Chirk Castle

The ECW Travelogue made a flask up, packed a face mask, and headed over the border into Welsh Wales. Wrexham to be precise.

Chirk Castle is in the care of the National Trust and has limited open hours: check the website before travelling, particularly as opening and access is even more limited due to the current pandemic. I managed to sneak a visit in during the seven days that it was open late September, before it fell victim to local lockdown regulations.

Built in the late thirteenth century, Chirk was part of Edward Longshanks chain of castles across North Wales. From a Civil War point of view we'll fast forward to 1593 when the Myddleton family bought the property. Sir Thomas Myddelton II was an MP having represented Weymouth and Melcombe Regis in the 1620s, before he represented Denbighshire in 1625, then again 1640-1648.

Sir Thomas Myddleton II

He was made Sergeant Major General of the Parliamentary forces in North Wales. In the summer of 1642 he returned to Wales to 'use his influence' to persuade the Welsh to side with parliament. As a consequence the Royalist Colonel Robert Ellice seized Chirk Castle, in his absence in January 1643. A garrison was placed there under Sir John Watts, which remained in control of the castle for the rest of the war. Myddleton attempted to take his home back in December 1644, but failed after three days. The family eventually regained control of the castle by bribing the Royalist garrison.

Myddleton stood down from his commission due to the Self Denying Ordinance, and he returned, full time, to Parliament.

Myddleton did not agree with the Trial of Charles I, and he was expelled from Parliament. He would later join Booth's Rebellion in 1659, attempting to reinstate the monarchy. Chirk would be besieged by Lambert, the castle garrison surrendering to Parliament's forces in August. Myddleton and his brother were sent into exile. The castle sustained considerable damage to it's eastern side. 

What's There Now?
The original medieval fortress was converted into a comfortable Tudor residence by Myddleton's father. The damage caused by Lambert was rebuilt during the Restoration. The Castle's interior was extensively 'gothicised' in the 1840s by the Victorian architect Pugin.

Due to Covid 19 restrictions only a small part of the castle was open. The King's bedroom, in which Charles I supposedly slept was not open to the public. I say supposedly as this part of the Castle was seriously damaged during the siege, demolished and rebuilt after the Wars; the bed that proudly bears a plaque stating that Charles slept in the bed on September 22nd and 28th 1645 wasn't made until fifty years after Charles's execution.

The Cromwell Room is used to display the castle's armoury - the largest armoury still in situ, a title it 'inherited' when the Littlecote Collection was transferred to the Royal Armouries. The 'Cromwell Room' was remodelled by Pugin into the faux Jacobean panelled room that we see today (it's always the bloody Victorians!): the room is very dark, very bright sunlight was streaming through the windows causing no end of photography problems. With all the extra, vigilant volunteers around, grabbing a sneaky flash shot was not possible; so I must confess I struggled taking pictures (tripods and flash photography strictly not allowed). There are 38 muskets on display, a number of harquebusier's cuirasses and helmets, some basket hilted broadswords, a number of halberds, some stirrups resplendent in layers of gloss Victorian paint.

Tucked away in the corner is possibly the second oldest British military drum in existence (Drake's drum at Buckland Abbey is believed to be the oldest). The National Trust online catalogue lists it as a 'militia drum circa 1679'. The corner of the room it is in was really dark, so apologies for the photo being slightly out of focus.

Also on display, is a pair of Sir Thomas Myddelton's boots, these are housed in a glass domed display case very close to the window, causing no end of problems with reflections. 

Elsewhere in the castle there are a number of interesting family portraits from the time, along with portraits of Charles II and James II, along with a chest given to the family by Charles II as reward for supporting his cause in the Booth Rebellion.

Of course it wouldn't be a National Trust property without splendid gardens, cafes and a shop.

I shall return when the castle is fully open.

 Sir Thomas Myddelton is buried in St Mary's Church, in the village, and has a very imposing memorial which bears a very good likeness to his portrait.

Postcodes for SatNavs
Chirk Castle, Wrexham LL14 5AF
St Mary's Church, Chirk LL14 5HD

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