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Site Details

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

NPRN 33082

Map Reference SJ06NE

Grid Reference SJ0526066110

Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire

Old County Denbighshire

Community Denbigh

Type of Site TOWN

Broad Class CIVIL

Period General

Site Description Denbigh is a market town in Denbighshire, North Wales, United Kingdom. Before 1888, it was county town of Denbighshire. Denbigh lies 8 miles to the north west of Ruthin and to the south of St Asaph. It is about 13 miles (20 km) from the Irish Sea port of Rhyl. The town grew around the glove-making industry.

The first Borough Charter was granted to Denbigh in 1290, when the town was still contained within the old town walls. During the Wars of the Roses, the town was largely destroyed, subsequently moving from the hilltop to the area of the present town market. In 1643, Denbigh became a refuge for a Royalist garrison during the English Civil War. Surrendering in 1646, the castle and town walls eventually fell into ruin.
Notable buildings in Denbigh include Denbigh Castle, the town walls begun in 1282 including the Burgess Gate, and Leicester's Church. This is an unfinished church begun in 1579, planned as a cathedral with the title of city to be transferred from neighbouring St. Asaph.

Denbigh was once served by a railway station on the former London and North Western Railway, later part of the LMS. The "Vale of Clwyd" line leading north to St. Asaph and Rhyl closed in 1955, leaving Denbigh on a lengthy branch running from Chester via Mold and Denbigh to Ruthin, which closed in 1962. A southern continuation beyond Ruthin linking up with the Great Western Railway at Corwen had closed in 1952.

M. Lloyd Davies, RCAHMW, 20 January 2009

Denbigh is a small market town in Denbighshire. Its origins lie in the twelfth century, appearing in a poem of 1160, though the earliest charter dates to 1211. Documentary evidence indicates a castle of the Welsh princes existed in the vicinity of the current town, though its location is unknown. The current castle was established by Henry de Lacy, Lord of Denbigh, in 1282 after being granted the land by Edward I.

It received its first Town Charter in 1285, and this, together with subsequent charters, indicates that the town was divided into an ‘English’ walled borough on top of the hill, and a ‘Welsh’ town ‘without the walls’. Throughout the fourteenth century, the town outside the walls expanded, overtaking the borough which eventually declined in importance. During this time, the first, and only, Carmelite Friary in Wales was established along with the great double-nave church of St Marcella.

In 1400, Owain Glyndŵr’s forces attacked, damaging the town, but ultimately failing to take the castle. The town status was increased when, after the 1536 Act of Union with England, it was made one of four administrative capitals in Wales. This was cemented in 1563 when Elizabeth I made Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and her closest confidant, Baron of Denbigh. He set about transforming the town with an ambitious building public building programme including the Shire hall and St David’s Church – the first major Protestant church to be built after the Reformation in Great Britain.

Denbigh was again the scene of activity during the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War where it was held for the Royalists. Following their surrender to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, the castle was abandoned and subsequently fell into decay. The eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were a period of great economic prosperity for the town, and the Georgian and Victorian architecture of the town reflects this.

Situated along the main road linking Llangollen and St Asaph, the ruins of Denbigh Castle attacked many visitors especially during the nineteenth century. Whereas Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau appeared impressed by the tri-annual national meeting of competing Welsh harpists inside the castle ruins, Franz von Löher was glad to give the spectacle a miss as he found the Welsh supremely lacking any musical talent. He did, however, spare a moment of praise for the supreme quality of the dinner on offer at his inn in Denbigh town.

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.

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