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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 307144

Map Reference SJ34NW

Grid Reference SJ32724865

Unitary (Local) Authority Wrexham

Old County Denbighshire

Community Marchwiel


Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Medieval

Site Description A very distinct and well preserved motte and bailey of typical Norman construction. Not simply a motte or watchtower but a considerable castle albeit now without any sign of masonry. The site is mentioned in a pipe roll of Henry II, (1161) where it is stated to be the “Castle of Wristleham”. The site, contained within an area ca 200m square is situated at the north-west corner of a bluff on a natural promontory at a point where the Black Brook joins the River Clywedog. Part of a section of Wat’s Dyke (NPRN 306867) is incorporated into the defences. The bailey to the south is now a flat area ca 90m square bounded on the east and west by the steep sides of the promontory, on the north side separated from the motte by deep man-made ditch and on the south by another man-made ditch separating the promontory from the natural bluff. The height has yet to be determined but the motte is slightly higher than the bailey, and whereas the bailey is essentially the natural height of the promontory the motte has been artificially raised - presumably using material from the ditch excavations. There is no masonry surviving. Within the area of the bailey an 18th century garden feature known as “Cathedral Aisle” has been constructed, consisting of an avenue of trees. The whole area is densely wooded but an idea of its substantial profile can be gleaned in winter by viewing the site from the west. There is very little surviving documentary evidence concerning this site. However it is probable that the site was established early on following the Norman Conquest but quickly became redundant when the frontier between Norman England and the kingdom of Gwynedd was pushed westward and the frontier maintained for a time on line roughly Rhuddlan/Denbigh/Ruthin. By 1300 Wales (or more correctly Gwynedd) was conquered and ceased to have any independent status. After this date the various castles reflecting the vicissitudes of conquest were rationalised into the well known “ring of iron”. The castle of Wristleham had by this time probably been abandoned, situated as it was well within English lands. No archaeological investigation has been carried out at the site although it has been surveyed. There is no surface evidence of surviving masonry, but is possible that buried features could survive. At a later date a round tower was probably either built or planned as a decorative park feature (shown on Badeslade print of 1740).

John Latham RCAHMW 11 June 2013

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