Harlech Castle in Paper



This model of Harlech Castle in paper (110 pound cardstock) is very close to representing the actual castle. The stone patterns on the walls of the model are from actual photographs of the castle walls taken by the author in Wales. It was the last of the great Edwardian castles to be completed during King Edward I’s lifetime, and exhibits the ultimate concepts in castle construction. It has been said that Harlech was the favorite castle of James of St George, a professional castle designer, who designed several of King Edward I’s castles. 

The castle is located on an immense crag at the edge of Cardigan Bay in northwest Wales. It consists of a rectangular inner bailey or ward with four powerful round towers at the corners and a massive gatehouse in the front center. By the time of Harlech’s construction (1282 to 1289), the castle keep had become incorporated into the gatehouse, making the castle nearly impenetrable by a frontal assault. This model features a gatehouse that can open showing the living space inside.  

The towering walls of the inner bailey were surrounded by much lower walls enclosing the middle bailey (the middle bailey or ward was also referred to as the park or list; referred to as the outer ward in the plan below). The walls of the middle bailey were made low enough that archers from the tall inner walls could shoot over them to the ground beyond. The front approach to the castle was protected by a ditch, crossed by a bridge with a drawbridge at each end. The first drawbridge was protected by two small towers, making a partial barbican (a small forward castle, not included in the model). The second drawbridge was protected by a larger front gate in the outer wall surrounding the middle bailey. 

The right and back of the castle were defended by a long outermost wall surrounding an outer bailey or ward (not included in the model and referred to as Castle Rock in the plan below). The land sloped rapidly in the outer bailey, and the approach to the back of the castle is by a long flight of stairs. This part of the castle is not shown in the plans but can be constructed following the drawing below. 

As long as the harbor was open to the castle, Harlech Castle was unassailable. During the Welsh rebellion of 1294, thirty-seven men defended Harlech against the entire Welsh army. The castle fell to Owen Glendower in the early 1400s, helped by a French fleet that cut off supplies from the sea to the castle. Forty men, the famous “Men of Harlech,” defended the castle against Glendower. In 1409, it required a ferocious attack of 1000 professional soldiers, led by John Talbot, to retake the castle for the king of England. As late as the 1640s, Harlech was the last of the royalist castles in Wales to fall to parliamentary forces. Even during this Civil War, the Harlech garrison was only fifty strong. This is the ultimate definition of a castle: a stronghold that can be held by a minimal number of soldiers for an extended period of time against a much larger and stronger force.

Model of the Castle at the Castle

Plan of Harlech Castle: http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/docs/cadw/publications/WHS_additional_maps_plans_EN.pdf