Reconstructing Holt Castle
Visitors have often found it hard to imagine a castle at Holt. You walk down a path from the village, bungalows overlook the site and the remains in front of you just don’t seem big enough to belong to a castle.
The challenge for the artist was to recreate the castle in a series of illustrations that would help visitors see that there once had been an impressive castle on the banks of the river Dee.
The first task was to gather together as much evidence as possible to help historical reconstruction artist, Phil Kenning. Fortunately, despite the ruins being slight, there are plenty of written and visual sources:
- the 1562 and 1620 plans and illustrations of Holt Castle (held at the British Library)
- the 1495 inventory of Holt Castle ordered by Henry VII (the original manuscript is in the National Archives)
- a plan of the castle, c. 1616-18, rediscovered in the Duchy of Cornwall papers in the National Library of Wales by members of the Holt Local History Society
- Tidderley’s Survey, c. 1540-47 and modern surveys of the site
- and the results of three community archaeology digs undertaken in 2012,2013 and 2014.
We also consulted many secondary sources including:
- The Town of Holt, A.N.Palmer, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1906-10
- The Medieval Borough of Holt and other articles by Derrick Pratt in the Transactions of the Denbighshire Historical Society
- An Archaeological Evaluation of Castle Street, Holt, by Earthworks Archaeological Services, 1993
- Mapping the Medieval Townscape: A Digital Atlas of the New Towns of Edward I by Dr Keith Lilley
- A Re-evaluation of Holt Castle by Rick Turner, Steve Grenter and Paul Hinchliffe, Castle Studies Group, 2014
- And an earlier reconstruction drawing from the 1990s.
Coincidentally while Wrexham Museum was working on a series of reconstruction drawings of Holt Castle, c. 1315, soon after its completion, the Castle Studies Group was working on a more ambitious project. Their goal was to recreate the exterior of the castle and its internal layout, c. 1495.
Staff from the museum met the artist on site in September 2014 and then work could begin…