The master builder of Edward’s castles
Master James of St George was born in Savoy in the French Alps around 1230, and is thought to have arrived in Wales around 1278. He is best known to those in north Wales as the master builder or architect of Edward I‘s castles at Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech, as well as, later, Beaumaris.
Although involved with the completion of the building of Flint Castle, he was not the original architect. In 1285 James of St George was appointed Master of the Royal Works in Wales. He was paid 3 shillings a day for this position, a large sum in those days.
His best known works and designs are the castles of Harlech, Conwy and Caernarfon, which began in 1283, followed by the later building of Beaumaris, which commenced in 1295. All four castles have been World Heritage Sites since 1984.
Beaumaris is often called his most perfect castle in terms of defence because of the concentric walls, and the fact that James of St George was able to build on flat land. In contrast, his designs at Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy were restricted by the underlying rocks on which the castles were built.