Raglan castle is undoubtedly the finest late medieval fortress-palace in Britain. A lavish proclamation of the success of an entrepreneurial Welsh family, it was begun, probably on the site of a small Norman castle, during the 1430's by Sir William ap Thomas.
This opportunistic veteran of the French wars raised its mighty "Yellow Tower" (yet known also as "Great Tower"), a moated stronghold equipped with up-to-date gunports and a unique hexagonal plan with elaborate double drawbridge arrangements. His still more successful son William Lord Herbert, Yorkist viceroy in Wales during the War of the Roses, added a palatial double courtyard mansion, luxurious within but defended by a formidable gatehouse and many towered walls.
Like his father, he imitated fashionable French building styles and employed expert masons whose trademarks can still be seen on Raglan's finely dressed sandstone walls.
Built regardless of cost and sumptuously embellished with carving, the castle became still more splendid under Herbert's Elizabethian descendants, who added a lordly banqueting hall and other fashionable apartments, hints of this splendor can be seen in the windows, the moulded roof corbels and huge fireplaces. Other notable features of the castle include the Fountain Court, the Pitched Stone Court, a buttery, pantry, Kitchen Tower, Closet Tower, office wing, South Gate, Chapel and State Apartments.
Yet Raglan remained a fortress, enduring a fierce thirteen week siege during the Civil War. The strongly built Yellow Tower shrugged off bombardment by heavy artillery and when the castle surrendered to Parliament, had to be laboriously undermined before two of its six sides fells down 'in a lump'.
The strength and high quality of this splendid monument to medieval family pride is indeed still obvious today.