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Caernarfon; Caernarvon

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Map ReferenceSH46SE
Grid ReferenceSH4786262821
Unitary (Local) AuthorityGwynedd
Old CountyCaernarfonshire
Type Of SiteTOWN
PeriodPost Medieval
Caernarfon is a royal town in Gwynedd, northwest Wales and is the traditional county town of the historic county of Caernarfonshire. The town is best known for its great stone castle, built by Edward I. On higher ground above the town remains an earlier occupation, the Segontium Roman Fort. Caernarfon was constituted a borough in 1284 by charter of Edward I. The former municipal borough was designated a royal borough in 1963. The borough was abolished by the Local Government Act 1972, and the status of royal town was granted in 1974.

In 1911, David Lloyd George, then Member of Parliament for the borough, conceived the idea of holding the investiture of the new Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle, believing that this would help pacify nationalist opinion whilst arousing a more British patriotic feeling. The ceremony took place on 13 July, with the royal family paying a rare visit to Wales, and the future King Edward VIII was duly invested. On 1 July 1969 the investiture ceremony was again held at Caernarfon Castle, the recipient on this occasion being Charles, Prince of Wales.

Demographically the population of Caernarfon is the most Welsh-speaking community in Wales, with 86.1% of the population being able to speak the language in the 2001 Census.

M. Lloyd Davies, RCAHMW, 19 January 2009.

Facing Anglesey, Caernarfon is situated on the south-western half of the Menai Strait. The earliest occupation is found at the Roman fort of Segontium, which was built to subdue the rebelling Ordovices, the Celtic tribe living then in this region. Internationally, this large town is mostly known for its castle, built by the English king Edward I, who fortified the town and banned all Welsh people from living inside the town walls after the defeat of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282. In the twentieth century it was used for the investiture of two Princes of Wales, first in 1911 and latterly in 1969.

While the character of the town remained essentially rural during the nineteenth century, Caernarfon's prime location in proximity to the slate quarries of north Wales contributed to the development of its harbour. From here, high-quality slates in all colours, shapes and sizes were shipped to the four corners of the world.

Many tourists came to Caernarfon either to explore the picturesque ruins of the Norman castle or take advantage of the town's close proximity to Snowdonia. In 1828, Prince Herman von Puckler-Muskau engaged a local boy and his horse carriage for a journey to Llanberis, which they reached in only half an hour because the boy interpreted the Prince's shouts of fear as encouragement to hurtle along the roads at an even faster pace. In 1862, the French journalist Alfred Erny experienced the locality at a more leisurely pace. He spent a few days exclusively in the town and produced a detailed account of his visit to the Eisteddfod held inside the castle. He was surprised, however, that in this most Welsh-speaking corner of the country, the majority of the public speeches were given in English.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.
application/pdfETW - European Travellers to Wales ProjectDescription of a visit to Caernarfon by Johann Georg Kohl from 'Reisen in England und Wales' (1842). Text available in Welsh, English, French and German. Produced through the European Travellers to Wales project.