Raglan Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameRaglan Castle
Alternative NamesRagland; Yellow Tower of Gwent; Twyn y Ceirios
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent
CommunityRaglan

Raglan Castle may have originated as a motte-and-bailey castle when the Normans conquered Gwent in the late eleventh century.

Around 1435 Sir William ap Thomas, a veteran of the French wars, started work on the present structure. He built the Great Tower, a massive, moated keep-like structure that could only be approached from within the castle itself. In 1461, after the death of Sir William, his son William Herbert became Baron Herbert of Raglan and embarked on a lavish and ambitious building programme to reflect his new status. He developed suites of accommodation around the Fountain Court, built the Pitched Stone Court, and constructed the gatehouse to both impress and intimidate visitors to the castle. However, by his execution in 1469, the work was unfinished and was not until the castle passed to the Somersets, earls of Worcester, that Raglan underwent its final transformation. William Somerset, the third Earl of Worcester, remodelled the hall range, built a long gallery and extended the Pitched Stone Court. He also created a garden with long walled terraces and a lake. After his death his son continued to enhance the garden with a water parterre and bedecked the moat walk with statues of Roman emperors. Unfortunately, the castle experienced deliberate destruction during the Civil War as the castle was besieged for ten weeks in 1646 by parliamentarian troops. (Coflein ref. Kenyon, 2003)

Magnificently sited 0.25km N of Raglan and reached by private drive from the A 40.

C15 stone castle with C16 extensionsand alterations, of 4 building phases 1435-45, 1460-9, 1549-89, and c1600. Besieged in 1646, its fall marking 'the effective end of the first Civil War'. It is possible that as first fortification was established c1070, and though the Great Tower stands on an earth motte, the date is uncertain

About 1174 Raglan was held by Walter Bloet, of the Norman family possessed of extensive lands in England, and the Bloets held it until the late C14 when Elizabeth Bloet (d 1420) married successively Sir James Berkeley (d 1405) and Sir William ap Thomas (d c1445). Before the C15 there was a manor house on the site, but with the possible exception of the lowest courses on the S gate nothing survives. Sir William ap Thomas fought at Agincourt in 1415, was knighted in 1426, and in 1432 bought the manor from the Berkeley family and built the hexagonal Great Tower, or 'Yellow Tower of Gwent' and the S gate. His son William Herbert amassed a fortune from trade and financed Edward IV in his bid for the throne. After Edward's accession in 1461, already lord of Usk and sheriff of Glamorgan, he became Chief Justice and Chamberlain of South Wales, and was granted Pembroke, the Gower and other lordships. His role in the elimination of Lancastrian power in Wales gained him in 1468 the Earldom of Pembroke, and he also bought the castle and lordship of Chepstow, making the Herbert family by far the most powerful family in Wales. He lavished money on the building programme, continuing his father's work such that the buildings of c1432-69 form the most substantial part of the castle, united by their polygonal towers. The Earl altered the Great Tower, completed the Fountain Court and built the major part of the Pitched Stone Court. William was executed after the Yorkist defeat at Edgecote in 1469, but his son William (d 1491) prospered with the Yorkist return. He exchanged the earldom of Pembroke for that of Huntingdon. His brother Sir Walter Herbert (d 1507) held Raglan from 1491, entertaining Henry VII's Queen there in 1502. His niece Elizabeth inherited. Her husband, Charles Somerset (d 1526), was Lord Chamberlain to Henry VII and Henry VIII, ennobled in 1504 as Lord Herbert and in 1514 became Earl of Worcester. The 2nd Earl, d 1548, acquired the lands and abbey of Tintern and the 3rd Earl (d 1589) was responsible for the final major works to the castle: the remodelling of the hall, with new buttery and the long gallery above, the office wing in the Pitched Stone Court, together with an ambitious programme of formal gardens. The 4th Earl, d 1628, a Catholic, but Master of the Horse to Elizabeth and James I, Lord Great Chamberlain to Charles I, and patron of Edmund Spenser and William Byrd. He completed the interiors and made minor changes to the basic structure. The 5th Earl raised vast sums for the Royalist cause in the Civil War, becoming 1st Marquis of Worcester and Duke of Somerset. His son Lord Herbert became Earl of Glamorgan: Herbert was the noted inventor whose 'Centurie of Inventions' (1663) includes a prefigurationr of the steam engine. After a famous siege Raglan fell to General Fairfax in August 1646 and the whole castle deliberately ruined thereafter. After the Restoration the Somerset family, Dukes of Beaufort from 1682, made their main residence Badminton House in Gloucestershire, leaving Raglan to be plundered for building stone until this was stopped by the fifth Duke after 1756. His youngest son was the noted soldier, created Lord Raglan in 1852, commander of the British forces in the Crimean War. Cefn Tilla was purchased for Lord Raglan as a reward for his services.

C15 stone castle with C16 extensions and alterations, the buildings arranged around two courts, and set behind the Great Tower. Four building phases; 1435-45; 1460-69; 1549-89; late C16/early C17. 1435-45: Great Tower influenced by contemporary French towers. Dressed stone, of 4, originally 5, storeys. Originally hexagonal, now only four sides substantially remain. Winding stone staircase to W, latrine to each floor on E. Entrance through four-centred moulded doorway. Above a window framed by drawbridge sockets, enlarged following the addition of a forebuilding (now demolished). Additional doorway later converted into a fireplace with drawbridge socket used as flue. Doorways in the vestibule to former great chamber. Gun-loops and cross-slits to the basement kitchen containing large fireplace, stone corbels. To the great chamber single-light windows, and cross-slits. To the 2 floor a fireplace with four-centered arch, 2-light windows with seating embrasures and later brick niches. To the 3 floor a mixture of single and double light windows. South Gate; Originally the main entrance to the castle. 3 storeys, 2 centered arched opening set within depressed frame. Two single light windows to the first flor, one of which is blocked. To the passageway some carved corbels retain elements of fan tracery. Winding stone stair. The S and W wall of the Hall are also from this period. The S wall retains the weathered coat-of-arms of the 3rd Earl of Worcester to stone plaque above former dais, beneath former flat-headed window retaining some tracery. The W wall retains some corbels for the former roof of the hall and to its W face some stone steps in the former chapel. 1460-69: Apron wall with corner towers to the Great Tower. Great Gate of 2 half-hexagonal 3-storey towers with basements and machicolations with gargoyles. Dressed sandstone. Latrine to the SW angle. Single-light windows with pointed traceried heads. Circular gunloops to the basements. Portcullis grooves. Some remains of stone vaulting to the side walls of the entrance passage between the two towers of the Great Gate. SW side; doorways from either side of the gate-passage to ante-chambers. To the first floor the principal withdrawing room with C16 cross-wall inserted later with fireplaces. Apartments retain carved shields and badges held within slender stone shafts which enclose the windows to first floor. The Closet Tower: designed to integrate with the half-hexagonal towers of the Great Gate, similarly 3-stages with machicolations and basement. Ground floor room with latrine and fireplace. Doors to stair and basement. To the courtyard later large rectangular gallery windows to the first floor with 2 and 3-light stone mullioned windows above. The Kitchen Tower: hexagonal with 2 large fireplaces. Stone with brick refacing to N-E face. 3 storeys and basement. "-light windows with seating embrasures to the top floor. Stone steps down to vaulted wet larder in basement with two 4-centered windows and various gun loops. Buildings in Fountain Court. Largely destroyed to ground level to courtyard. Two projecting towers to curtain wall with cross-slits, each with latrine. Single light windows to outer wall. Largest tower contains the grand stair to the former living apartments with four-centered moulded doorway. Three fireplaces. E wall of C15 chapel, corbels in the form of human heads with some stone vaulting attached. End windows of the Long Gallery, part of a Renaissance fireplace. 1549-89; The Office wing runs from the Closet Tower to the Kitchen Tower on the site of earlier wing. Largely destroyed except for outer curtain wall with half-hexagonal projecting tower. 3 fireplaces. The Pantry and Buttery: Buttery originally 2-storeys, enlarged to 3 and subsequently lengthened to complement Hall. Steps from Buttery down to basement, access doorway from buttery to Hall. 2 projecting polygonal towers to the curtain wall, one with winding stone stair and single-lights, the other with 2-light windows to N face, single and (later), 2-light to side. Large mullion-and-transom windows to top floor. The Hall: door from Buttery, oriel window to Pitched Court side of hall. 3-stage buttress separates 2 large flat-headed mullion-and-transom windows with trefoil cusps. Porch with four-centred doorway, and 2 3-light flat-headed windows with trefoil cusps to each light. Fireplace. Stone bridge from South gate to former Bowling Green. Late C16 to early C17: The White Gate, two half-hexagonal towers joined by a guardroom. Not built as a defensive structure and largely destroyed except for part of the S wall of one storey with with single light window,sculpture niche and basement with arrow-slits. (Listed Building Report)

The plan of the site suggests it was built on the site of an earlier motte and bailey (Dated c. 1070). (Prior)

Bradney wrote that the earliest mention of Raglan is in C12 when the de Clares erected a castle there, on a tump called Twyn y Ceirios (the cherry tree tump) (1895-97. 76); unfortunately Bradney does not name his source. (Quoted in Phillips, 2005)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic Wales CADW listed database record number
The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO414083
Latitude51.7701110839844
Longitude-2.84992003440857
Eastings341440
Northings208300
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Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
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Copyright Philip Blayney All Rights Reserved
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Books

  • Kenyon, John R., 2015, 'The Yellow Tower of Gwent, Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales' in Richard Orem (ed), Tower Studies, 1 & 2 'A House that Thieves Might Knock at' (Donington: Shaun Tyas) p. 62-77
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
  • Kenyon, John, 2010, The Medieval Castles of Wales (University of Wales Press) p. 134-138
  • Purton, P.F., 2010, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 171
  • Morgan, Gerald, 2008, Castles in Wales: A Handbook (Talybont: Y Lolfa Cyf.) p. 176-9
  • Kenyon, J.R., 2008, 'Masonry Castles and Castle-building' in R. Griffiths, T. Hopkins and R. Howell (eds), The Gwent County History (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) Vol. 2 The Age of the Marcher Lords, c. 1070-1536 p. 89-114
  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 110-164
  • Phillips, Neil, 2006, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (British Archaeological Reports) p. 305-6 (slight)
  • Tribe, A., 2002, Raglan Castle and the Civil War (Raglan: the author)
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses Vol. 2 (Cambridge) p. 197-9, 631-5
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 136-40
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 65
  • Reid, Alan, 1998, Castles of Wales (John Jones Publishing) p. 124-6
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 28-31
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 190-1
  • Kenyon, John R., 1987, ‘The gunloops at Raglan Castle, Gwent’, in Kenyon, John R. and R Avent (eds), Castles in Wales and the Marches: essays in honour of D J Cathcart King (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) p. 161-72
  • Lewis, J.M., 1987, ‘The chapel at Raglan Castle and its paving-tiles’, in Kenyon, John R. and R Avent (eds), Castles in Wales and the Marches: essays in honour of D J Cathcart King (Cardiff: University of Wales Press) p. 143-60
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus)
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 374-6
  • Durant, Horatia, 1966, Raglan Castle (Pontypool: The Griffin Press)
  • Clark, A., 1953, Raglan Castle and the Civil war in Monmouthshire (Newport and Monmouthshire Branch of the Historical Association and Chepstow Society)
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 163-7
  • Bradney, J.A., 1904-33, History of Monmouthshire Vol. 2 p. 1-31
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England (Heinemann) Vol. 2 p. 86-90 online copy
  • Bradley, J.A., 1896, Papers on Monmouth Castle etc (Mon and Caerleon Ant. Ass.)
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 479-83 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 373-6 online copy
  • Heath, C., 1829, Historical and Descriptive Accounts of the Ancient and Present State of Ragland Castle (Monmouth) online copy
  • Coxe, W., 1801, An Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (London) Vol. 1 p. 136-49
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathenial, 1774, Buck’s Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 190
  • Grose, F., 1756, Antiquities of England and Wales Vol. 3 p. 159-63 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Guy, Neil et al, 2008/9, 'Raglan Castle' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 22 p. 52-61 (photo and plan only)
  • Smith, C.E., 2007 (published 2009), 'Excavations at Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 156 p. 123-39
  • Speight, Sarah, 2004, ''Religion in the Bailey: Charters, Chapels and the Clergy' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 271-80
  • Whittle, E., 2003, 'Raglan - a palace with gardens' Heritage in Wales Vol. 25 p. 7-9
  • Coplestone-Crow, B., 2000, 'Strongbow's grant of Raglan to Walter Bluet' Gwent Local History Vol. 89 p. 3-27
  • Kenyon, John R., 1996, 'Raglan Castle: a Reconsideration of an Aspect of the Herbert Period, c. 1460-1469' Monmouthshire Antiquarian Vol. 12 p. 52-3
  • Haslam, R., 1989 'Raglan and after the 17th century Welsh houses of the Beauforts' Country Life Vol. 183.45 p. 96-101
  • Whittle, E., 1989, 'The Renaissance gardens of Raglan Castle' Garden History Vol. 17 p. 83-94
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 216
  • Emery, A., 1976, 'The development of Raglan Castle and keeps in late medieval England' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 132 p. 151-86
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124 (Form suggests origin as motte and bailey)
  • Gardner, I., 1915, 'Raglan Castle' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 70 p. 40-46 (weak)
  • Bradney, J.A., 1896, 'Raglan Castle' Monmouthshire and Caerleon Antiquarian Association
  • Bradney, J.A., 1895-97, 'Raglan Castle' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 20 p. 76-87 online copy
  • Beattie, W., 1855, 'on Raglan Castle' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 10 p. 317-31 online copy

Guide Books

  • Kenyon, John R., 2003 (Revised edn), Raglan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Kenyon, John R., 1988, Raglan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • anon, 1987, Raglan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Durant H., 1980 2edn, Raglan Castle (Starling)
  • Durant H., 1966, Raglan Castle (Pontypool)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1950, Raglan Castle (HMSO)
  • Somerset, 1917, Raglan Castle (Abergavenny)
  • Heath, 1823, History and Descriptive Account of Raglan Castle (Monmouth)

Primary Sources

  • Phillips, J.R., 1874, Memoirs of the Civil War in Wales and the Marches (London) Vol. 1 p. 368-74 online copy

Other

  • Phillips, Neil, 2005, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (PhD Thesis University of Sheffield) Download