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Virtual Tour of Raglan Castle

The Great Tower

All photographs Copyright 2006 by Jeffrey L. Thomas


The moated Great Tower, William ap Thomas's masterpiece, was capable of independent defence, built to withstand gunpowder, and was modelled on similar contemporary French towers. In Wales it was a rare innovation. It was originally 5 storeys high, topped with machicolated battlements. The top storey is gone, but even without it the tower is still an impressive height. It was reached by a fixed wooden bridge which rested on stone piers, and two drawbridges of the French bascule type. Their counterbalance beams fitted into the vertical grooves on the face of the tower when the bridges were raised. This arrangement was soon replaced by William Herbert with a two-decker sumptuous arched bridge which crossed to a building, now gone, in front of the tower.

At basement level, there are unusual combined gunports and cross arrowslits in the middle of each side (shown left), with a well in the embrasure of one of them. The tower had a single room and a garderobe on each floor. On the first floor was the great chamber, lit by small single-light windows, while above were bedrooms with larger windows. The top of the tower is only for those with a good head for heights. The lack of the top storey is due to slighting by Parliamentarians after the siege of 1646. Following the siege, during which the tower 'repulsed bullets of 18 and 20 lb weight, hardly receiving the least impression by 60 shots a day', the top floor was systematically demolished. Because of the time that was taken in the 'tedious battering at the top thereof with pickaxes', the tower was undermined, resulting in a partial collapse of its walls. The vulnerable battlements had already been destroyed by the Parliamentarian artillery. No wonder its grandeur is somewhat diminished today!

Around the base of the tower, William Herbert added a decorative low hexagonal apron wall with six small corner turrets, one of which had a garderobe and another of which has a postern door to the moat.






Below: combination arrowloop - gunloop found at the base of Raglan's Great Tower.


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Copyright 2009 by Jeffrey L. Thomas