The present-day Raglan Castle was built on the site of an earlier Norman motte-and-bailey castle. The original castle was probably built by William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, and it stood here until sometime in the early 1400s.
Sir William ap Thomas started construction of the current castle in the early 1430s. He had spent a considerable time fighting in France, including service at the Battle of Agincourt, and his buildings show a good deal of French influence.
His first building became known as the Yellow Tower of Gwent. It was an unusual hexagonal-plan tower made from locally-quarried pale yellow sandstone.
The Yellow Tower originally had four floors. The ground floor had kitchens and the first held the main hall. The top two floors held private rooms and bedchambers.
The tower was a strong fortress in its own right with its own moat and apron wall. Originally it was only accessible via drawbridge which was later replaced with a much grander stone bridge.
William ap Thomas built most of the inner courtyard (today called the Fountain Court) and the first great hall on the site before his death in 1445.
His son William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, continued his work by completing the inner courtyard and building the outer courtyard and several other towers.
The next building phase was completed by William Somerset, 1st Earl of Worcester. He rebuilt most of the Pitched Stone Court, including the hall and added the Long Gallery. He also redeveloped the gardens in a Renaissance style.
By the time of Henry Somerset, the 5th Earl of Worcester, in the 1630s Raglan had been developed into a luxurious Tudor castle. The interiors were hung with rich tapestries and the Great Tower had a large amount of silver and gilt plate under guard.
The Pitched Stone Court was for the castle’s servants and service areas. The north side of the court has the castle’s kitchens, pantries and a buttery, while the east side had offices.
The Fountain Court was for the family and distinguished visitors. It had fine, elegant stonework and the accommodation was finished and furnished to a much higher standard.
During the Civil War Raglan Castle still belonged to Henry Somerset, who by this time had been created 1st Marquess of Worcester. He had converted to Catholicism as a young man and was a staunch Catholic and fierce supporter of King Charles I during the war. Indeed Charles I stayed at Raglan for several weeks during 1645.
Raglan was the last Royalist outpost in South Wales. In 1646 the Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax besieged and bombarded it for several weeks. Raglan surrendered on the 19th of August 1646.
The Parliamentarians looted the castle and slighted its defences. The Yellow Tower was undermined and two of its sides were brought down.
In the early 18th Century the badly damaged Raglan Castle became, like so many others before it, a quarry for stone to repair other buildings on the estate. In 1756 the 5th Duke stopped its gradual erosion and transformed it into a tourist attraction. In the 1820s the Somersets used the castle for a “Grand Entertainment” and the Great Hall was temporarily re-roofed.
In 1938 Henry Somerset, 10th Duke of Beaufort, gave Raglan to the Commissioner of Works and it became a permanent tourist attraction. Today the Commissioner of Works’ successor Cadw runs and maintains the property. It is both a Scheduled Monument and Grade 1 listed building.
Raglan is still an impressive ruin and Cadw has opened it to the public. Facilities available at Raglan Castle include refreshments, toilets, gift shop and Bluetooth audio guides to enhance your tour of the castle.
Status: Ruin / Monument / Tourist Attraction
Tel: 01291 690228
Opening Times: March to June Daily 9.30am to 6pm, July and August Daily 9.30am to 6pm, September and October Daily 9.30am to 5pm, November to February Daily 10am to 4pm Mon-Sat and 11am to 4pm Sun
Raglan Castle Entrance and Gatehouse
The remains of the Great Tower