The position of this fort, on a low sea-side cliff, and the suggestion of an enclosed quay and the similarity to Roman coastal forts have given rise to its interpretation as a late Roman fort. It possibly dates back to the third century and used as a coastal defence, against Irish raiders. It may have been linked with the late Roman watchtower on Caer Y Twr on Holyhead’s 750 ft Mountain, called Mynydd Y Twr. Caer Gybi is a rectangular fort about 246ft (75m) by 148ft (45m). The curtain wall with dressed stones placed in a herringbone pattern, stands to a height of 13ft (4m) and 5ft (1.5m) thick. The wall us extreemly well preserved. Originally, there were four corner towers but the south-west tower is now masked by more modern buildings. The north-east tower is about 26ft (7.9m) in height, although the top is medieval. The archway in the northern part of the fort is modern. The wall on the inside and to the right is again well preserved. On the east side, overlooking the port you can see the high platform on which the fort was built and you can see where the wall projects slightly just beyond the north-east tower. It is thought that because of this, there may have been a quay to this side of the fort. To the south of the fort, is the wall which has a double archway, which may mark the position of the south gate.Traditionally the fort is the site of a Christian Monastic foundation granted by King Maelgwyn of Gwynedd to St. Cybi. The present Parish Church built between 13th to 16th centuries stands on the site of the church built by St. Cybi within the walls of the fort. It is a good perpendicular building with an enriched porch. The original ediface has been enlarged and renovated from time to time. The chancel is the earliest part of the structure and was originally part of the 13th Century Church cruciform in shape, with battlement parapets. Internally and externally, the Church has much architectural interest. The inside of the porch and the outside of the trascept are ornamented with figures. On the outside of the transcept are dragons and a man leading a bear with a rope. The inscription “Sanctus Kybius ora pro nobis” can be seen under one of the north side battlements. In 1897 a chapel was added to the south side of the existing ancient Church. In it is a monument of Carrara marble. It consists of a life-size recumbent figure with watching angels at the head and feet, which was designed by Hamo Thornycroft. The steps of green serpentine marble were taken from the quarry at Rhoscolyn. The memorial was erected to the memory of the Hon. W. O. Stanley and his wife Ellen. On the south face of the south transept is a sun dial on which is the inscription “Yr hoedl ar hyd ei haros a dderfydd yn nydd ac yn nos” which translates to read “Life though long it stay will end in night and day” Also within the walls of the Roman fort, is the 14th Century Eglwys Y Bedd (Church of the Grave) situated on the south-west side, of which the nave (27ft by 15ft aprox) only now remains. It has been much altered and was converted into a school in the 18th Century. Seigiri Wyddel, leader of the Maurauding Irish who were driven out of the island by the outstanding Welsh chieftain of the Brythons in the battle of Cerrig y Gwyddyl. Tradition claims that in the battle, Caswallon personally slew the “giant” Seigiri, whose body is buried where the Chancel of this little church once stood. Caswallon is also reputed to have strengthened the walls of the fort. The Roman Fort and St. Cybi’s Church can be found in the main street of Holyhead. Follow the sign along the A5 into Holyhead. Turn left into the town centre at the Cenotaph war memorial and follow the one way system. After passing Lloyds bank on the left in Boston Street, take the next turning right. This will take you into St. Cybi’s car park and from where you will see the northern entrance into the fort.
“Fortress of St. Cybi” is a 43-minute video telling the story of the Church of St. Cybi in Holyhead. It shows the wider early history of the area, covering the small coastal fort built by the Romans: the establishment of a Christian settlement of Cybi in 540 A.D.: the development of the existing church, through Viking attacks and devastation during the Welsh uprising at the time of Owain Glyndwr: the later history under occupation by Cromwell’s Roundheads: the development of the present port of Holyhead and the role played by the church in the establishment of education in the town. Finally the video tours the existing church building, showing all the feature that reflect its history, with a brief epilogue by the Rev. John Nice, the current Rector of Holyhead. This is a Community and Heritage project, all proceeds going directly to the Church. The video was produced, directed, and edited by Robert Phillips, research, scripts and illustrations were by Dr. J. K. Roberts, and the narration by Professor David Crystal. Both Bob Phillips and Ken Roberts grew up in the local Holyhead Waterside area, affectionately known as “Bolsach”. A Welsh version is being produced with the co-operation of Menter Môn narrated by Len Roberts previously Head of Holyhead High School, and will be available shortly. It is also possible to provide N.T.S.C. (USA format) copies if required.
The Ucheldre Centre, Maritime Museum, St. Cybi’s Church, Holyhead Library, Trearddur Crafts in Trearddur Bay, and Oriel Mon in Llangefni.
Bob Phillips, Maes Eithin, Lon Sant Ffraid, Trearddur Bay, Anglesey, N. Wales, U.K. LL76 2UD E-mail:[email protected]