Raglan castle is situated just a little to the north of the village of Raglan in the Welsh county of Monmouthshire. It is unlike the Marcher castles such as those of White Castle, and the castles at Abergavenny, Skenfrith and Grosmont in that it was built to show the upward-mobility of its owners and not for defence.
There was a manor house on the site in the 14th century, but when William ap Thomas acquired it after a judicious marriage, in the early 15th century he began building Raglan Castle. William fought with King Henry V in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and was knighted by Henry VI. After that he was known as the Blue Knight of Gwent (an earlier name for Monmouthshire). He began work on the Great Tower at the castle in 1435, but died ten years later and the construction of the castle was completed by his son, William, who adopted the surname Herbert.
William Herbert is generally accredited with the building of Raglan Castle, or certainly, of building the Tudor castle. He was knighted by Edward VI in 1461 after fighting on the Yorkist side in the Wars of the Roses. He was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 and beheaded. The castle then changed hands several times as families in the Tudor period fell in and out of favour with the monarchs.
At one point, Henry Tudor, later to become King Henry VII spent his boyhood years at the castle under the protection of his uncle Jasper.
The Great Tower, Great Hall and the Long Gallery are superb examples of Tudor architecture, with the oriel window in the Great Hall illuminating the high table which would have been set on a dais at the end of the gallery. There were mullioned windows, and the fireplaces were made from Bath stone. The intricately carved wooden panel now on display at the castle’s visitor’s centre would have been in the long gallery. The whole castle was designed to be a display of wealth. Power and influence and would have been sumptuous by the standards if its day.
There was a large library in what is now termed The Attic and the walls of the apartment rooms would have been hung with paintings and rich tapestries.
Unfortunately the castle was one of the last to be besieged in the Civil War as its owners, along with the wealthy classes in that part of Wales, were Royalist supporters. It was besieged for thirteen weeks before falling to the Roundhead army under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. It was later systematically destroyed by parliament.
It is an amazing castle to visit and you can distinguish between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ castle by looking at the colour of the sandstone used in it. The earlier parts of the castle were built with pale, almost yellow sandstone from Redbrook, three miles away on the banks of the River Wye. The Tudor period building utilized local Old Red Sandstone and Bath Stone for the fireplaces and other features.
The Great Tower was called the “Yellow Tower of Gwent” on account of the type of stone used.
You can walk around the castle of sit on benches in the green parkland. Take care not to fall into the moat, however!
You will need a few hours to view the castle and see the exhibitions in the visitor’s centre, and may not be able to do much other sight-seeing the day you visit Raglan Castle.
- Skenfrith Castle, Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, South Wales (lynnee8.wordpress.com)
- Grosmont Castle, one of the Three Castles in the Welsh Marches (lynnee8.wordpress.com)
- White Castle and Abergavenny South Wales UK (lynnee8.wordpress.com)