Conwy Castle


Part of the Cotton Manuscript collection, this ink and tempura view depicts Conwy castle in North Wales. It likely dates from 1539–40, a period during which King Henry VIII (1491–1547) rolled out large scale military surveys and defensive fortification works across England as a response to the threat of invasion from the combined forces of France and Spain. In 1538 King Francis I of France (1494–1547), and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain (1500–1550) signed a peace treaty, much to Henry VIII's chagrin. France was England’s historical enemy and Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Charles V’s aunt, had offended the militantly catholic king of Spain.

In 1539 Conwy castle was surveyed along with other Welsh castles, these reports found Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech indefensible and ‘much ruinous and ferre [far] in decay for lacke of timely reparacons’. It was suggested that the harbour entrances be fortified by artillery forts rather than altering the castles themselves by incorporating gun ports into walls designed for crossbows and catapults. The castles received rudimentary repairs and were accounted for by John Pakington and John Arnold, who spent £216 10s.8d during the next two years, employing Robert Burghill as surveyor and paymaster.


Full title:
View of the castle and part of the town of Conwy
c. 1539-1540
Manuscript / Illustration
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Cotton MS Augustus I ii 54

Full catalogue details

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