Raglan Castle is a significant late medieval castle located just north of the village of at Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south east Wales. Its origins lie in the 12th century but the ruins visible today date from the 15th century and later. It is likely that the early castle followed the motte-and-bailey design of most castles of this period and location and some traces of this early history can still be seen. The peak of the power and splendour of the castle was attained in the 15th century and 16th century, as the Marches fortress of the great family of Herbert. Its ruination came at the end of one of the longest sieges of the English Civil War.
The present castle was begun in 1435 for Sir William ap Thomas, who married the Raglan heiress Elizabeth Bloet in 1406. Upon his death his son, William Herbert, continued the work. Debate continues as to which was responsible for building the Great Tower, the most prominent feature of the present site. In the latter 16th century, the castle was re-fashioned into a grandiose and luxurious mansion by the Somersets, Earls, and later Marquesses, of Worcester, who inherited the manor of Raglan through marriage.
The English Civil War brought about the castle's ruin. The first Marquess of Worcester was a staunch supporter of Charles the First, whom he entertained at the castle on two occasions. In 1646, the King's fortunes were on the wane and the major towns and castles of England and Wales were in Parliamentarian hands. "Raglan and Pendennis, like winter fruit, hung long on." The fall of the City of Oxford released Parliamentarian forces to supplement the siege of the castle and, after many months, the Marquess was compelled to surrender to General Fairfax on 19 August 1646. A systematic slighting of the castle commenced and the Great Tower was largely destroyed by mining.
Throughout the 18th century and 19th century, the castle was a picturesque ruin, and a convenient source of building materials for the local population. In the 20th century, the Dukes of Beaufort, the Marquesses of Worcester having been elevated yet again, placed the castle in the care of the state. It is presently administered by Cadw.
The main part of the castle is very roughly rectangular, with the hall range in the centre, and courtyards to either side, each of them surrounded by towers and sets of apartments. The Great Tower, or the 'Yellow Tower of Gwent', built as the enclave for the castellan's family, stands in a moat, separate from the rest of the building, to which it was connected by a drawbridge.
Entry to the castle is through the White Gate (16th century), of which little remains. Originally, this was preceded by the Red Gate, now totally destroyed. Crossing a bridge, through the monumental Gatehouse, one enters the Pitched Stone Court, the earliest range now extant, built, circa 1460, in the time of Sir William Herbert. The Service Range, to the right and ending in the Kitchen Tower, is now almost completely ruined and only the foundations indicate the extent of the original court. To the left is the surviving wall of the Great Hall, with a superb oriel window. Above ran the Chapel and the Long Gallery, fireplaces of which can still be seen. Through the Hall, one enters the Fountain Court, so named for the fountain statue of a white horse, of which only the plinth remains. All around, relicts of sumptuous apartments built in the Elizabethan reconstruction. The castle commands extensive views over the surrounding countryside.