Gwent - Wales
Some time in the late 1060’s this area was in the hands of William the Conqueror’s councillor and friend, William fitzOsbern. As to whether he built a motte and bailey castle on this site, it is impossible to say but interestingly the stone towered keep was built on a mound. This mound is of natural marl,
the sides of which are encompassed by the footings of the tower.
Sir William ap Thomas, in 1432, bought the manor of Raglan and began building a stone castle. It is thought the first stage was the construction of the ‘Great Tower’ (keep) together with the ‘South Gate’. The buildings which soon followed, establish the basic shape we see today.
William’s son called himself William Herbert. He fought in the ‘Hundred Years War’ and made a fortune from the Gascon wine trade which he used to remodel and extend the castle building but with a French influence. In 1469 William Herbert chose the wrong side in the ‘War of the Roses’,
and was executed for supporting the Yorkist cause.
Sir Charles Somerset inherited the property in 1492, when he married William Herbert’s daughter Elizabeth. He roofed some of the castle buildings with lead taken from Tintern Abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir Charles died soon afterwards.
The Somerset family continued to improve the castle over the years and on the outbreak of ‘Civil War’ in 1642, Henry Herbert and his son Edward, Lord Herbert, began making even more improvements to the castle’s defences costing £40,000 which included a garrison of 300 men and the
installation of heavy and medium cannons.
In June 1645, after the Battle of Naseby, and again in 1646, King Charles I, not un-nerved by the turn of events, played bowls on the castle’s green. About this time,
Henry Herbert was promoted to Marquis of Worcester.
On the expectation of a siege by Parliamentary troops, the garrison was enlarged to about 800 men at arms. By June, Parliamentary troops had arrived under the command of Colonel Morgan and Sir Trevor Williams. Several calls were made for the castle’s surrender but the Marquis and his royalist troops refused to parley. In early August, additional Parliamentary troops arrived, lead by General Fairfax, and still the castle held out. Trenches were dug in order to move mortars closer to the castle interior. One of these weapons is thought to have been, ‘Big Meg’. After a heavy bombardment, the Marquis, seeing that their
situation was hopeless, surrendered on the 19th August 1646
The castle was slighted by Parliamentary sappers and put beyond military use.
It is now in the care of Cadw and is open to the public.
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