In 1160 the kingdom of Powys split into two parts. The northern section was called Powys Fadog and may have been ruled from an early wooden castle at Dinas Bran above Llangollen. Powys Fadog recognised the over lordship of Gwynedd, and an increasingly powerful Gwynedd took control of ‘Edeyrnion’ – the area around Corwen.
The general strategy of successive Princes of Gwynedd in this period was to extend their boundaries in west and central Wales without trying to upset the earls of Chester. Gwynedd was periodically invaded by successive English Kings to assert English control over the area between the rivers Dee and Conwy, governed from Rhuddlan Castle. Powys in this period alternated its allegiance between England and Gwynedd, and survived by being astute enough to pick the winning side. From 1200 onwards, stone churches and stone castles started to be built and as Gwynedd became a stronger administrative power it came more under the spotlight of English kings. This ultimately lead to the subjugation of North Wales in the wars of 1276 and 1282 by Edward I. The castles of Mathrafal and Dinas Bran were destroyed by the end of the war. The Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 created the county of Flintshire, with English Maelor as a detached part. The Earldom of Chester included the counties of Cheshire and Flintshire.
Whilst the Statute of Rhuddlan created counties with Norman lordships in central and south Wales, it effectively left north wales as a separate principality, which was not really administered as its constituent counties until 1535/6.