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Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, “A noble castle called Ruthlan” was recorded by Gerald de Barn in 1188, journeying through Wales on behalf of the Third Crusade. There he was nobly entertained by its owner, David, eldest son of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales. The place was then, as now, set on the Clwyd river and was a sea-port. But the interest of the reference made by Gerald is that it speaks of a castle not of English building, but of Welsh. The existing ruins date from the Edwardian Wars and their conclusion in an English victory, for Rhuddlan was one of the chain of strongholds built in 1277 to keep North Wales in subjection. Apparently David possessed a castle of the kind still remaining, not far away, at Ewloe, a Welsh structure on the Norman model, antedating the Conquest and forming the scene of Owain Gwynedd's rout of the forces of Henry II in 1157.

For the Welsh, however, Rhuddlan has a sadder significance. Here a total disaster was inflicted on their forces, under Caradoc, by those of the Offa, King of Mercia, who is said to have later set up, westward of the Severn, the Dyke containing the Cymry that today bears his name. The defeat is still remembered; Morfa (Sea-Land), the Marsh of Rhuddlan, gives its title to a lament, magnificent in its music and a masterpiece of its kind. At Rhuddlan Edward I chose to dictate the terms on which the Welsh recognized defeat through the Statute of Rhuddlan (1284), holding court there for three years while he prepared the control and administration of the territories over which English suzerainty should at last be direct.

Rhuddlan Castle is similar in type and plan to the rest of Edward's North Welsh fastnesses; quadrangular in plan, with two gatehouses and six round towers. Until the Civil Wars of the 17th century, it kept itself much to itself; neither the Rhys, son of Maredudd, who in 1287 raised a national revolt in the South, seizing both Dynevor and Llandovery, nor the nearer war with the Madoc who claimed to be son of the dead Llywelyn and captured Oswestry in 1295, in any way disturbed it. Held for the King in 1646, it decided to surrender to the Parliamentary commander, General Mytton, and was almost immediately “slighted”, or dismantled, by order of Parliament.

The parish church has an old tower designed to serve as a mark for ships at sea; whatever its date of first foundation, it is now a characteristic double-nave structure of the kind familiar to the Vale of Clwyd and belonging in type to the 15th century. But it is peculiar in having its twin naves divided by an arcade internally and fitting them each with a separate roof.

Three miles South East of Rhuddlan, at Bodelwyddan, is another church, but one dating from the middle of the 19th century. Built of limestone relieved with Belgian marble, it was set up by Lady Willoughby de Broke in memory of her husband. The sculptures and windows reflect the taste of 1856.

Nearby towns: Abergele, Prestatyn, Rhyl, St Asaph

Nearby villages: Betws-yn-Rhos, Bodelwyddan, Bodfari, Caerwys, Cwm, Denbigh, Dinorben, Dyserth, Foryd, Gwaenynog, Henllan, Kinmel, Llanasa, Llanddulas, Llandyrnog, Llanelian-yn-Rhos, Llanelwy, Llanfair Talhaiarn, Llangernyw, Llangynhafal, Llannefydd, Llannerch-y-Mor, Llanrhaiadr, Llansannan, Llysfaen, Meliden, Mostyn, Nannerch, Old Colwyn, Talacre, Trefnant, Tremeirchion, Whitford

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