CAERNARFON (/kərˈnɑːrvən/ ; Welsh: ) is a royal town ,
community , and port in
Gwynedd , Wales, with a population of 9,615.
It lies along the
A487 road , on the eastern shore of the Menai Strait
, opposite the Isle of
Anglesey . The city of Bangor is 8.6 miles
(13.8 km) to the north-east, while
Caernarfon to the
east and south-east. CARNARVON and CAERNARVON are Anglicised spellings
that were superseded in 1926 and 1974, respectively. The villages of
Caeathro are close by.
Abundant natural resources in and around the Menai Straits enabled
human habitation in prehistoric Britain . The
Ordovices , a Celtic
tribe , lived in the region during the period known as
Roman Britain .
The Roman fort SEGONTIUM was established around AD 80 to subjugate the
Ordovices during the
Roman conquest of Britain . The Romans occupied
the region until the end of Roman rule in Britain in 382, after which
Caernarfon became part of the Kingdom of
Gwynedd . In the late 11th
William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a
motte-and-bailey castle at
Caernarfon as part of the Norman invasion
Wales . He was unsuccessful, and
Wales remained independent until
In the 13th century,
Llywelyn ap Gruffudd , ruler of Gwynedd, refused
to pay homage to
Edward I of England
Edward I of England , prompting the English conquest
Gwynedd . This was followed by the construction of Caernarfon
Castle , one of the largest and most imposing fortifications built by
the English in Wales. In 1284, the English-style county of
Caernarfonshire was established by the
Statute of Rhuddlan ; the same
Caernarfon was made a borough , a county and market town , and
the seat of English government in North Wales.
The ascent of the
House of Tudor
House of Tudor to the throne of England eased
hostilities between the English and resulted in
falling into a state of disrepair. The city has flourished, leading to
its status as a major tourist centre and seat of
Gwynedd Council ,
with a thriving harbour and marina.
Caernarfon has expanded beyond its
medieval walls and experienced heavy suburbanisation . Its population
includes the largest percentage of Welsh -speaking citizens anywhere
in Wales. The status of Royal
Borough was granted by Queen Elizabeth
II in 1963 and amended to Royal Town in 1974. The castle and town
walls are part of a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site described as the Castles and
Town Walls of King Edward in
* 1 History
* 2 Geography
* 3 Economy
* 4 Local government
* 5 Demography
* 6 Landmarks
Caernarfon town walls
* 6.3 Church of St Peblig
* 6.4 Statue of
David Lloyd George
* 6.5 The Old Market Hall
* 6.6 Others
* 7 Transport
* 8 Education
* 9 Notable people
* 10 Sport
* 11 Culture
* 12 See also
* 13 References
* 14 External links
Segontium See also: History of
Gwynedd during the High
Middle Ages Town Hall gate c.1840
The present city of
Caernarfon grew up around and owes its name to
its Norman and late Medieval fortifications . The earlier British and
Romano-British settlement at
Segontium was named for the nearby Afon
Seiont . After the end of Roman rule in Britain around 410, the
settlement continued to be known as Cair Segeint ("Fort Seiont") and
as Cair Custoient ("Fort Constantius or Constantine "), of the
History of the Britons, cited by
James Ussher in Newman's life of
Germanus of Auxerre , both of whose names appear among the 28
civitates of sub-
Roman Britain in the
Historia Brittonum traditionally
Nennius . The work states that the inscribed tomb of
"Constantius the Emperor" (presumably
Constantius Chlorus , father of
Constantine the Great ) was still present in the 9th century.
(Constantius actually died at York ; Ford credited the monument to a
different Constantine, the supposed son of
Saint Elen and Magnus
Maximus , who was said to have ruled northern
Wales before being
removed by the Irish . ) The medieval romance about Maximus and Elen,
Macsen\'s Dream , calls her home
Caer Aber Sein ("Fort Seiontmouth" or
"the caer at the mouth of the Seiont") and other pre-conquest poets
such as Hywel ab Owain
Gwynedd also used the name
Caernarfon in 1610
The Norman motte was erected apart from the existing settlement and
came to be known as y gaer yn Arfon , "the fortress in Arfon". (The
region of Arfon itself derived its name from its position opposite
Anglesey , known as Môn in Welsh.) A 1221 charter by Llywelyn the
Great to the canons of
Penmon priory on
Anglesey mentions Kaerinarfon;
the Brut mentions both Kaerenarvon and Caerenarvon. In 1283, King
Edward I completed his conquest of
Wales which he secured by a chain
of castles and walled towns. The construction of a new stone
Caernarfon Castle seems to have started as soon as the campaign had
finished. Edward's architect,
James of St. George , may well have
modelled the castle on the walls of Constantinople , possibly being
aware of the town's legendary associations. Edward's fourth son,
Edward of Caernarfon, later
Edward II of England , was born at the
castle in April 1284 and made Prince of
Wales in 1301. A story
recorded in the 16th century suggests that the new prince was offered
to the native Welsh on the premise "that was borne in
Wales and could
speake never a word of English", however there is no contemporary
evidence to support this.
Caernarfon was constituted a borough in 1284 by charter of Edward I.
The charter, which was confirmed on a number of occasions, appointed
the mayor of the borough Constable of the Castle ex officio . The
former municipal borough was designated a royal borough in 1963. The
borough was abolished by the
Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, and
the status of "royal town" was granted to the community which
Caernarfon was the county town of the historic county
David Lloyd George , then
Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament for
Caernarfon boroughs , which included various towns from Llŷn to
Conwy, agreed to the
British Royal Family 's idea of holding the
investiture of the Prince of
Caernarfon Castle . The ceremony
took place on 13 July, with the royal family paying a rare visit to
Wales, and the future
Edward VIII was duly invested.
Caernarfon was in the running for the title of Capital of
Wales on historical grounds but the town's campaign was heavily
defeated in a ballot of Welsh local authorities, with 11 votes
compared to Cardiff's 136.
Cardiff therefore became the Welsh
capital. Scene in
Caernarfon on Investiture day 1969.
On 1 July 1969 the investiture ceremony for Charles, Prince of Wales
was again held at
Caernarfon Castle. The ceremony itself went ahead
without incident despite terrorist threats and protests, which
culminated in the death of two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru
(Welsh Defence Movement), Alwyn Jones and George Taylor, who were
killed when their bomb – intended for the railway line at Abergele
in order to stop the
British Royal Train
British Royal Train – exploded prematurely. The
bomb campaign (one in Abergele, two in
Caernarfon and finally one on
Llandudno Pier ) was organised by the leader of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru
, John Jenkins. He was later arrested after a tip-off and was
sentenced to ten years' imprisonment.
The history of
Caernarfon as an example where the rise and fall of
different civilizations can be seen from one hilltop, are discussed in
John Michael Greer 's book The Long Descent. He writes of Caernarfon:
Spread out below us in an unexpected glory of sunlight was the whole
recorded history of that little corner of the world. The ground
beneath us still rippled with earthworks from the Celtic hill fort
that guarded the
Menai Strait more than two and a half millennia ago.
The Roman fort that replaced it was now the dim brown mark of an old
archeological site on low hills off to the left. Edward I’s great
gray castle rose up in the middle foreground, and the high contrails
of RAF jets on a training exercise out over the Irish Sea showed that
the town’s current overlords still maintained the old watch. Houses
and shops from more than half a dozen centuries spread eastward as
they rose through the waters of time, from the cramped medieval
buildings of the old castle town straight ahead to the gaudy sign and
sprawling parking lot of the supermarket back behind us.
Caernarfon is situated on the southern bank of the Menai Strait
facing the Isle of
Anglesey . It is situated 8.6 miles (13.8 km)
south-west of Bangor, 19.4 miles (31.2 km) north of
approximately 8.0 miles (12.9 km) west of
Llanberis and Snowdonia
National Park. The mouth of the
River Seiont is in the town, creating
a natural harbour where it flows into the Menai Strait. Caernarfon
Castle stands at the mouth of the river. The
A487 passes directly
through Caernarfon, with Bangor to the north and
Porthmadog to the
Llanberis at the foot of
Snowdon can be reached via the A4086 ,
which heads east out of the town to
Capel Curig . Heading north out of
the town is the Lôn Las Menai cycle path to nearby
Y Felinheli .
Heading south out of the town is the Lôn Eifion cycle path, which
leads to Bryncir , near
Criccieth . The route provides views into the
Snowdonia mountains, down along the
Llŷn Peninsula and across to the
Isle of Anglesey. The restoration of the
Welsh Highland Railway or
Rheilffordd Eryri, a narrow gauge heritage railway, was completed in
2011 and runs from
Porthmadog where it connects with the
Festiniog Railway .
Caernarfon's historical prominence and landmarks have made it a major
tourist centre. As a result, many of the local businesses cater for
the tourist trade.
Caernarfon is home to numerous guest houses, inns
and pubs, hotels, restaurants and shops. The majority of shops in the
town are located either in the centre of town around Pool Street and
Castle Square (Maes), or on Doc Fictoria. A number of shops are also
located within the Town Walls.
The majority of the retail and residential section of Doc Fictoria
(Victoria Dock) was opened in 2008. The retail and residential section
of Doc Fictoria is built directly beside a
Blue Flag beach marina. It
contains numerous homes, bars and bistros, cafés and restaurants, an
award- winning arts centre, a maritime museum and a range of shops and
Pool Street and Castle Square (Maes) contain a number of large,
national retail shops and smaller independent stores. Pool Street is a
pedestrianised street and, as such, serves as the town's main
shopping street. Castle Square, commonly referred to as the 'Maes' by
both Welsh and English speakers, is the market square of the town. A
market is held every Saturday throughout the year and also on Mondays
in the Summer. The square was revamped at a cost of £2.4 million in
2009. However, since its revamp the square has caused controversy due
to traffic and parking difficulties. During the revamp, it was decided
to remove barriers between traffic and pedestrians creating a 'shared
space', to try and force road users to be more considerate of
pedestrians and other vehicles. This is the first use of this kind of
arrangement in Wales, but it has been described by councillor Bob
Anderson as being 'too ambiguous' for road users. Another controversy
caused by the revamp of the Maes was that a historic feature of the
town was taken down, namely a very old oak tree, situated outside the
HSBC bank. When the Maes was re-opened in July 2009 by the local
politician and Heritage Minister of Wales,
Alun Ffred Jones
Alun Ffred Jones AM, he
said, "the use of beautiful local slate is very prominent in the new
There are many old public houses serving the town, including The Four
Anglesey Arms Hotel, The Castle Hotel, The Crown, Morgan
Lloyd, Pen Deitch and The Twthill Vaults. The oldest public house in
Caernarfon is the
Black Boy Inn , which remained in the same family
for over 40 years until sold in 2003 to a local independent family
business. The pub has stood inside Caernarfon's Town Walls since the
16th century, and many people claim to have seen ghosts within the
In and around the Town Walls are numerous restaurants, public houses
and inns, and guest houses and hostels.
Gwynedd Council 's head offices are situated in the town. The local
court serves the town and the rest of north-west Wales, and in 2009
moved to a multimillion-pound court complex on
Llanberis Road. The
Caernarfon UK Parliament constituency was a former electoral area
centred on Caernarfon.
Caernarfon is now part of the Arfon
constituency for both the UK Parliament and the National Assembly for
Wales . The town is twinned with
The population of
Caernarfon Community Parish in 2001 was 9,611.
Caernarfon residents are known colloquially as "Cofis". The word
"Cofi" /ˈkɒvi/ is also used locally in
Caernarfon to describe the
local Welsh dialect , notable for a number of words not in use
Gwynedd has the highest proportion of speakers of the
Welsh language . The greatest concentration of Welsh speakers in
Gwynedd is found in and around Caernarfon. According to the 2001
Census , 86.1% of the population could speak Welsh; the largest
majority of Welsh speakers was found in the 10-14 age group, where
97.7% could speak it fluently. The town is nowadays a rallying-point
for the Welsh nationalist cause.
Caernarfon Castle A north-west view of Caernarvon
Castle. 1749 A view of the town walls, c.1781 Carnarvon
Castle - from Coed Helen. 1854
The present castle building was constructed between 1283 and 1330 by
order of King Edward I. The banded stonework and polygonal towers are
thought to have been in imitation of the
Walls of Constantinople
Walls of Constantinople . The
impressive curtain wall with nine towers and two gatehouses survive
Caernarfon Castle is now under the care of
Cadw and is
open to the public. The castle includes the regimental museum of the
Royal Welch Fusiliers .
CAERNARFON TOWN WALLS
Caernarfon town walls
The medieval town walls, including eight towers and two twin-towered
gateways form a complete circuit of 730 metres around the old town and
were built between 1283 and 1285. The walls are in the care of Cadw
but only a small section is accessible to the public. The town walls
and castle at
Caernarfon were declared part of a World Heritage Site
in 1986. According to
UNESCO , the castle and walls together with
other royal castles in
Gwynedd "are the finest examples of late 13th
century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe".
CHURCH OF ST PEBLIG
Dedicated to Saint Peblig, the son of
Saint Elen and Macsen Wledig
Magnus Maximus ), the church is built on an important early Christian
site, itself built on a Roman
Mithraeum or temple of
Mithras , close
Segontium Roman Fort. A Roman altar was found in one of the
walls during 19th century restoration work. The present church dates
mainly from the 14th century and is a Grade I listed building .
STATUE OF DAVID LLOYD GEORGE
The statue in Castle Square was sculpted by
W. Goscombe John and was
erected in 1921 when Lloyd George was Prime Minister. David Lloyd
George was the
Member of Parliament
Member of Parliament for the area from 1890 to 1945.
THE OLD MARKET HALL
The Old Market Hall in Hole-in-the-Wall Street and Crown Street was
built in 1832, but the interior and roof were rebuilt later in that
century. It is a Grade II listed building.
The old court buildings, replaced in 2009 by a new complex designed
by HOK on the former
Segontium School site in
Llanberis Road, are
situated inside the castle walls, next door to the
Anglesey Arms Hotel
and to the
Gwynedd County Council buildings in Pendeitch . They are
grand buildings, especially the exterior of the former magistrates'
court, which features a gothic architecture style of decoration. The
old buildings adjoin what used to be
Caernarfon gaol , which has been
closed since about the early 20th century and has now been converted
into further council offices.
There is a small hospital in the town, 'Ysbyty Eryri' (i.e. "Snowdon
Hospital"). The nearest large regional hospital is Ysbyty
Gwynedd , in
Caernarfon had been chosen as the location of a new
prison . HMP
Caernarfon would have held up to 800 adult males when
constructed, and would have taken prisoners from all over the North
Wales area. However, in September 2009 the UK Government withdrew
plans to construct the prison.
Caernarfon was at one time an important port, exporting slate from
the Dyffryn Nantlle quarries. This traffic was facilitated from 1828
Nantlle Railway which predated far more widely know ventures
such as the
Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the Ffestiniog
Five passenger stations have served the town:
Caernarvon railway station opened in 1852 as the western terminus of
Bangor and Carnarvon Railway . This connected the town with the
Wales coast and the expanding national network.
Carnarvon Castle railway station opened in 1856 as the northern
passenger terminus of the narrow gauge
Nantlle Railway . This service
ended in 1865 when the line being built from the south by the standard
Carnarvonshire Railway took over most of its trackbed. The
Carnarvonshire Railway's temporary northern terminus was at Pant to
the south of the town. Pant station opened in 1867.
At the same time the Carnarvon and
Llanberis Railway built its line
Llanberis to Caernarfon. Its temporary western terminus was
called Carnarvon (Morfa) . It opened in 1869 near the modern road
bridges over the
Afon Seiont .
For a short period, therefore,
Caernarfon had three terminating
stations on its edges. Records are contradictory, but this ended in
either 1870 or 1871 when they were connected by a line through the
town using the tunnel which survives, having been converted in 1995
for road traffic. When the through route was opened Pant and Morfa
stations closed and the original station became the town's only
London and North Western Railway also took over all the
lines mentioned leaving one station and one service provider by 1871.
The services to
Llanberis and south to
Afon Wen closed progressively
from the 1930s, with tracks being lifted in the mid-1960s, but
Caernarvon station survived until 1970, becoming one of the last
passenger services to be closed under the
Beeching Axe ; it is now the
site of a
The fifth station was opened on the old trackbed in St. Helen's Road.
It is the temporary northern terminus of the narrow gauge Rheilffordd
Welsh Highland Railway . Work began on a permanent station for
the town in February 2017. The new station is expected to be open to
passengers in Spring 2018.
Bus services in the town are provided by Arriva Buses
Wales , GHA
Express Motors and
Padarn Bus .
Caernarfon Airport is 4.5 miles (7.2 km) to the south west, and
offers pleasure flights and an aviation museum.
There are four primary schools in Caernarfon, Ysgol yr Hendre being
the largest. The others are Ysgol y Gelli, Ysgol Santes Helen and
The single secondary school serving
Caernarfon and the surrounding
Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen – currently has between 900 and 1000
pupils from ages 11 to 18.
Ysgol Pendalar, a school for children with special needs, serves all
of Arfon .
Coleg Menai is a further education college for adult learners.
See Category: People from
The Oval (Caernarfon) has a capacity of 3000
people and 250 seated people.
Caernarfon hosted the
National Eisteddfod in 1862, 1894, 1906, 1921,
1935, 1959 and 1979. Unofficial
National Eisteddfod events were also
held there in 1877 and 1880.
Caernarfon also hosted the 30th annual
Celtic Media Festival in March 2009.
Cultural destinations include Galeri and Oriel Pendeitsh.
Galeri is a creative enterprise centre that houses a gallery, a
concert hall, cinema, a number of companies, and a range of other
creative and cultural spaces.
Oriel Pendeitsh is a ground-floor exhibition space adjoining the
Tourist Information Centre opposite
Caernarfon Castle. The gallery has
a varied and changing programme of exhibitions throughout the year.
George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon
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