study I really don’t get.

Lincoln’s Inn was quite beautiful and I honestly think I would be tempted to try visit there again in the future.  It really has a presence, as if the walls exude centuries of brilliance and propriety.  It is a great place for photography and an appreciation of architecture.

That should be my last post on the London Cab Tour.  I promise to take you back to Wales in my next post!