THE PENTAGON

Holt Castle from the air, early 14th century. The CAD drawing is based on 16th and 17th century illustrations and plans, a modern survey and the 2012–14 excavations. Artist: Phil Kenning. © Wrexham Heritage Service, 2014

The first job of the workforce building the castle was to quarry away the sandstone cliffs that drop down to the flood plain of the River Dee to create a deep ditch surrounding a sandstone plinth.  The castle was built around this plinth, which was larger than the one you see today.  Quarrying out the moat provided the necessary stone to build a pentagonal (five-sided) castle. There was an additional stand-alone barbican tower that controlled access to the castle’s entrance.

In the case of Holt Castle, the landscape was re-shaped to allow the construction of a symmetrical structure.  This is in contrast to many castles where the landscape determines the position of the curtain walls and the towers.

John de Warenne had experience of building, improving and besieging castles and he was aware of the latest defensive techniques.  He was a well-travelled man and had encountered many castles in his military career.  The idea of a stepping stone barbican tower controlling access from the outer bailey to the main castle had been developed by castle builders in Spain and the Crusader states.  Regardless of the origins of the design, de Warenne and his grandson created an impressive fortress in Holt Castle.

Swydd gyntaf y gweithlu i adeiladu’r castell oedd cloddio’r clogwyni tywodfaen sy’n disgyn i lawr i orlifdir Afon Dyfrdwy i greu ffos ddofn yn amgylchynu plinth o dywodfaen.  Cafodd y castell ei adeiladu o gwmpas y plinth hwn, a oedd yn fwy na’r un a welwch heddiw.  Roedd chwarelu’r ffos yn darparu’r garreg angenrheidiol i adeiladu castell pumochrog. Roedd tŵr barbican annibynnol ychwanegol a oedd yn rheoli mynediad at fynedfa’r castell.

Yn achos Castell Holt, cafodd y dirwedd ei ail-siapio er mwyn gallu adeiladu strwythur cymesur.  Mae hyn yn wahanol i lawer o gestyll, lle mae’r dirwedd yn penderfynu ar leoliad y llenfuriau a’r tyrau.

Roedd gan John de Warenne brofiad o adeiladu, gwella a gwarchae cestyll ac roedd yn ymwybodol o’r technegau amddiffyn diweddaraf.  Roedd yn ddyn a oedd wedi teithio llawer ac wedi dod ar draws llawer o gestyll yn ei yrfa filwrol.  Cafodd y syniad o greu tŵr camu carreg barbican ar gyfer rheoli mynediad o’r beili allanol i’r prif gastell ei ddatblygu gan adeiladwyr castell yn Sbaen a’r gwladwriaethau Crusader.  Waeth beth fo tarddiad y dyluniad, creodd de Warenne a’i ŵyr gaer drawiadol yng Nghastell Holt.

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