The Walled Town
Like all Edward’s castles, Denbigh was never intended to stand alone. Alongside them, the king o his lieutenants (like de Lacy) founded fortified towns, to be settled by English immigrants who would both service the fortress and become a colonial presence in conquered Wales. To Denbigh, then, came families from de Lacy’s estates in northern England, tempted by grants of cheap land and commercial privileges.
Their settlement (or ‘borough’) was protected from the outset by a fortified wall, eventually over a kilometre (1,200 yards) long and defended by four towers and two gatehouses. One of these gateways - the strong, twin-towered Burgesses Gate - still survives, as does the greater proportion of the wall. The most impressive section accessible to visitors runs from the Countess Tower to the big Goblin Tower, which protected a vital well. Added after the Welsh rising of 1294, this protruding ‘salient’ of defences was later to play a leading part in the castle’s last battle.
Visitors will by now have noticed, however, that much of the space enclosed by the town wall is currently occupied by open spaces or relatively recent housing. This is because the fortified town was, in the long term, a failure. Its walls did not protect its inhabitants in 1294, or against Owain Glyndwr’s raid in 1400, or against Jasper Tudor’s Lancastrians who burnt the town in 1468 - though on both the latter occasions the castle itself held out. Besides, the hilltop walled town was cramped, cold, and inconvenient, lacked a convenient water supply and stood far from the main road. By 1305 there was already twice as many houses outside as inside the walls; by 1540 the walled town was mostly derelict; and by 1586 it was deserted. Its inhabitants had progressively voted with their feet, establishing a new, much larger and highly successful town on its present site further downhill.