Friday, April 27, 2007

Raglan Castle (Part 1)

I am lucky to live in a part of the UK where I have access to many beautiful places. If I zip over the Severn bridge then I am soon in South Wales where there are many castles that were built by the Normans, and later the English to hold the lands called the Marches which border England and Wales. Without a shadow of a doubt though the most magnificent castle built in this region, is Raglan Castle. The weather has been unusually dry and sunny for the past few weeks in the UK so I recently packed a picnic and the lesser half (men have better halves, so it follows that women must have lesser halves) and I headed west.

Raglan is a village in Monmouthshire and the castle is situated nearby. As you leave the car park and head towards the castle you are greated by the view of the castle in the first photo which shows the magnificent main entance and gatehouse. The photo below is a closer shot of the hexagonal gatehouse towers and the detailed stonework at their tops.


The first castle at Raglan was a Norman motte and bailey which survived until the early 15th century when it came into the hands of Sir William ap Thomas, a Welsh knight who had fought at Agincourt (1415). About 1435 he began building the Great Tower, an unusual hexagonal keep, surrounded by its own moat which I will post more about next time.

Sir William's son, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, carried on the work and added a great gatehouse and lavish accommodation. Successive generations added to the castle and the last major period of building was carried out by William Somerset, Earl of Worcester (1548-89), who was responsible for improvements to the Great Hall.

Built regardless of cost and sumptuously embellished with carving, the castle became still more splendid under Herbert's Elizabethian descendants, who added a lordly banqueting hall and other fashionable apartments befitting of royalty. Indeed, Raglan Castle was the boyhood home of Henry Tudor, later to become King Henry VII. Hints of this splendor can be seen in the windows, the moulded roof corbels and huge fireplaces which are still evident and an example of this is shown in the photo above. Other notable features of the castle include the Fountain Court, the Pitched Stone Court (photo below), a buttery, pantry, Kitchen Tower, Closet Tower, office wing, South Gate, Chapel and State Apartments.

During the Civil War the castle was held for the king, and in June 1646 came under attack from the Parliamentary forces led by Sir Thomas Fairfax. After suffering heavy bombardment for thirteen weeks, in one of the longest sieges of the war, the castle finally surrendered. The castle was slighted by the victorious Parliamentarians, and after considerable effort they managed to topple two sides of the Great Tower through undermining it. Further damage was caused when the Duke of Beaufort ransacked the castle for fittings for his new home at Badminton, leaving Raglan a derelict ruin with it's sheer size, intricate and lavish design, and the odd remaining embellishment, such as that in the photo below, giving us clues to it's splendid and rich past.

Raglan is a wonderful castle to visit as nearly all of it is open to the public, with just a few parts, such as ruined staircases leading to long since gone upper floors being inaccessible. You can also walk around the outside of the castle to the South Gate and it is from here that you really get a good idea of how formidable a structure it was, with earthen embankments and an outer wall, leading up to the castle itself. The west and south side of the castle is shown in the photo below. Trust me that grassy slope is quite steep!

This last photo was taken from the south side where we stopped for our picnic on a flat lawned area called the Bowling Green. However, in times of attack this would have been used as an artillery park. With the elevated poition of the castle this would have been extremely effective. However, today the mighty guns are gone and all was still, quiet and warm as we ate our lunch. In the photo you can see the moat which completely surrounds the great tower with the arched bridge that was used to access it. I will write more about the great tower in my next post.

28 comments:

craziequeen said...

Hey babygirl!! Great shots of Raglan - hope you are as sympathetic with your camera with ickle ol' me.....

Gorgeous shot of your little buddy in the post before - he is such a handsome little man.....

Flying visit before baking my bread....

Michele said to say hi, while I'm here....

cq

Jennifer said...

I am SO envious...the castles are something I have always wanted to see! Perhaps some day I'll get to live that dream and see them in real life! But for now, you are making them come alive for me...thanks!!

MissMeliss said...

How very cool - I can why you'd want to explore it and stop for a picnic.

Great photos.

craziequeen said...

Apparently we are 'doing' Carmarthen this year too.... :-)

Michele sent me to see you from Weston....

cq

Mr. Althouse said...

Simply amazing! How were they able to do all that without the all the equipment we have today? It boggles my mind. What it must have been like in those days?

Mike

mar said...

Oh, how wonderful!!! I have seen a few castles but the English ones have so much more to them, somehow!
Never been to England...

diyadear said...

wow castles again!! u sure r lucky bob-kat.. n the last pic is simply amazing!!

Becky68 said...

How beautiful, You're always fueling my travel fantasies, I expect I'll make it someday, after all, my grandmother went to the UK for the first (& only) time in her 70's!
Here from Micheles.

kenju said...

Whenever you and others post photos of old castles and other buildings in Europe, I am amazed tht they had the ability to build like that so many centuries ago, lacking modern tools! It is a beautiful place and I hope I get to see it someday.

Michele sent me this time.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a fantastic Casrle this is and must have been back 'in the day'. I am always amazed at the designs of these Castles and how intricate they were and are...One wonders how many people it took to buold these magnificent places and what length of time it took...And what a feat of engineering!!
Thanks so much Bob-Kat, for bringing us such fascinating and historic pictures. The one thing it is difficult to tell about this is 'the scale' I wish I could have seen a picture of you all having your picnic with the Castle in the background to get an idea of How BIG it actually is...

LOVE your New Cat's eyes, my dear, though I miss that darling kitty face...(lol)

rashbre said...

Great photos of Raglan Castle. I have not visited it, but it looks like a great one to remember for when I am in South Wales!

rashbre

Nikki-ann said...

I've never been (we don't go down South Wales very often), but it looks like such a wonderful castle. I'll have to take a drive down there one weekend.

Nikki-ann said...

P.S. - Can you get onto Michele's website? I'm just getting a domain registration page.

PI said...

Great photos as usual. What's happened to Michele? When I click on her site I just get google ads
Oh I see Nikki-ann is having the same problem.

R. Sherman said...

Cool stuff. So cool, in fact, I've decided I need a castle. Nothing like a moat and 30 foot thick walls to keep the savages at bay.

Cheers.

Carmi said...

This is WAY better than the castle in Shrek!

Seriously, thank you for taking th stuff of lore and making it real. You have a rich narrative voice, you know. Thanks so much for taking the care and time to build this entry. Stunning only begins to describe it.

Ps said...

Like i remarked before, these really look like straight out of an Enid Blyton famous five book. How wonderful to be able to visit.I hope to--someday.
Will be sharing these with my children.

JAM said...

What an incredible place to explore with a camera! Love your shots, and thanks for the info, that's way better than pics alone.

Katherine said...

Wow, how fascinating! I can't even believe people actually lived there. Great pics.

Ramona said...

When I see these photos I can't help but imagine what life must have been like back then, it is SO intriguing! And amazing that despite the destruction centuries ago, so much of it is still standing.
One day, I have got to come to your part of the world and see all these beautiful castles myself!

utenzi said...

That is magnificent, BK. The only castle I've ever photographed is in Greece and it pales in comparison to Raglan.

I tend to not think of Danes as much of builders but perhaps it was the French influene that made the change. Or maybe I'm maligning my forebears. LOL

I really hope I eventually make it across the Pond so I can see castles like Raglan in person.

Sarch said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I try to picture how such a structure was built back then. Facinating.

Shephard said...

Wow... wonderful castle. Great photos.
It's so hard to wrap my brain around what castle life was like, let alone imagining little Henry scampering around the castle grounds.
I don't think he scampered much after that.

~S

srp said...

I adore the picture of the moat inside the walls.. what a great place for a picnic! Everyone has these idealized visions of what castles were and are and they were so much more about protection than opulence. Great post!

Gattina said...

Very interesting ! You made me "home"sick ! When I visited my son in London, I visited a lot of castles outside the city and then the castles at the South East coast. There are also many and very interesting. But so far I have never been more "up" in the UK. Wales must be beautiful !

IndyPindy said...

Oooh, gorgeous pictures! Here via Michele's.

Zeus said...

After looking at both the first and second parts of this post, I'm just astounded. I agree with some of the others in wondering how they managed to do that without the equipment we have today. The castle is amazing!

Kristi Mantoni said...

We don't have castles over here. I've always wanted to see one in person. Your pictures are always wonderful!