A medieval fortification built by Gilbert de Clare in the 13th century in the town of Caerphilly in South Wales. Loads of moats and lakes, it is said to have the most elaborate water defences in Britain. Occupying around 30 acres (12 hectares) it is the second-largest castle in the United Kingdom. One of its defining features is its leaning tower. The south-east tower in the Inner Ward leans outwards at an angle of 10 degrees.
Introducing Caerphilly Castle
Today we are visiting Caerphilly Castle.
This is the largest castle of Wales, covering an area of around 30 acres.
It was built by Gilbert declare in the 13th century to conquer Glamorgan.
It has the most elaborate water defences in Britain
It’s famous for its large gatehouses and because it introduced concentric castle defences to Britain.
Work on the castle began in 1268 following Gilbert’s occupation of the north of Glamorgan.
The castle was largely built at an amazing rate over the next three years.
Gilbert’s Welsh rival, Llewelyn app Grufudd burnt the castle in 1270, but Gilbert prevailed and managed to complete the castle and took control of the region.
The center of the castle six on an island surrounded by a number of artificial lakes and contains luxurious accommodation.
Caerphilly Concentric Castle
As you enter Caerphilly, you get to see how the concentric thing works much more clearly. You come in through the east gatehouse; the East outer gate, to be precise. And then you’ve got an inner moat to go with your massive outer moat. Once you’ve come in through that you reach another gatehouse, and then another one. Here.
The Leaning Tower of Caerphilly Castle
This tower has, as you can tell, something of a lean on it. Apparently, the lean of this tower is greater than the lean of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I don’t really know quite why it’s still standing it doesn’t really look like it ought to be. But I’m taking a leap of faith and I’m standing basically, where it will I should imagine eventually, fall. I mean you can tell that it leans out a long way because, where I’m standing now, which is a good several feet from the wall, I’m getting dripped on by the top of the tower. It leans out far enough that it drips here. Standing behind the tower might give you some clue as to just how much it’s leaning. I don’t think that catching it on film really does it justice it’s really hanging out there.
Trebuchets and Perriers
Behind me is a trebuchet- the siege engine that is used to lob bits of rock and flaming things into the castle to either knock bits of the walls down or to cause as much carnage as possible. And if fire got into the castle then that was pretty catastrophic because there’s an awful lot of wood in it. This slightly more slender looking beast behind me here is what is called a Perrier and a Perrier is used for quick fire rounds. It’s got a slingshot on it that you can draw back and *whoosh ping* So you’ve got your rapid fire and you’ve got your big punch.
The Many Gatehouses of Caerphilly Castle
Gatehouses! Gatehouses everywhere! Caerphilly Castle is inundated with them. This is one behind me there are a load of them over there. In fact basically, if you approach the castle from any direction chances are you’re going to hit a gatehouse. And it’s not really surprising, although this was quite a defensible looking structure, and the moats and the lakes and what-have-you made it incredibly defensible it was also somewhere that was really quite luxurious and if you’re going to have somewhere that’s really quite luxurious. It would be a bit of a pain in the neck if anytime you wanted to go in and out of it you had to walk all the way around the thing. Much easier to have a gatehouse here in the gatehouse there and a gatehouse there so gatehouses! Gatehouses everywhere!
What’s up the East gatehouse spiral staircase?
I’m in one of the rooms of the east gatehouse. In this room they’ve got a flight of stairs that goes up quite a long way I would say. I’ll wonder where these lead. Before you reach the roof you come out on to this, which is a walkway that goes around to the inner ward. Now, I’m not going to go this way just yet I’m going to go up to the roof first, because this place is a maze, and if you go off on a tangent you end up missing parts, so I’m going to methodically go upstairs, and then come back down, and then do the walkway. I made it to the roof! Finally! The stairs are long. When you get up here the views aren’t as vast as most other castles you see. You can’t see that far over the landscape, but what you can see is quite a way over the castle, and that’s quite something because you get a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on down below.
Just over halfway up the steps- or a little way down, is this walkway and I am going to see what’s on the other side. There are some spectacular views over the walkway of the moats, and lakes, and ducks, and swans, and geese. The inner ward is really quite interesting because there’s this real mishmash of styles. We come in through the inner east gate and the inner east gate is really nicely finished off and it looks really well polished. In fact, it could almost look new. But on the other side, you’ve got the inner west gate and that’s all raggedy and falling apart, and then you go past the great hall and the great hall is a lovely building, it’s got these massive windows, it’s got lovely polished stone on the outside. And I suspect that they felt that they could have those big windows there because on the other side of that is South Tower so it’s protected from there as well. But next to the Great Hall you’ve got the apartments and again that’s all raggedy and tumble down. So yeah, in this very small area you’ve got lots of different building styles. And through the ruins now you can just see the towers over there- the one that’s leaning.
Caerphilly’s Lavish Living Side
This is a lot of the point of this place. It’s all about lavish living and entertainment. That’s one hell of a fireplace, isn’t it? I mean, it’s kind of artificial now. It is a projection. But in its day, I would have kicked out some heat. The wooden structure you see behind me that is a minstrels gallery, and the idea is you stick your musicians up there and they can play and entertain and take advantage of the fact that the acoustics in here are really quite something. Stick your musicians up there they can be heard down here throughout the hall without you and your chums sitting and chatting too loudly. It’s a great idea. I mean basically, it’s the forerunner of the modern day stage.
So, off the Great Hall you’ve got this. Basically a set of posh apartments. On the ground floor, this is where the servants would have been, and then upstairs, that is where Gilbert de Clare the posh folks, would enjoy the riches of life. It had glass in the windows, we’re talking end of the 13th century here, and glass was quite expensive. It’s got some really ornate stone work around it. So you can tell it’s very lavish. If you’ve got the money to do this sort of thing you are a very very very wealthy individual. Gilbert de Claire was obviously doing very well for himself thank you very much. I hope you don’t have a problem with stairs, and specifically spiral stairs. Because they are everywhere in this place, which isn’t a problem, I’m pretty sure is keeping me fit. But all the steps are worth it because you end up seeing rooms like this. This is part of that main gatehouse and it’s amazingly lavish, I mean it’s really nice in here. See what I mean? It’s vast! It’s worth bearing in mind and what we’re actually standing above now is the drawbridge room so up here you’re pretty safe. I mean you’re in a castle, that’s pretty much within a castle, that’s within a castle that’s… surrounded by moats and lakes. Other than the people who are already inside, you don’t have to worry too much. Oh, and did I mention the spiral staircases?
The Circular Room
You go just a little way up the stairs and you come into this quite interesting little circular room. There are little alcoves off the side in it they go into rooms with windows that you can shoot from because there are Archer slits in them. Apart from that window there they’re all archer’s slits. And this is just off the main inner ward, so you’ve got this separate tower that comes off here and it’s got a roof, so this is it. It sticks out it’s here for this room and then the stairs go further up, presumably, to the roof.
The West Tower
I’ve come to the highest point that I can reach in the west tower and as you can see it’s got a roof. Which is the roof of the circular room that Jo’s has been in. And, although you could go slightly higher, there’s a gate with a lock which means that I can’t go any higher. I’d like to go up there because I’m guessing that the views from there are fantastic. The views from here pretty good too