It is just possible that Raglan castle may have originated as a motte and bailey when the Normans conquered Gwent in the late eleventh century.  The Bloets held the vill in the twelfth century and then passed it on to the Berkeley's in marriage before 1405.  In 1432 the manor was purchased by Sir William ap Thomas (d.1446), a veteran of Agincourt and the French wars.  He may have started work on the present structure, although it is possible that the lowest courses of the south gate belong to a much earlier date.  Before William's death around 1446, he built the Great Tower, a massive, moated, keep-like structure that could only be approached from within the castle via twin drawbridges in the North French manner, as found at Lassay, Tonquedec, Loches and Tiffauges.  In 1461 his son, William Herbert, became Baron Herbert of Raglan and embarked on a lavish and ambitious building programme to reflect his new status.  He developed suites of accommodation around the Fountain Court, built the Pitched Stone Court, and constructed the gatehouse to both impress and intimidate visitors to the castle.  However, his execution in 1469 left the work unfinished and it was not until the castle passed to the Somerset earls of Worcester, that Raglan underwent its final transformation.  Earl William Somerset remodelled the hall range, built a long gallery and extended the Pitched Stone Court in the latter part of the sixteenth century.  He also created a garden with long walled terraces and a lake.  After his death his son continued to enhance the garden with a water parterre and bedecked the moat walk with statues of Roman emperors.  Unfortunately, the castle experienced deliberate destruction during the Civil War after it had been besieged for ten weeks in 1646 by parliamentarian troops.

Why not join me at other Great British Castles this October?  Please see the information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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