Monday, January 21, 2008

Raglan Revisted Again


I like visiting the castles in the UK and I am lucky in that I live close to the old March lands that span the English and Welsh border where many ruined castles still stand. Raglan Castle is somewhere I have visited a few times. Nestled in the Welsh countryside just outside the Brecon Beacons it was once an important stronghold. It started as a Motte and Bailey castle (an earthen mound with a simple wooden and then stone tower on top) as part of the Norman advance into Wales under William I of England who established the Marcher Lordships to hold the land.


Although Raglan Castle started as a small stronghold in the 12th century, it was expanded over the centuries by successive Lords to become a huge fortress from where the Lord would manage and control his land and the people that inhabited it. Now all that is left of this and other once fine structures are cold stone ruins, a shell of the former mighty bustling centres of life they once were. As I walk round these ruins I often wonder about the people that lived there and what their lives were like.


The ruins visible today date from the 15th and 16th century when the castle was in it's glory days and had become a great base of power and splendour as the fortress of the great family of Herbert. Its ruination came at the end of one of the longest sieges of the English Civil War when the castle was slighted by Cromwell's troops to prevent it from being inhabited and used as a stronghold again. I have posted about the castle's history previously here.


I can only imagine what the castle looked like in it's peak, but there are clues in the ruins. In one of the photo's above you can see the remains of a large bay window which looks out across an inner courtyard and would have flooded the hall with light and sunshine. This would have been one of the later additions, and it could afford to be large, being within the inner curtain wall. The windows on the outside of the castle would have been much smaller to protect those within. In the photo above you can see three floors. Of course the wooden floors are long gone, along with the hammer beam ceiling of the great hall, with all it's fine carving. There would have been wood panelling too and as you can see in the photo, the walls were plastered and painted and would have been covered in fine tapestries and paintings.

You can also make out the remains of the doorways and the large fireplaces that were needed to heat the rooms. Living in a stone structure would have been very cold and damp (trust me, we know rain in the UK!) and so keeping the fires burning was an important job.

Walking round the now empty courtyards, it is hard to imagine the hustle and bustle which would have been a feature of everyday castle life as servants went about their business. The castle would also have housed many timber structures, also long gone, including stables. There would have been a smith, armourer, vintner, cooks and other kitchen staff, chamberlain, porters and maids. The castle would also have been home to a garrison of soldiers who would have guarded the castle and also defended the Lord's land. All of them would have played an essential part in castle life. It must have been very noisy with a myriad smells to assault the nostrils.


As I stood in the castle grounds on a cold winters day, there is very little sign that anyone was there at all. Just a few clues to what has been and my imagination.

20 comments:

Dianne said...

These photos are wonderful! and thanks to your imagination I felt that I was there.

I come here via Kenju's place - I think that's where I bookmarked you - I often suffer from link amnesia. Your cat looks very much like my cat - perhaps we're all related :)

kenju said...

That place is fascinating, Bob-kat. I googled it after your last post and I read all of it.

Book and Hook said...

Wonderful photos! How do you get such perfect shots?
Thanks for coming by for a visit.
My imagination was working along the same lines as I read your descriptions. Thanks for the tour.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I LOVE all the pictures, B-K..But I particularly love that third picture, where you are in side looking out at the other part of the building....And making them all bigger is fabulous! The detail that you caught with your camera, is just splendid! And so is the way you describe Castle Life!
Fascinating, as always, my dear!

Kerri said...

Wow! Great shots of the castle! Looks like a wonderful place to let your imagination roam!

moon said...

OH my, to be able to walk though that myself, but your blog post with pics is the next best thing...my husband and I both would love to go there and feel the atmosphere of history ..If walls could talk eh...

JAM said...

A truly amazing set of photos. I love reading about things such as this. I always think about those who actually lived there when visiting old places.

Smiler said...

That was quite a nice tour! You're much better than some of the guides I've seen! I like visiting castles too. None here in Canada (or US). Some of the most well preserved ones I've seen so far were in the Czech republic. But then, I didn't visit all that many European countries. It is fascinating when you start imagining what it would have been like. Neat.

R. Sherman said...

Thanks for the pics. I trust you toured the place wearing one of those pointy hats, medieval ladies wore all the time.

Cheers.

Jodi Cleghorn said...

I've never been to a castle before so both your photos and descriptions have fired my imagination. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have lived somewhere like that.

It's sad to think that they have been left to fall into disrepair. I can't wait to one day be able to do what you did and wander around.

Thanks for sharing - and Michele says thanks too!!

Carmi said...

I love your narrative. I read through your entry and absorbed your photos, then closed my eyes and wondered what it might have been like when this was a functioning mini-society.

I can't thank you enough for continuing to share these. We have nothing at all like that here, so your window on this lost world is the only one we've got.

Michele sent me on this bitterly cold Canadian morning to give thanks.

Nikki-ann said...

I've never been, but I must sometime!

Wonderful photos :)

rashbre said...

The pictures are great and look even better when 'clicked into' There's some intriguing detail like those marks over the door in picture two.

Re your alien in the kitchen question, I'm not sure if I could help. Have you thought about putting them on stalks? And maybe dropping something from the ceiling? email me? :-)

Melody said...

Great photos BK. Again. Some of them are really haunting. I don't think I'd like to be there by myself - as much as crowds can annoy me, sometimes I like don't mind them! *heehee*

Hey - I knew I had seen photos of Raglan Castle before, besides here of course. There is a photo on the cover of THe Rough Guide to Britain, 1996 edition. I *knew* I had spied that castle before!!....

kenju said...

Michele sent me back to see this wonderful castle again, Bob-kat. Out seeing scary movies tonight, are we?

pink dogwood said...

Greetings from Maryland, USA. Just happened upon your blog - your pictures are so tempting.I hope to visit this castle some day. Thanks for sharing.

Shephard said...

I never get tired of seeing your photos from this castle. Just amazing. It's what we all visualize when we think of a castle. :)
~S

Sarch said...

Absolutely amazing.

These may be my favorite group so far of your castle pics. I enjoy the "inner workings" of things and you posted quite a few "inside" shots. Incredible. I would love to visit one of these. If I ever get a chance to cross the pond I'm definitely taking a castle tour!

Thanks for the photos BK.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Just stopping by to say HI, and see how you are doing...! Now, DON'T WORK TOO HARD!! (lol) Seriously, I hope you are getting a bit of R&R.....! And I hope your Sunday is a lovely one!

Sandra said...

I came via Shephard :)

I think I have visited this castle although I may be confusing a trip to Ludlow. Anyway your photos are gorgeous!