© This Month - November

Dr Ann Benson's talk - Glory Days of Raglan Castle - can be heard in the Borough Theatre on November 15th starting at 7.30pm. Non-members may join on the night.

The following article can also be seen in the November edition of the Abergavenny Focus   


Raglan Castle’s glory days


Valiant Welshmen in the service of King Henry V reaped their reward as they became the new aristocrats.  Helen Morgan reports:

A prime example was Sir William ap Thomas, a soldier of fortune from Gwent. He married the widow of Lord Raglan and, after her death, wed Gwladys, Seren y Fenni, widow of an Agincourt hero. Ap Thomas became Lord of Raglan in his own right in 1432 and began building a castle to reflect his growing status. What started as a fortified castle, of which the Great Yellow Tower remains, developed into a Tudor palace. Its galleries and apartments with mullioned windows welcomed bards and royal guests, all of whom would have enjoyed the views across the landscaped gardens.

Documentary and geophysical evidence suggest that gardens immediately outside the castle walls served as formal foregrounds that juxtaposed a more natural landscape which, nevertheless, was designed. A 15th-century Welsh manuscript describes its orchards as being full of apples, pears, plums, cherries, figs, grapes and nuts.

From the windows facing north-west, Charles I and his son Charles, would have seen the Black Mountains in the distance. Before them a gently rolling landscape was part of a deer park near the castle. The view enabled spectators to enjoy deer hunting and hawking from the comfort of the castle, says Dr Ann Benson who reconstructed the landscape using a 1652 map by Laurence Smythe with a modern map.

“However, one’s eye is drawn to the foreground— cascading terraces lead down to the valley floor and an artificial lake created by damming a brook below the castle,” she says. The lake would also have been fed by springs where it starts to curve to the west, and was probably created by Sir William Herbert, first Earl of Pembroke (1423-1469). He is responsible for most of the building, which was designed to symbolise his political and military status as Edward IV’s main supporter in Wales.

The long gallery built between 1549 and 1589 looked out on a rectangular-shaped water parterre at the head of the lake created by Edward, fourth Earl of Worcester. This arrangement of water channels and islands is similar to one created in 1611 at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, belonging to Robert Cecil, his co-collaborator in securing James VI of Scotland as Elizabeth’s successor.










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