Denbigh Community Archive
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Denbigh (“Dinbych” in Welsh, meaning small fortress) is one of the most historic towns in North Wales. Denbigh’s name is derived from the word ‘din’, a fortified hill and the diminutive, ‘bach’, which together give the Welsh form Dinbych. The town is first mentioned in records in the years following the Norman Conquest when it became a border town guarding the approach to the Hiraethog Hills and Snowdonia. Denbigh was also probably the location of a fortified settlement during the Roman occupation and in the twelfth century, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the brother of Llewelyn, the last Prince of Wales, had his headquarters here. Following the Norman Conquest in 1282, the Lordship of Denbigh was granted to Henry de Lacy who authorised the building of Denbigh Castle. The Constable of the Castle granted the town’s first Charter during Edward I’s reign and several others followed through the years. Denbigh remained a Borough in its own right until the local Government changes of 1974.The mediaeval town developed hand in hand with the building of the castle and was contained within town walls. Over the next few centuries Denbigh was fiercely contested between the Welsh and English and in 1563 Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was granted the castle and Lordship of Denbigh, becoming virtually the Governor General of North Wales. He was responsible for commissioning the Shire Hall, which now houses the town library. In 1643 Denbigh became a refuge for a Royalist garrison during the Civil War between Charles I and Cromwell’s Roundhead troops, but was forced to surrender in 1646. After this date the castle was slighted and the town walls were allowed to fall to ruin. The townsfolk had long since abandoned their inconvenient fortress-borough and moved to easier conditions outside the town walls. Amongst the largest and richest towns in Elizabethan Wales, Denbigh was at the time a powerful centre of renaissance culture and enterprise, and flourished subsequently as a prosperous market town. After the beginning of the 17th Century, the town developed as a centre of several crafts and these survived until the coming of the industrial age in the19th Century. In 1848 the North Wales Mental Hospital opened just outside the town, and at its peak had 1500 patients and provided employment for many townspeople. It remained open until 1995 and is now privately owned as a site awaiting development. By the 1860s Denbigh had become the main centre of the Vale of Clwyd and was on the railway network.

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