Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Raglan Castle - The Great Tower (Part 2)

When I visited Raglan Castle in April, I took so many photo's that I thought I might share some more with you, this time more focused on the Great Keep. The view of it in the photo above was taken while I walked around the castle from a grassy embankment. You can get some idea of the scale of this structure as there is a person to the left of the keep who is dwarfed by it somewhat.

As I explained in my last post, the castle was begun by Sir William ap Thomas, a veteran of the French wars, who grew wealthy through exploiting his position as a local agent of the Duke of York in south-east Wales. He began building the Great Tower in 1435 but he was never to see it completed, as ap Thomas died in 1445. The building work was continued by his son, William, who took the surname Herbert, and it subsequently became known as the Yellow Tower of Gwent. You may not be able to tell in these photos but the tower is constructed from sandstone that has a yellow tinge, hence the name. The keep is an unusual hexagonal plan which is clearly shown in the footprint of the floor as shown in the photo above. It is also surrounded by a water-filled moat as seen in the next photo.

The tower has it's own apron wall with small towers, the tops of which have been destroyed. I was intrigued however, to find a doorway in one of these towers leading down to the water (last and next photos). This was patently used to gain access to the moat, and could have been used for a number of reasons, the most mundane of which would be maintenance.

This massive tower was designed as a place of last resort in the first half of the 15th century and its gradual additions made it virtually impregnable. Much more of the original tower would be visible today were it not for the "slighting" by the parliamentarian forces after the siege of Raglan Castle in 1646. When Raglan was surrendered near the end of the Civil War, a decision was made to demolish the Tower completely. Men were set to work with pickaxes in an attempt to destroy it from the top. This failed, however and two sides were undermined until these partially collapsed. The impressive remains still stand - testimony to the great building skills of the day. The photo below really illustrates how thick the tower walls are, and shows where gap where the undermined walls once stood.

Interestingly, the castle started as a late medieval social statement, and ended as one of the strongest Royalist castles of the Civil War. It was not built specifically as a defence as the other great castles of Wales had been. Instead, it was designed mainly as a statement of wealth and influence. Within the Great Tower, there was a single large room to each floor, and the entire structure echoed the power and influence of its builder.


The floors and internal structure of the castle are now gone of course, but the main staircase still remains and visitors can climb the spiral to the top of the keep and are rewarded with a magnificent view of the rest of the castle and the Welsh countryside. The photo above shows the towers of the main gatehouse while the next photo shows the Fountain Court.

I had a really great time exploring the castle. As I was there in the morning there were very few other people around and the air seemed heavy with the passing of time and history. I would have loved to have seen it in it's full spendour - the walls would have been plastered, there would have been oak floors, ceilings and panelling, glazed windows, opulent furnishings (the castle even had it's own library which was destroyed in the seige - the loss of the books is recorded as a great historic loss), curtains, paintings and wall hangings. Today, you get a hint of it's past from the ruins. Raglan is one of my favourite castles and I really do recommend seeing it for yourself if you ever get the chance.



21 comments:

Ps said...

Reamrkably well maintained for a structure so old--Its still standing.
Imagine living there, in those times..So magical.Historical destinations always fascinate me.It is like a fairy tale that really happened.
A good write up and lovely photos, as usual.

kenju said...

I really enjoy your small histories and all the photos, Bob-kat. Thanks!

R. Sherman said...

Enjoyed the history.

I was thinking about the door to the moat. How deep is the water at that point? If it's shallow, the door is an unnecessary access point to the castle interior. If it's deep, it could have been used to retrieve deceased floating Cromwell-oids.

Cheers.

Sarch said...

I can't seem to stop going back to look at these photos. Especially the one from the top of the keep looking over the main gatehouse with the well tended countryside in the background.

Incredible. The countryside makes me think of the book "All Creatures Great and Small".

Thank you Bobkat.

Katherine said...

I can't believe there is still water in the moat. Maybe someone has kept it filled? I always wondered that about moats around castles...I mean, do you just dig deep enough and hit water? If not and you manually fill it up, does it just dry up?? Yes, I'm weird.

mar said...

What a great post, again! It is truly fascinating to read about this castle and to enjoy the pics you took :)
How lucky the tourists got out of the way for you to take such gorgeous pics!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What does the word "KEEP" mean, BK? As in The Great Keep....I love all these pictures, but I can't see the person in that picture, it is too dark on my computer...I am fascinated by the scale....It is amazing the building skills "back in the day"....I mean...AMAZING!
It is certainly a fascinating place with so much history! Thanks for all these wondereful pictures and the History, too!

Shephard said...

I esp. love the dentile design, and the arched doors and windows!
Fun. Def. a place to put on my list.
~S

Marty: said...

The Keep is actually the main building of a castle. The rest of the buildings and structures are to fortify and maintain the keep.

I love old ruins and imagining them in their prime. These pictures are great. I lived in York, England for a year while my husband got a Master's Degree in Historic Preservation, and we explored places like this. Thanks for the memories and insights.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Good Morning, my dear...It is justabout 2:19 or 2:20am here in Los Angeles...I haven't been to bed yet, but will no doubt be going fairly soon...! Michele sent me to visit you and it is always a pleasure to say "HI" to you and Bob...

kenju said...

Michele sent me back, Bob-kat, so I could see your great photos again! I love imagining about life in that castle.

Mr. Althouse said...

A very cool place to spend some time shooting. I really must go there some day. BTW: I'm getting a new camera on Monday... A Canon EOS 30D! I can hardly wait...

Michele sent me,

Mike

diyadear said...

wow gal, ur photography collection is a treasure!!!its so difficult reading ur posts cos my eyes keep staring at the magnificient pictures!!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh my dear Bob-Kat.,..I'm so sorry your "resident" Hedgehog is not with you any more. I LOVE Hedgehogs! I'm not sure why except that there is something about them that I find terribly appealing...they seem very endearing. I have three inanimate ones around my house...!

barbie2be said...

those are great photos. i love old ruins.

michele sent me.

srp said...

This is absolutely stunning. It would have been amazing to see it at the height of glory.

I think Virginia ordered in some special English weather for the Queen's visit. It is all over the news here... the crowd in Williamsburg was unbelievable. Just think, the Queen is staying less than a mile from my daughter's dorm. Nyssa said that quite a few of the students stood in line for the tickets to line the streets at Colonial Williamsburg... unfortunately, she had dorm duty.

archshrk said...

Hello, Michele sent me.

These are great photos and I really appreciate the commentary and explanations. I suddenly have a desire to go travel. Thanks for sharing.

utenzi said...

These pictures are even more intense than the last set, BK. I so want to go there!

David said...

i was just thinking how THAT IS A LOT OF STONE!
i love stone work, but this might wear me out!

Dara said...

Living in a country that celebrated its bicentennial in 1976, I loved visiting England and seeing history in the form of architecture that reached back hundreds and hundreds of years. You really captured what I felt when I was there. Michele says hi.

colleen said...

Wow! I've vistited some castles in Ireland, but nothing with a mote! This one is very impressive!