Holt Castle remains

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This castle was completed c.1308 to control a ford across the river Dee. The drawing of the castle and river in 1742 is shown here courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – the National Library of Wales.

The castle rose three storeys above the ground and a basement was cut into the bedrock, several stories downwards. There were five circular towers, which gave the castle a pentagonal shape.

Drawing of Holt Castle in 1742The castle was built by John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, who owned large areas of land in the region. He was made Regent of Scotland by King Edward I but was soon defeated by Scottish rebel leader William Wallace.

At the end of the 14th century, King Richard II strengthened the castle and moved a proportion of the royal treasure from the Tower of London to the castle for safekeeping.

From 1484 the castle was owned by Sir William Stanley, an important Yorkist in the Wars of the Roses. Many Yorkists were disgusted when King Richard III consolidated his power by ensuring the disappearance of the sons of King Edward IV, who had died in 1483. Richard kept Stanley’s son, Lord Strange, hostage to ensure the father’s loyalty but at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 Stanley’s army stood by, rather than helping the king. Richard angrily ordered Lord Strange’s immediate execution, but his command wasn’t carried out.

Victorious Henry Tudor, who became King Henry VII, apparently noted that Sir William had not lent his support at the start of the battle. Unlike other nobles, Sir William was not richly rewarded for helping at Bosworth.

Sir William kept Holt Castle until he rashly supported a futile plot to overthrow Henry in 1495. For this he became one of the few nobles to be executed by Henry, whose general policy of leniency was designed to foster peace and stability after almost a century of turmoil.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, lead from Basingwerk Abbey was reused at Holt Castle. Like many Welsh castles, Holt was garrisoned and attacked in the Civil War of the 17th century and then damaged to prevent further military use. Much of the castle’s stones were recycled to build Eaton Hall, near Chester.

The castle’s remains were repaired in 2013. They’re managed by Wrexham County Borough Council and are open to the public at all times.

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