Readers may have read recent news about vandalism at Caergwrle Castle. Concerns about divot holes, left by metal detecting, were raised by a member of the public who passed a note to me at a recent meeting of Hope Community Council.
I went to the site to investigate and was shocked to see that, not only was the information correct about metal detecting, but there had also been a fire made in the bread oven of the Castle itself and that some damage had been done to the masonry of the feature.It has to be stressed that it is illegal to use a metal detector or light a fire within the area of a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The bread oven itself was discovered during the period of archaeological excavation that took places under the auspices of Clwyd Archaeological Trust between 1988 and 1990 and was the subject of a report written by the Principal Archaeologist, John Manley (Manley. J. 1990. ‘A medieval bread-oven from Caergwrle Castle. Clwyd’. Archaeology in Wales 30. 21-24.) The feature is of particular note because it was almost certainly used to provide bread for the large number of workers who were employed to reconstructed the Castle by Edward I after it had been damaged by its initial founder, Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd.
The good news is that the event has acted as a catalyst further consideration to be given to the issue of the long-term management of the Castle itself. It is currently the responsibility of Hope Community Council, as owners of the site, to address issues associated with both the woodland and the monument itself.
The Castle, however, is a monument of national importance – it is the last Castle built by a native Welsh Prince and its story provides an entry point to an understanding of a critical period in the history of the Welsh nation. That Prince was himself the first person in British history to be hung, drawn and quartered for the crime of High Treason. Given its national importance it is being argued that Caergwrle Castle should actually be cared for by CADW and the case is being made for this to be given consideration. From the local point of view there is concern that local residents should not be required to foot the bill for the upkeep of a national monument. Expertise in managing a national monument has never been a requirement for those standing for election to the Community Council!
The incident did give rise to a very positive meeting between representatives of CADW, Flintshire Countryside Services and Hope Community Council at the Castle site recently. The damage was examined and discussions about repair and future management of the site were very encouraging. Let us hope that from the challenge presented by the current vandalism may act as an opportunity to secure a much better deal for the long-term management of the site.
There is, of course, the need for an over-arching strategy to ensure that young people, who might otherwise be involved in anti-social behaviour and vandalism, are more fully engaged within the local community. This is for a discussion elsewhere.
Among the strategies to ensure that our heritage is better protected from vandalism one approach must include that of continuing to encourage visitors to the Castle site so that an increased public presence acts as a deterrent. Again this is in addition to other measures which are outside the scope of this article.The HLF-funded Caergwrle Sense of Place Project provided the opportunity for a number of bilingual leaflets to be produced which help to show the importance of the Castle within the context of events of crucial significance in the story of the Welsh people.
Caergwrle Castle is far too easily overlooked but it should be viewed as one of the archaeological gems of Wales. Readers who have access to any venues or locations where they may be able to place copies of the leaflet, in order to encourage tourism to the area, are encouraged to contact author.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.