Mortimer's Fortress, a medieval castle

The imposing north face of Chirk Castle

During the medieval period, Chirk oscillated between glory and disgrace. Five of its owners were executed for treason, their estates seized by the Crown - caught up in wars that rumbled on for centuries.

Early history

In 1282 when the English King Edward I defeated Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (also known as Llywelyn the Last, and grandson of Llywelyn the Great) he established the new Marcher Lordship of Chirklands.

The Chirklands were granted to Roger Mortimer in recognition of his service in King Edward's wars against the Welsh and Scottish. He built Chirk Castle in the late 13th century to guard the Dee and Ceiriog valleys and as the local administrative centre.

The overseeing architect was probably Master James of St. George, an architect from Savoy who was much favoured by Edward I, and who is credited with work on many of his other castles, including Caernarfon, Beaumaris and Harlech.

Roger Mortimer served Edward I, and then Edward II who made him Justiciar of all Wales. Eventually ambition got the better of him, and supporting his nephew (another Roger Mortimer) he took up arms against the King and his favourite Hugh Despenser the Younger. He was thrown into the Tower of London and died there in 1326.

Chirk Castle then regularly changed hands between some of the most important men of the age, such as the Earls of Arundel, Cardinal Henry Beaufort, the Dukes of Somerset, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) Sir William Stanley, and many more, usually granted to them in recognition of service and taken away again in disgrace.

What is there to see?

Chirk Castle is the only one of Edward I's Marcher fortresses still inhabited today. The area of the castle with the most visually original features is the West Range, where visitors can still explore the Adam Tower, complete with its two-level dungeons, medieval garderobes (toilets) and murder holes.

Learn all about medieval life from our garrison guards
A medieval archer at Chirk Castle
Learn all about medieval life from our garrison guards

On the top level of the Adam Tower you won’t fail to be impressed by the stunning views from the upper floor windows, straight down the Ceiriog Valley! There is also Sir Thomas's room, named after Sir Thomas Myddelton I who bought the castle in 1595, and the Magistrate's Court with its 17th century plaster frieze - the oldest surviving interior decoration in the castle.

Download a copy of our Access Statement here: Chirk Castle Access Statement 2022 (PDF / 0.4MB) download