A great place to visit
A walled town steeped in history
Historic Denbigh is a friendly market town in the heart of the Vale of Clwyd, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Impressive architecture and ancient buildings feature prominently here with the most famous structure being Denbigh Castle. Built in 1282 it enjoys spectacular panoramic views of the Clwydian Range. With a striking, triple-towered gatehouse, the fortress has an on-site exhibition and is maintained by Cadw, the Welsh historic monuments body, and is a popular attraction.
Walls and Walks
The Town Walls are of particular interest to visitors. The Walls and Walks project has been introduced to bridge the gap between getting from the town centre up to the castle area and around the walls that once held back Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads during the Civil War. Keys to the town walls can be obtained from the town library so that a stroll back in time can be enjoyed. The Burgess Gate, the main entrance to the old town, boasts twin towers, forming the symbol on Denbigh's civic seal. Another building worth a look is Leicester's Church and although never completed, the church was built by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, reputedly Queen Elizabeth First’s lover.
The Townscape Heritage Initiative has helped restore a large number of local properties to their former glory and many of these historic buildings open their doors to the public during the annual heritage weekends. They include an old butter market, a Carmelite monastic house, the old Bull Hotel now renamed the Guildhall Tavern, Bron y Ffynnon (a Tudor townhouse), the churches of St Mary's and St Marcella's, chapels such as Capel Mawr, Pendref Chapel and Swan Lane Chapel.
The town boasts over 200 listed buildings of special architectural or historical interest.
One figures from the past looming large over the town is Dr Evan Pierce, a 19th century medic - a 50-foot statue and renovated memorial gardens in Vale Street are dedicated to his memory. Another is a lifelike statue to the world famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley – another son of Denbigh.
Denbigh’s state-of-the-art library in the town centre was once the Town Hall, later to become the County Hall and dates back to the 16th century. Today it houses a wealth of books and computers and is ther hub of the local community.
Something For Everyone. Whether looking for fantastic history, glorious views, walks or just shopping and eating, Denbigh has something to offer you. There is a wealth of clubs and societies, sports facilities and annual events which offer culture, leisure and entertainment. Denbigh offers schools and a college, a small hospital, and retail therapy of all sorts to tempt you. Our beautiful nearby villages are worth visiting, and the area offers residents and visitors ‘something for all seasons’.
A warm welcome in Welsh and English!
Denbigh prides itself on offering a warm bilingual welcome, being a town full of community spirit. Details of what’s on in the area can be found in the local Press or on Denbigh Town Business Group’s website at www.visitdenbigh.co.uk. The ‘Denbigh Guide Book’ prepared by the town council, the ‘Town Walks’ and ‘Exploring Denbigh’ booklets are all available from the Library.
Denbigh at the Crossroads of the Vale of Clwyd
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.
Denbigh and its Prominent People
Denbigh was the birthplace of many prominent people – a plaque being erected by the Town Council in May 2001 to commemorate many of them. During the Tudor and Stuart periods, Denbigh was the birthplace of several Welshmen of eminence: Humphrey Llwyd who was associated with Ortelius, the Dutch geographer and produced the first printed map of Wales; Richard Clough, who with Thomas Gresham founded the Royal Exchange; Hugh Myddleton who constructed the New River to ensure a water supply for London; his brother Thomas, founder of the Chirk Castle dynasty and who financed the printing of the first portable Welsh Bible, and Hugh Holland the poet and associate of Shakespeare.
The 18th century saw the emergence of several notables; Thomas Edwards (Twm o’r Nant) the author; Thomas Jones the poet and author, Thomas Charles the leading figure in the secession of the Calvinistic Methodists from the Established Church; Edward Jones (Maes y Plwm) the Welsh hymnist and John Parry (Bardd Alaw) composer and instrumentalist.
Others include David Griffith (Clwydfardd) the first Archdruid of the Gorsedd; William Williams (Caledfryn) a poet and leading Eisteddfodic adjudicator of his time; John Williams (Glanmor) the historian; Thomas Gee who, through the medium of Gee’s Press formulated and developed political thought in Wales; Henry Morton Stanley, the great African Explorer who found David Livingstone at Ujiji; David Erwyd Jenkins, author of the three volume treatise on the life of Thomas Charles; Judge Artemus Jones who pioneered the recognition of the Welsh language in Courts of Law; T Gwynn Jones the doyen of Welsh Literati; Kate Roberts the novelist; Gwilym R Jones, Mathonwy Hughes and Dafydd Owen, each of whom gained the highest honours at the National Eisteddfod; Lord Emlyn Hooson who led the defence in the infamous Moors Murders trial and Osian Ellis who from 1959 held the title of Royal Harpist.