Raglan Castle - Architecture


Raglan Castle was built in several phases, initial work occurring in the 1420s and 1430s, a major phase in the 1460s, with various alterations and additions at the end of the 16th century. The castle was built in stone, initially pale sandstone from Redbrook, and later Old Red Sandstone, with Bath Stone used for many of the detailed features. Like similar properties of the period, the castle of the 1460s was almost certainly designed to be approached and entered in a particular way, maximising the aesthetic and political value of the fortification. At Raglan, the design highlighted the Great Tower: a typical senior visitor would ride through Raglan village, and first the tower and then the rest of the castle would appear suddenly over the slight rise on the hill. A visitor would have needed to circle the Great Tower and the moat, before coming in through the gatehouse, into the Pitched Stone Court, around the edge of the communal hall, before reaching the previously hidden, and more refined, inner Fountain Court. Only then would a privileged guest be able to enter the Great Tower itself, overlooking the Herbert family's own chambers. Many less senior visitors or servants would never have entered this far, seeing only the external elements of the castle, but perhaps having been impressed by the outside of the Great Tower as they arrived.

There has been much discussion amongst academics about the extent to which Raglan was influenced by contemporary French designs; one school of thought suggests that it was heavily influenced by designs that were then popular in the south of France; others oppose this "diffusionist" school of thought, and argue that there is insufficient evidence to draw such a conclusion. Another line of debate has been over the nature of the castle's defences, in particular its gunloops. Many castles built around the same time as Raglan appear to have been built with less concern for defences than in the past, their military features more symbolic than real. At Raglan, there are numerous gunloops throughout the castle's defences, but many were ill-placed if the intention was to use them in a conflict; some could barely have been used at all. Traditionally, an evolutionary explanation for this was given: Raglan's gunloops were of an early period, later surpassed in other castles. More recent explanations emphasis the prestigious symbolism of gunloops for the Herbert family when they built the castle, even if many might have been impossible to use. Anthony Emery notes that Raglan's gunloops were better sited than many at the time, and at least "the owner was up to date in his symbolism"; Robert Liddiard suggests that the poor placing of some of the gunloops for aesthetic purposes might have actually been a conversation point for those visitors with experience of fighting in France and the "correct" placing of such defences.

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