Raglan Castle is stunningly imposing but less as a belligerent military fortress than as a nobleman's vast home. It is a fortified palace in the French style with its hexagonal towers. Built by a father-and-son team, it showed off their wealth and position and saw less warfare than a smaller one such as that in Usk. Because of the relatively late dates of construction, the period was comparatively peaceful. Henry Tudor, future King Henry VII, spent some of his childhood here.
Construction - military
Building was begun in the 15th century by Sir William ap Thomas (knighted by Henry VI) and the castle marks a transitional stage between a military fortification and a palatial residence in keeping with the growing riches and power of the family. There was the 6-sided, 5-storey Twr Melyn Gwent (yellow tower of Gwent, probably so called because of the yellow lichen growing on it) with 10 foot thick walls and surrounded by a deep water-filled moat, which could be held if the rest of the site were taken in battle. The high quality carved masonry spoke of the family's affluence. There were circular gun loops in the Kitchen Tower; the battlements and Closet Tower have machicolations from which from which the enemy could be attacked from above.
Construction - domestic and other additions
Sir William's son, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, built the superb gatehouse block and added the residential apartments of the Fountain Court.
William Somerset contrived the showy second-floor long gallery which would have been heated and hung with panelling, portraits and tapestries and was ideal for the sumptuous social activities of the upper classes. The Fountain Court, which once had a fountain at the centre, the base of which can still be seen, contained a range of pleasing apartments, probably for visitors. These had fireplaces and handsome windows as glass was becoming cheaper and larger sheets were available in the 16th century, a fact that William Somerset welcomed to let in light to his probably gloomy home. The family had private accommodation, the high status of which was indicated by superbly carved masonry including heraldic badges round the windows.
Later a moat walk was created with busts of Roman Emperors in niches decorated with shells, as was the fashion of the period, and elaborate gardens were laid out with ponds, orchards and deer. The bowling green is still there to be appreciated.
|Chimneypiece in long gallery, late 16th century|
The walk from the bus stop in Raglan village takes about 15 minutes heading off behind the Beaufort and is quite pleasant apart from crossing the busy dual carriageway of the A449. Raglan is served by 2 buses, the 60 which can take you to Monmouth with its connections to Henry V since it was in the castle there that he was born. and the 83 from Monmouth to Abergavenny where a brutal massacre took place one Christmas in its castle.
Or you could go in the other direction on the number 60 to Usk with its castle and the nearby battle of Pwll Melyn against Owain Glyndwr's forces or further onwards to Caerleon with its Roman remains.
Opening times for Raglan Castle
On the bus, on your way home, you will find your mind reliving all these images.