Raglan…A castle and its gardens, Joanna Tyhurst, 1995

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Horatia Durant History Competition - 1995 Raglan Castle and its gardens

By - Joanna Tyhurst

Raglan Castle is one of the best castles in Wales as it has a very interesting history. It all started when a man called William Thomas decided to build a fort but the castle has never been used in that way. When William died a man called William Herbert inherited the castle and built on more to the castle including building a new entrance to the castle. You can see where the castle was built on by looking at the bricks which vary from smooth, to yellow and smaller stones. The stones were originally from Redbrook.

There is also a mystery to it. The castle had the best library in Wales and many other countries. As printing had not yet been invented books were handwritten by monks so they were very expensive and rare. But nobody has ever found any remains from the library or its books. Many people may think the castle was a place where only battles were fought and wars went on there but his castle was more like a palace. It has beautiful surroundings and had many more centuries ago. For instance at the back of the castle where there is now just a field there was once a very large lake! This lake had many fish in it which were used for food. This lake was dammed near the back of the castle and the reason it is not here today is because after Raglan surrendered to the Roundheads, local people were encouraged to let the water out and take all the fish. They also took stones from the castle to build homes for themselves so the castle could not be built up again.

Where you now see cows grazing there was once a field full of deer in which people probably hunted. Very recently remains of the castle's gardens have been found. These were very important for the castle's settlers as they provided most of the food.

This must have been a very grand house with its views and gardens but sadly in 1646 the Roundheads invaded the cstle and we surrendered so the Roundheads took most of its beauties including some beautiful wooden carvings which are now in Badminton House and a fireplace. This was where th Somerset's fled to after the siege of Raglan castle -- never to return to wales again.

Then an act was passed saying that no-one could inhabit the castle. So the castle was left to rot for many hundreds of years. Then in 1908 repairs were made as the castle was in danger of collapsing. Now "CADW" ,maintain and look after it.

Looking at the castle now you an easily imagine what it would have looked like many centuries ago as the castle is very well standing. In fact I think that if the castle hadn't been invaded all of it would be here today. The castle had very strong soldiers as it was the last to hold out against the Roundheads and they had very god fighting skills and tactics. These included escape routs into the Beaufort Arms. In which if there was a battle going on and Raglan wasn't doing very well and if they knew they would lose they would go down the escape route and they would end up in the Inn. Also round the castle there is a very steep slope obviously there to slow any intruders and to create difficulty to carry weapons up there.

Dates of ownership 1066: Norman Conquest 1067: William Fitzosbern 12, 13, 14 Raglan held by Bloet family 1445: Raglan inherited by William Herbert 1262: Became Lord Herbert 1292: Elizabeth Herbert m. Charles Somerset (Later Earl of Worcester) 1548 - 89: William Somerset (Third Earl)

Then, of course, in 1642 the first civil war began. Then in 1645 on the third of July, King Charles the first visited raglan Castle to stay and possibly ecourage the familys and soldiers in the Civil War. Then, on the third of June 1646 the siege of raglan Castle began. Then on the nineteenth of August, 1646 - raglan castle surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax.



Raglan lies on the old Welsh border district of Gwent. After the Norman Conquest of England, when the invaders were starting to come into Wales, the area was in the hand of William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, the main builder of Chepstow castle. Thought we cannot be certain if a castle of "motte and bailey" type was established at Raglan, it is worth noting that the site stands guard close to where the old Chepstow to Abergavenny road crossed the Gloucester Road and Monmouth that leads on to Usk and Caerleon. the nearest known motte and bailey castle lies three miles to the north of Raglan at Penrhos Farm which is very near to where I used to live.

However it is possible that the detached main tower at Raglan, the yellow tower of Gwent may be on the site of a large flat-topped mound or motte, with a curving line of surrounding buildings occupying the site of the bailey courtyard.

In about the year 1174, the lord of Chepstow, Earl Richard deClark (Strongbow), granted Raglan to Walter Bloet. By this time Raglan was in the hands of the Lordship of Usk, and it was held by the military tenure with Bloet having to provide his overlord with only one knight. The male line of this family continued to hold Raglanuntil the late fourteenth century when, on thee death of Sir John Bloet, it passed to his only daughter, Elizabeth. The documents survived, and provide us with some evidence for the older residence, the home of the Bloets, before the fifteenth-century castle was built.

A record of 1354 mentions that it was the custom, when the lord of the manor was in residence, for the reeve (an estate official) to eat his meals in the lord's hall with other officials of the household. Further details are found in an account roll of 1375,which lists various minor repairs that were made after storm damage, to the hall, the lord's solar and the latrine.

William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, and the Later Herbert

When William ap Thomas died, in London in 1445, his body was brought to wales to be buried in the Benedictine priory church at Abergaenny. Gwladus, y seren o Efenni (the star of Abergavenny), as she was hailed by the poet Lewys Glyn Cothi, died in 1454. This poet tells us - with no exaggeration that there were more than 3,000 mourners attending her funeral. then Sir William was succeeded by his eldest son, another Willliam who took the Surname Herbert. He was destined to play a large role in the affairs of state during the opening years of the reign of Edward IV and in the 1460's he came to hold a position of great power in Wales as the bet supporter of the House of York in those years of civil strife known as the Wars of the Roses. He also served in France just as his father had done and was captured in 1450 at the battle of Formigny. Presumably his release was dependent on the payment of a ransom.

The Castle's Gardens

recently parts of the castle's gardens have been found. These were very important for the castle's soldiers and families as they provided most of the food. So they were very well cared for and being a gardener was a very important job.

the shape of these gardens were very square and straight as not many other shapes were used. these gardens had very few plants; they used alot of native flowers and history tells us they were extremely keen on fruit trees and there were probably pear, apple and plum trees here - possibly more. Parts of the gadens are found in the castle. For instance in the fountain court there was a fountain called the White Horse inwhich water came out of the horse's nose and it never stopped, 24 hours a day the water would come out. The water actually came from Tregaer. there were more fountains and sculptures around the castle which were put in the castle by the third Eearl in the reign of Elizabeth the first. By the end of the sixteenth century, raglan had one of the most magnificant gardens in Britain.

the fourth Earl of Worcester added even more features to the cstle. Firstly, a walk was made between the moat and the bowling green with certain niches of decorative shell work and statues of Roman Emperors - traces of the shell work can still be seen today. Secondly, a formal water garden was made at the top of the lake. This was a very advance feature for its time and hardly any were made n Britain. It was a rectangular shape laid out in diamond shaped, small islands with narrow water channels between them. It can be seen clearly in the meadow below the Kitchen Tower, as mounds and boggy channels

King Charles the first was one of the last people to enjoy these beauties in their heyday. He played bowls on the green in 1645. Sadly not enough remains were recovered to show us how they contributed to renaissance life a Raglan.

The castle and its gardens were in turn surrounded by extensive parkland, known as Homepark. Further onwards towards Llantilio Crossenny, lay the Red Deer Park, thickly planted with oaks and several large beeches, and richly stocked with deer.

near the lake there was a summer house with a balcony, this as you would imagine had a great prospect and all the land that you could see from the summer house belonged to the owner of the castle

My reflections of the gardens

I think the gardens would have been lovely to walk around in and I'm sure they were very beautiful to look at. I can imagine there being lots of pathways between the patches of flowers and you have to remember these patches were not your average garden lawn as there were no lawnmowers. the grass was cut but it was cut differently as it was done with a scythe.

I thnk the castle had the best gardens for a long way and there were many like it for instance King Henry the 8th and Elizabeth the first had gardens like this but no remains of them can be found. Sadly alot of these beautiful pastimes were lost when Raglan surendered to the Roundheads and Raglan was stripped of these beauties never to see them again.

At the castle there were many influences from different countries on how it looked; there is a French influence on how the castle was built and an Italian influence on the gardens. On the moat walk there were statues of Roman Emperors probably because one of the families who lived there went to Rome. The mystery is that there are no remains of these statues - many people say they are in the wall at the moat we're not sure,

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