Ruperra Study

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January 1, 2008 RUPERRA CASTLE Benjamin Hale Page 1
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Transcript of Ruperra Study

January 1, 2008

RUPERRA CASTLE

Benjamin Hale

Page 1

January 1, 2008

RUPERRA CASTLE

Introduction Ruperra Castle was built by Sir Thomas Morgan in 1626, one of the most powerful men in Wales at that time, as steward to the Earl of Pembroke. As Surveyor of the Wood to King James I, he had been knighted in 1623. The revenue from these occupations, together with a favourable marriage, enabled him to complete the building of his house at Ruperra, When King Charles visited Ruperra in 1645 he stayed from 26th -29th July, longer than at Tredegar House or Llancaiach Fawr prominent houses of lower Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire, which seems to cement the fact of its luxury. He was in the area gathering support after his defeat at the Battle of Naseby. Sir Thomas' grandson, was host on this occasion and the royal coat of arms was added to the decoration on the South Porch. The present public footpath from the Rudry approach to the Castle is still known as the 'King's Drive,' (fig.2) English architecture of this period has been called Renaissance, a style which was also beginning to make headway in many of the lower Welsh counties. The term is a confusing one, for the period saw the birth of as style to a considerable extent independent of, an even hostile to, the classical architecture of the Continent; it drew its strength from native Gothic roots. The Elizabethans themselves reveal almost nothing about their own buildings or the men who built them. Apart from drawings made by masons and surveyors only a handful of contemporary illustrations of Elizabethan and later Jacobean houses survive to this day.

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FIG .1

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FIG .2

In 1576 du Cerceau published his Plus excellent bastiments de France, a magnificent series of engravings of the most important buildings of the time, England was to have nothing anywhere near approaching this until Britannia Illustrata, two volumes of country house views by Kip and Knyff, appeared in 1705 and 1715. country-house Written or printed comments and description are nearly as rare, and when they do occur are often very meagre. Topographers of the time would pay more attention to the family trees of the gentry than their houses. Except when letters to or from the actual artificers or surveyors survive, it is very seldom than one rom artificers finds references to buildings in late Elizabethan correspondence; which seems to explain the anonymity of correspondence; the architect who worked on Ruperra, before it was refurbished by Thomas Hardwicke in 1785 after Ruperras first fire left it destroyed. Historical Context: Elizabethan and Jacobean Pageantry and the Sham-Castle To understand the architectural significance of Ruperra it is valuable to look at the significance of the Elizabethan Period of which the castle lends its style. It was a period which, through accomplishments had fuelled the beginning of over 500 years of British political and military dominance over its enemies, and began its conquest of the new world. After the failed invasion and defeat of the Spanish Armada sent by ionBenjamin Hale Page 4

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King Phillip II in 1588 England entered a short era of national pride .The efflorescence of this national pride and consciousness resulted naturally enough in an increasing interest in national history. The great Elizabethan series of history plays starts in the 1580s and gets fully under way in the 1590s. Shakespeares Henry V with all its romance and nationalism was probably written in 1599. In 1595 Thomas Daniel published the first five books of his historical epic, The Civile Wars; in the following year Micheal Drayton published a similar work Mortimeriados, which he revised and issued as The Barons Warres in 1603. This was the most ambitious of a eries of historical poems by Drayton, of which the best known (and the shortest) is perhaps the Ballad of Agincourt, first printed in 1606: Upon Saint Crispins day Fought was this noble fray Which fame did not delay To England to carry; O, when shall the English men With such acts fill a pen, Or England breede againe, Such a King Harry Historical Poetry of this kind is distinct from literature and chivalry, but both helped create a picture of the Middle Ages as a period of heroic deeds, thrilling stories, and national glory rather than the ignorance of superstition. Influences of this kind, combined with the increasing conservatism of a government of ageing revolutionaries, helped to bring a return to, or strengthening of, tradition. In a general architectural context this Court architecture was conterminous with the peak of this type of chivalric Elizabethan Pageantry. The display side of the Elizabethan and Jacobean tournament is only a section of the field of pageantry, to which a very great amount of time and trouble was devoted throughout the period. Before discussing Elizabethan castles of stone, maybe it would be best to discuss Elizabethan castles of cardboard or canvas, for the latter is the larger group, and perhaps helped inspire the former. The castle has been a feature of masques and pageants since medieval times, and it continued through the sixteenth century into the seventeenth century. Mimic castles were (to quote a few many examples) features of pageantry accompanying Henry Vs return to London from Agincourt in 1415; Henry VIIs entry into York in 1486; Charles Vs reception at London in 1522; the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533; Elizabeths coronation procession in 1558; her entry into Warwick in 1572; and the Lord Mayors show of 1612, 1613 and 1635. A favourite feature of pageants was the castle assault usually, for symbolic reasons, garrisoned by ladies. At the wedding masque of Arthur and the Princess of Spain in 1501, for instance, a castle on wheels right cunningly devised was drawn into the hall by fower great beasts with chanes of gold...There were within the same Castle disguised VIII goodlye fresh ladyes, looking out of the windows of the same, and in the foure apparelled like a maiden. The children sang as the pageant moved up the hall, and the castle was later assaulted by VIII goodly knights naming themselves Knights of the Mount of Love who captured the ladies. A castle or fort on an Island in a lake was a feature of the elaborate entertainment which Lord Hertford mounted for the Queen at Elvetham in Hampshire in 1591. The castle twenty foot square every way and evergreen with willows is described as environed with armed men and Spirit of the lake

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appeared on the water to tell Elizabeth that That Fort did Neptune raise for your defence. A display of fireworks from the fort followed; more was planned, however due to rain had to be abandoned. An Elizabethan engraving of the occasion (fig .4) is one of the last to survive depicting these extravagant fests. An account of these sham-castles could go on interminably. To end with one, the Prince of Wales entertainments of 1610 included a great water-fight of ships-of-war and galleys against a great castle builded upon the water, followed by many strange and variable fireworks.

FIG .4

The reasoning for having sham-castles in pageants and tournaments were reasonably obvious. Sham-castles in architecture are more complex. In most buildings of time it is easy enough to find Gothic echoes and roots. But there are a few where the evocations of the Middle Ages, chivalric pageantry, or the world of the romances is so strong as to set them in a class by themselves. These are the Elizabethan and Jacobean castles. They are a somewhat variegated group, because of the differences of their starting-points. In some the intention it seems is to evoke a medieval castle in some cases this was because there was a medieval castle on the site before. At Ruperra it seems an objective effort of not producing a copy, but rather creating devices evolving something novel and clever out of an allusion to the past.

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Lulworth and Ruperra When walking about Lulworth or Ruperra it is hard to describe them in a manner other than that which constitutes them as a pair because of their startling similarities. They either had a common original or one inspired the other. Both are compact square houses, with battlements and round towers at the corners. (fig .5) Both are three storeys high, and have arched window-lights of Tudor-Gothic type, (fig .6 & 7)

FIG .5 THE GROUND-FLOOR PLANS OF LULWORTH (left) AND RUPERRA (right)

Both by Jacobean standards have a low ratio of lazing to wall. The two houses are almost identical in size and have remarkably similar plans, in which the same number of rooms are grouped in the same way round a central core; at Lulworth this core rose above the roof in the form of a little tower, and in both houses the main chimney-flues seem to have been carried up in it. Until recently both where ruins, Lulworth being restored fully in 1998 by English Heritage many years after the building was gutted by fire in 1929. Ruperra suffered the same fate for the second time in 1941 when a British regiment of Searchlights had been stationed in the castle grounds; a large fire broke out caused by faulty electric wiring. Lulworth is the earlier of the two houses. It was built as a very grand hunting-lodge, an appendage to the main family house at Bindon a few miles away. Started in 1588 in 1588 by Thomas Howards elder brother Henry and only approached completion around 1607 after Thomas had inherited the property. Ruperra is said to have been dated 1626 on the porch (fig 8 & 9). After Thomas Morgan (1564-1632) had made his fortunes he entered the ring of extravagant Elizabethan society and when the seventh Earl of

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Shrewsburys daughter (and Sir Charles Cavendishs niece) Mary Talbot married the Earl of Pembroke in married 1604, Thomas Morgan was one of the trustees of the marriage settlement.

FIG .6

FIG .7

FIG .8

FIG .9

There is a possible basis for a Smythson connection here. Robert Smythson (1535 -1614 ) was a prominent English Architect of the time who designed many other notable Elizabethan country homes around the same period. It is the nature of Ruperra that makes on take it seriously. The four round towers are suggestive of the mysterious plan at the commanding silhouette of Wollaton, completed in 1588. The enclosed core containing the main flues and rising above the roofs as a tower seems to relate to the plan in the liabryBenjamin Hale Page 8

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Longleat, and to Bolsover and Shireoaks. The windows are suggestive of Smythsons windows at Wardour. At Lulworth, but not Ruperra, the hall ran along one side of the house, with its main axis at right angles to the axis of the entrance porch. This position is an unsusal one for a hall, but similar to that found in several Smythson drawings, and at Gawthorpe, Shireoaks and Bolsover. It seems however that the difference is however to great for both two have been complete Smythson works and if anything, Smythsons input must have been limited to Plans and Elevations. Castle and Surrounding Area Ruppera is of stone and brick construction, common for country houses of the time and the area of Gwent, the exterior is rendered with a thick roughcast. The mullioned windows have dressed limestone surrounds. Until the refurbishment of the early Victorian period, the main entrance was in the centre of the south side, where the storeyed ashlar dressed stone porch is topped with balustrading and is decorated with a heraldic panel over the door, (fig .9). When looking at the location and reasoning behind choosing building here it is relevant to consider the surrounding countryside and normal practice at the time. In selection Morgan moved forward in the same way as he did at Pencoed Castle by building, it is thought, on the site a medieval castle. The Morgans where passionate about their ancestral past. The Pencoed Morgans especially so, descended from Llewelyn ap Ivor (lord of St. Cleare) and his wife Angharad, daughter of Sir Morgan Meredith (and representative of the Ancient Welsh Lords of Caerleon). Angharad was born in 1300. The name Morgan was originally spelt "Morcant" in Old Welsh and only became "Morgan" in the medieval period. The area suited the longing Morgan had for his sham-castle in the way that few other places could offer. The castle lies in a four mile wide triangle of beautiful, unspoilt, rolling countryside between the rapidly expanding conurbations of Cardiff, Newport and Caerphilly. When in the 1935 sale of the huge 53,000 acre Tredegar estate the 3,000 acre Ruperra Estate mentioned hunting and shooting and boasted its 3 hour train journey time to London. When in 1802 Benjamin Malkin was visiting the park, gathering material for his new book described as how 'singularly beautiful' the effect of the harvest moon shining on the Bristol Channel as he walked across the park. And this is certainly the type of evocative feeling one is overcome with when walking through the park and peering through the windows of this Romantic Ruin. Although today, things are different and the deer have long since disappeared and the M4 motorway can be seen in the distance, however it can almost never be heard and the peaceful atmosphere and picturesque landscape at Ruperra is an aesthetic tonic. The area surroundings the castle is today largely agricultural with the area to the north of the Castle known as Craig Ruperra. Between around 700 BC and 100 AD an Iron Age Hill Fort was constructed along the ridge of Coed Craig Ruperra, and later about 1100 AD a huge heap of earth for a Norman type motte or castle was piled up on the top of the ridge. In the estate plan of 1764 it seems this motte was replaced with a two storey summerhouse on the top of Craig Ruperra, which may have been built at the same time as the castle more than a century earlier as the foundation stones date to the same period as the south porch.

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Developments In the Victorian and Edwardian Periods New lodges, namely Ruperra Park Lodge, East Lodge ( now demolished),West Lodge and Ironbridge Cottage were built The Iron Bridge, situated near lower Machen West built. (now listed), had been built in 1826 to take the new carriage way from the Castle through Coed Craig , Ruperra and across the Rhymney River to Lower Machen Church where the family and their servants attended Sunday services. By the end of the century the buildings at Ruperra were in need of repair. The stable block had been Ruperra destroyed by fire in 1895. After the death of Colonel Frederick Morgan in 1909, his son Courtenay embarked on a programme of refurbishment to include a new east entrance porch, (fig .11) new stables (fig .12) , a new power house fitted with duplicate steam driven generators, dynamos and boilers and a new steam-driven reservoir and pump house in the deer park. The brew house, laundry and dairy range built in the 1840s, were converted to accommodate the valets, foo footmen, chauffeurs and garden staff.

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FIG .11

FIG .12 In spite of the splendid building works, Ruperra at the turn of the last century became very much only the second home of the Morgan family. Courtenay, the Lord Tredegar at the time lived at Tr Tredegar House and his son Evan did not make Ruperra his home as previous sons in waiting had done. With only a small domestic staff installed, Ruperra was used for hunting and shooting and weekend parties. Even so the gardens were maintained to a high order, with Mr Angus McKinnon heading a large staff. Angus wife order, Agnes supervised the domestic arrangements; his family are pictured in fig .13. By 1935 the fortunes of the Morgan family had declined and the 3000 acre estate was put up for sale. But there were no offers. The contents of the Castle were disposed of in a three day sale. What remained was e taken to Tredegar House, the Castle abandoned and the gardens left to go wild.

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FIG .13 Recent Activity As of recent there have been considerable developments in the tale of Ruperra castle. After changing hands erable many times in throughout the last century, Its current owner, Ashraf Barakat, who bought the property in ghout 1998, had proposed to convert the castle - which has been designated both a Grade II L Listed Building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument - into nine residential flats, and fully refurbish a number of other buildings on the site., which include 18 two storey houses. This angered members of the Ruperra Conservation Trust and Ruperra Castle Action Group, who say the character of the castle and its grounds would be lost if new n houses were built. However on December 05, 2007 this planning application was deferred for refusal by Cearphilly country council and the building now seems to have been saved. Prior to which many prominent artic had been any articles written on the plight of the castle as of recent, these include an article by Marcus Binney for country life magazine, in which he goes to describe the plight of Rupperra castle as, desperate and how it seems the , castles estimated 7.5 million refurbishment costs could not be covered exclusively by CADW, he later writes how It is hard to see how this tragic case can be resolved without a determined lead from the Welsh Assembly. The late Dr Giles Worsley wrote an article in Country Life entitled On the Ruins of Ruperra in 1986, when he explained the uniqueness of Ruperra in the histor historical architecture of Wales.

Somehow country houses have been seen to lack a Welshness that would make them culturally respectable. The RCAHM publication of the Greater Houses of Glamorgan in 1981 showed how false that idea was and how incorrect it is to believe that Wales lacked architecturally important houses. The 16th and early 17th centuries are perhaps the most fascinating years in the history of these houses when Welsh tradition and English influences clashed. At Ruperra we see the triumph of court based architectural ideals but the ideals, result is a house still marked by local tradition, a house that can be read as part of the Elizabethan andBenjamin Hale Page 12

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Jacobean revival of chivalry, but that gains added value in a country of castles, where many of the great houses of its day were still semi fortified, little influenced by the Renaissance. Ruperra is a magic place especially when approached from the urban sprawl of the coastal plain. The other great Morgan House, Tredegar House on the outskirts of ewport, was saved when it was on the brink and is now one of the great sites of South Wales. Ruperra, ruined but in unspoilt country, is its natural complement. The people of South Wales deserve to have it saved.

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