Raglan, with its great multi-angular towers, handsome majesty and Tudor-styling, is unlike any other castle in Wales.
Everything’s great about this place, from its great tower, which evokes memories of earlier fortresses like Caernarfon, to the great gatehouse, which ‘wows’ the visitor just as its owner intended. If, as they say, an Englishman’s home is his castle, then William Herbert’s Raglan is the Welshman’s equivalent.
Built for show rather than with battle in mind, it still held off Oliver Cromwell’s forces for thirteen weeks in one of the last sieges of the Civil War. The castle was eventually taken and was systematically destroyed by parliament. Enough remains to still impress.
Raglan was begun in the 1430s, rather late in the day for castle building. Unfashionably late by some 150 years! Despite this, mod cons such as massive mullioned windows brought the design bang up-to-date, bathing rooms in luxurious light. The oriel window, a bay to end all bay windows, is one of Raglan’s defining features.
It lit up the high table at the dais end of the hall. Raglan also boasted a long gallery, the very height of fashionable living in the Tudor period.
Intricately carved wooden panels were de rigueur and Raglan’s very own lost (and found!) Tudor panel is on show in our visitor centre.
The Buttery which is located behind the Great Hall has reopened to the public. Come and see where an episode of BBC's Merlin was filmed.
The main stone used in construction of the castle is sandstone, but of two different types. The 15th century castle is characterized by pale, almost yellowish sandstone from Redbrook on the Wye river, three miles away. The other sandstone is local Old Red Sandstone, red, brown or purplish in color, used in the Tudor work. A paler stone was also used in the fireplaces. From a distance, Raglan seemed to have a reddish cast, although on approaching the gatehouse, the castle's yellow sandstone becomes obvious.
The castle is probably most closely associated with William ap Thomas, who fought with King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. In 1426, ap Thomas was knighted by Henry VI, becoming known to his compatriots as "the blue knight of Gwent." Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was the next owner of the castle, and it is Herbert who is responsible for Raglan's distinctive Tudor-styling. The castle was also the boyhood home of Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. As a boy he bided his time at Raglan, while his uncle Jasper agitated a Lancastrian return to the throne in the person of young Henry.
Both William ap Thomas and William Herbert fought in France, and undoubtedly, the castles that they saw in that country influenced their work at Raglan. The elaborately decorated polygonal keep, as well as the double-drawbridge arrangement of the keep, unique in Britain, demonstrate French influence.
The Great Tower, known as "The Yellow Tower of Gwent," is the most striking feature at Raglan. It was begun by Sir William ap Thomas and was designed very much in contemporary French style. Unfortunately, the tower was largely destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War. The tower and moat are outside the main body of the castle.
The Great Gate leading to the Pitched Stone Court lies next to The Great Tower. It was raised by Sir William Herbert, and served as the main entrance to the castle after 1460, however, we chose to continue surveying The Great Tower from the outside, via the park surrounding the moat, finally entering the castle from the South Gate.