Tag Archives Conwy


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Master James of St George d’Esperance, Savoy –

civil engineer and architect,

a Lutyens, a Vauban, a Speer –

was ‘master of the Kinges werkes in Wales’.

He built the castles at Rhuddlan, Conwy,

Harlech, Caernavon and Beaumaris –

all accessible from river or sea,

the last four with bastides (walled, fortified towns) –

for Edward I, England’s ninth Norman king,

in the latter’s campaign to rob the Welsh.


Beaumaris – the final touches unfinished

through lack of funds, and the subjugation

of the Welsh – has two concentric walls,

twenty four towers, and the remains

of a sea water moat and a dock,

all stone work patterned and meticulous.

The inner courtyard is the size of a grand

public square, somewhere for the King to survey,

from a window of the Great Hall – a goblet

of wine from Gascony at his lips,

an English harpist playing at his back –

Maître Jacques command masons and carpenters.


We do not know precisely where he was born

or died or when, or much else about him

apart from mentions by various

clerks of work in lists of expenditures –

and that his wife’s name was Ambrosia.

Where they both Savoyards? Did they ever

return? When they saw snow on the mauve mountains

over the Straits from Beaumaris did they think

of the many days’ journey south across

the Celtic Seas to the Bay of Biscay,

along the Garonne to Bordeaux, then by horse

skirting the lakes and crossing the rivers

of Occitania, the Alps of Savoy

in the friendly distance?





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