BEAUMARIS CASTLE
Biwmares

Grid Ref: SH 605 760
Dates: 29 Sept 2014 & 21 Mar 2015

 

Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle


Beaumaris Castle spacer Curtain wall
Moat reflection   Curtain wall with corner tower
Beaumaris Castle   Inner Court
Moat view   Inner Court

There was formerly a ferry to Beaumaris from Penmaenmawr across the Lavan Sands which operated until Telford's suspension bridge across the Menai Straits. The castle site was once occupied by an earlier fortification. The Welsh name was Porth Wygyr and it was a stronghold of the kings of North Wales including Owain Gyynedd, who lived from 1100 to 1170 and became king in 1137. He was the grandfather of Llywelyn Fawr known as Llywelyn the Great. He founded the Friary of Llanfaes, a mile to the north in 1237 over the grave of his wife Joan.

Edward I, in his invasion of Wales and fortification building along the coast, removed the inhabitants of the Beaumaris area to the other side of Anglesey and founded Newborough for them. In his charters he names the area in Latin as Bellus Mariscum, meaning beautiful marsh, which in Norman French was Beau Marais and hence the modern name. This was the last of Edward I's new castles and boroughs and has in part a moat of seawater. The town did not have a wall until after the time of Llwelyn the Great. It's heyday was in Tudor times when merchants from Beaumaris traded with Europe and built town houses.

In the Civil War, Beaumaris was held for the crown by Colonel Thomas Bulkeley, the first Viscount Bulkeley (1585–1659). The Bulkely family's residence was at Baron Hill near Beaumaris. The castle was surrendered to General Thomas Mytton (1597– 1656), the Parliamentary commander in 1646. Mytton became commander-in-chief of the forces of the six counties of North Wales on 12 May 1645. He took part in the defeat of Sir William Vaughan near Denbigh on 1 November 1645, frustrating the royalist attempts to relieve Chester. Once Chester had fallen, Mytton went on to besiege the rest of the royalist garrisons in North Wales: Ruthin (12 April 1646), Carnarvon (5 June 1646), Beaumaris (14 June 1646), Conwy town and castle (9 August, 18 November 1646), Denbigh (26 October 1646), Holt Castle (13 January 1647), and Harlech Castle (15 March 1647) surrendered in turn to Mytton's forces. Parliament maintained Mytton as commander-in-chief in North Wales when the army was disbanded (8 April 1647), and appointed him vice-admiral of North Wales in place of Glyn (30 December 1647). He was also granted £5,000 out of the estates of royalist delinquents.

One of the earlier Constables of the castle was William Bulkeley, appointed in 1440. A descendent Robert, Viscount Bulkeley, claimed in 1660 that his father had spent £3,000 on repairs to the castle but by 1705 the lead and timber had been stripped. In 1925, Sir Richard Williams-Bulkley handed it over to the nation.

There is an interesting connection between this part of the Wales and East Cheshire. The Bulkeleys were originally a Cheshire family from Cheadle, hence the area once known as Cheadle Bulkeley. They moved in Anglesey in the 15th century. They were eventually overtaken by debt in the 18th century and the family's Cheshire estates were sold by Act of Parliament in 1756 when the 7th Viscount was only 4.

Thomas James Bulkeley, 7th Viscount, was the posthumous son and heir to James Bulkeley, 6th Viscount Bulkeley, who died aged 35 in 1752. Like several of his ancestors, Bulkeley became MP for the county of Anglesey, returned in 1774 and 1780. In 1777 he married Elizabeth Harriot, only daughter and heiress of Sir George Warren. In May 1784 he was created an English peer, Baron Bulkeley, of Beaumaris whereas the Viscountcy was in the Irish Peerage. In 1802 Bulkeley legally changed his name by Royal Licence to Thomas James Warren-Bulkeley. He died without issue in 1822 and his wife died in 1832; her will left property to a relation George Fleming Leicester, of Tabley House near Knutsford, under condition he change his surname to Warren.

Sources

The County Books Series. Wales Volume II, the Country by Maxwell Fraser, published Robert Hale, London, 1952.

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