Twthill, Caernarfon

Tudor Rose logo with link to more information pagebutton_lang_welshTwthill, Caernarfon

This rocky mound was the site of a battle in the “Wars of the Roses”, in 1461. The hill’s military history goes back further. The shallow ditches in the rock could be remnants of a prehistoric defence system or a later motte and bailey.

The name Twthill comes from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) tõt hyll, meaning “lookout hill”. Usually it referred to a prominent hill close to a castle where observers could spot an approaching enemy. In Caernarfon, the name was recorded as le Tothille in 1399 but certainly existed much earlier. Toot Hill occurs in England (in various guises). The name can also be found in the fortified towns of Rhuddlan, Harlech and Conwy, and as Tuttle Street in Wrexham.

By autumn 1461, the Lancastrians (supporters of King Henry VI) had been crushed by the Yorkists under the new monarch, Edward IV, who sent an army to capture remaining Lancastrian strongholds in Wales. This forced Jasper Tudor (Earl of Pembroke) to retreat to Snowdonia along with Henry Holland (Duke of Exeter) and their men. They made one last stand here, at Twthill, on 16 October 1461 but were quickly defeated. Captured Lancastrians were accused of supporting an attempt to destroy the king by “treacherous and cruel violence”.

Jasper Tudor and Henry Holland fled by sea. Jasper later took his nephew Henry Tudor with him into exile. Henry returned to Britain in 1485 and deposed Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth. As Henry VII, he founded the Tudor dynasty.

As Caernarfon expanded, houses were built on Twthill’s lower slopes but Pen Twthill, the upper part, remained a popular leisure area. Crowds gathered here in 1910 to observe Halley’s Comet in the night sky.

Some visitors used opera-glasses (binoculars) to view the scenery, and in 1905 an anonymous local resident complained humorously in the North Wales Express that the impudence of “the opera-glasses on Pen Twthill” could spoil a pleasant boat trip “with a nice girl” on the Menai Strait!

Another anonymous resident complained in 1895 that people too lazy to wash and go to worship were congregating here on Sundays and chatting in filthy language. In 1904 police agreed to monitor Twthill because “games” were being played here on the Sabbath. Soon, 13 youths were fined for playing cards for money here on a Sunday.

At the top is a memorial, in the shape of a Celtic cross, to Caernarfonshire men who died in the South African War of 1899 to 1902.

Postcode: LL55 1PF    View Location Map

With thanks to Prof Hywel Wyn Owen, of the Welsh Place-Name Society, for place-name information