Book for new members
We are offering a free copy of Pat Jones-Jenkins' book, Serving under Ruperra, for any new members that join before the end of 2022.
Serving under Ruperra,1900 - 1939: A collection of memories, is an illustrated account taken from recorded testimonies of people who worked on the Ruperra Estate in the 19th and 20th centuries up to 1939. Ruperra provided employment for locals and specialist roles from further afield.
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust membership community is open to everyone. It is an easy and inexpensive way for you to support the work of the Trust and help us save Ruperra Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens by campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit. By becoming a member, you can play your part in trying to ensure a better future for our precious local heritage.
£10 annual membership (£5 concessions, £15 family): find out the benefits of membership and register before the end of 2022 to receive a free book
£6: Just buy the book and learn more about local history
Caerphilly's other significant Castle
Did you know that Caerphilly has another Castle that is steeped in history, and very different from Caerphilly Castle?
Ruperra Castle is a Grade 2* Listed Building and Scheduled Ancient Monument - one of very few "pageant" Castles in the UK ie built for show not defence - a stylish renaissance home built in 1626 by Sir Thomas Morgan and his wife.
The Castle has a colourful history; it has played host to Charles 1 and to the military in WWII, been a family home and hunting lodge, and provided employment for local families over generations. The derelict gardens still retain echoes of the past including the remains of a magnificent MacKenzie and Moncur glass house, one of the largest and finest in Wales.
The Castle was gutted by fire in 1941 and now stands as a romantic ruin and a building at risk of collapse. The unique surrounding Listed Buildings include Stables, Bothy and Generator House, which is home to a rare Greater Horseshoe bat maternity colony. The Castle is located not far from the village of Draethen, and although it is not open to the public there are a number of viewpoints from public footpaths.
Join the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust on 8 November at 17:00 at Coffi Vista, The Twyn, Caerphilly CF83 1JL to hear a talk from one of their Trustees, Dr Elaine Davey, about its history and significance. You can also view a new embroidered artwork of a reborn Castle and gardens by artist Haf Weighton, who involved the local community in creating it. Haf will be attending the event and will say a few words about the artwork which will be on display in Coffi Vista throughout the winter.
The event is free but booking is essential - refreshments can be purchased in Coffi Vista.
Book free tickets for this event
Ruperra site proposals approved
Caerphilly County Borough Council Planning Committee has approved proposals for conversion of outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a residential community.
Caerphilly Planners had recommended all four applications be approved subject to a long list of conditions. Despite concern for the future of protected species living on the site, including bats, the Planning Committee voted to approve them on 28 September. Unless Julie James MS, Planning Minister in Welsh Government, decides to call in the applications decision letters approving the applications will be issued by the Council.
It has been three years since the current owners applied to convert two of the outbuildings and change their use to a private residential development with no proposals for the preservation of Ruperra Castle.
A Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust (RCPT) spokesperson said, “We are disappointed that Caerphilly’s Planning Committee has resolved to approve these plans as they will impact irreparably on the setting of the Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade 2* Listed Castle, and Grade 2 Registered garden and parkland, and do nothing to enhance the biodiversity of the area. A recent Ambio report showed Britain is bottom of the 14 nations for biodiversity, having lost more wildlife than any other G7 country, and been shown to be one of the most nature-depleted countries on the planet. Welsh Government Ministers are now looking at the proposals to decide if the matters raised by them are of national importance and if so, to call in the applications for their own determination.”
Caerphilly Planning Committee will consider proposals for conversion of outbuildings at Ruperra next week
Caerphilly Planners have recommended that controversial planning applications to turn outbuildings next to Ruperra Castle into a residential community be approved at a Planning Committee meeting next Wednesday.
It has been three years since the current owners applied to convert outbuildings and change their use to a private residential development with no proposals for the preservation of Ruperra Castle.
Ruperra Castle is a grade of the Grade 2* Listed Castle and Registered gardens and parkland, currently a ruin at risk of collapse, which has played a big part in the history of South East Wales.
Planners have recommended all four applications be approved subject to a long list of detailed conditions requiring prior approval. The decision will be taken by Caerphilly Councillors at a Planning Committee meeting on 28 September at 17:00.
Read the reports and watch the meeting live
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust want to ensure a better future for Ruperra Castle, and the precious listed surrounding buildings and gardens, and are campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit. The Trust believes a structural survey and repair schedule for the Castle and a holistic estate masterplan are needed before any decisions are taken on separate parts of the site.
They object to the current applications submitted in 2019 as:
A Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust spokesperson said “Thank you to the 85 organisations and individuals who objected. We know the community will be disappointed in these recommendations as the proposals would not generate the scale of resources needed to preserve the Castle and do not enhance the biodiversity of the area. The applications are premature in the absence of a comprehensive plan for the whole site. This proposed development conflicts with overarching Caerphilly Local Development Plan policies, comprising inappropriate development within open countryside and in a Special Landscape Area. With up to 36 people living in these apartments it would result in urbanisation of an otherwise rural setting. However, we are full of hope that the Planning Committee will make the right decision and refuse these plans on 28 September, giving the opportunity for a different future for this unique site and our heritage.”
The Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust was saddened to hear of the passing of Mark Girouard on the 16 August 2022. Mark was the acclaimed architectural historian and author of many famous books including the best-selling “Life in the English Country House”. When Ruperra Castle was threatened by unsympathetic development in 2008 (thankfully refused on appeal with his help, and that of other experts) he wrote of its importance:
“Ruperra Castle is not only one of the comparatively few outstanding Elizabethan and Jacobean country houses in Wales; it belongs to the very small and precious group of buildings expressing in architectural form the
cult of chivalry which is one of the most remarkable features of the period.
The cult first reached impressive expression in 1580, when Sir Philip Sidney, the 'parfait knight' of the Elizabethan age, staged a mock siege of the Queen, ensconced for the occasion in a pageant 'Castle of Perfect Beauty' at Whitehall. For the next fifty years or so a lavish series of tilts, pageants, fireworks displays, and masques staged by monarch or courtiers used the language of chivalry to symbolize and encourage devotion to the Crown, or celebrate dynastic marriages. Mimic castles frequently featured in these, along with tilting knights in armour. The cult spilled over into portraits of Elizabethan and Jacobean noblemen dressed for tilting, and appeared in literature, most notably in Philip Sidney’s best-selling romance The Arcadia, and Spenser's Faerie Queene, an allegorical celebration of Elizabeth and the knights who served her.
Pageant castles had a history going back well into the Middle Ages. Neither then, nor in the Elizabethan or Jacobean periods, was any attempt made to make them resemble real castles. They were there to symbolize an attitude or frame of mind, and were meant to evoke the legendary days of King Arthur and his Round Table as much as, or more than, contemporary warriors and fortifications. Of their nature they were ephemeral, put up for a particular occasion and often taken down again without any kind of visual record being made. But the attitude of mind behind them spilled over into a group of more permanent buildings, above all actual country houses dressed up as 'castles' of the same symbolic nature as the pageant structures, and not built with any idea of being defensible.
The surviving group is a very small one, and all the more valuable for that:
They may all relate to the great tilt which was held at Wilton in Wiltshire in 1604, to celebrate the marriage of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke (the nephew of Philip Sidney) to Alathea Talbot (the niece of Sir Charles
Cavendish of Bolsover). Thomas Morgan of Ruperra made his fortune as steward to the Earls of Pembroke, was a trustee of the marriage settlement, must have been present at the tournament and may well have participated in it, and was to be knighted at Wilton by James I when he came there on progress in 1623.
Ruperra relates especially closely to Lulworth, in its configuration of four round comer towers, and In Its distinctive windows, with tall, thin arched lights. It is possible that the notable Arnold family, mason architects living at Charlton Musgrove in Somerset, may have worked there. William Arnold was the trusted employee of Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, and his brother Godfrey was the chief mason at Lulworth; the way in which the central lights of the Ruperra windows are carried up above buildings in Dorset connected with the Arnolds, and their distinctive detail is found on its porch and surviving arches. In contrast to the Gothic echoes of towers and windows, the porch is of exquisite classical design; such a mixture of classical and Gothic is typical of the cult of chivalry, which drew its inspiration from heroes of classical, as well as medieval and mythical, times.
The importance of Lulworth Castle, gutted and ruinous after a fire, was recognised when English Heritage acquired and restored it. If Ruperra Castle were to be allowed to decay beyond hope of restoration it would be a tragic loss to the architectural heritage of Wales.”
Sign a petition to the Welsh Parliament asking for conservation management for scheduled monuments at risk, like Ruperra Castle.
Read Mark Girouard’s obituary
Ruperra Castle has played a big part in the history of South East Wales but is currently a ruin at risk of collapse. Join the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust at Ruperra Home Farm to find out more about its interesting past:
• Guided walk to take in views of the Castle*
• Free copies of our walking map
• Archery with the Marcher Stuarts re-enactments
• Build a Lego castle
• Purchase historical books about the Castle, Ruperra perry and pear jam.
Please select the number of tickets you need to include the number of people attending with you. Both walks will start and finish at Ruperra Home Farm:
• Short walk at 12:00 and 15:00 – this walk will last around 50 minutes along fairly flat but uneven ground and will take in views of the Castle.
• Long walk at 11:00 and 14:00 – this walk will take one hour and 20 minutes and will take in views of the Castle, as well as walking to the top of the Iron Age hillfort and motte on Coed Craig Ruperra to absorb the breath-taking views over the Bristol channel. Walkers should be fit enough to walk an ascent of 100m.
Help Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust save Ruperra Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens by campaigning to secure them to use for community benefit, and to ensure a better future for our precious local heritage.
*Please note that you can’t visit the Castle as it is privately owned and a dangerous ruin. The walks will take in views of the Castle.
Mae Castell Rhiwperra wedi chwarae rhan fawr yn hanes De Ddwyrain Cymru, ond ar hyn o bryd mae'n adfail sydd mewn perygl o gwympo. Ymunwch ag Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Castell Rhiwperra yn Fferm Gartref Rhiwperra i ddarganfod mwy am ei orffennol diddorol:
• Teithiau cerdded i fwynhau golygfeydd o'r Castell *
• Copïau am ddim o'n map cerdded
• Saethyddiaeth gyda'r Marcher Stuarts yn ail-greu
• Adeiladwch gastell Lego
• Prynwch lyfrau hanesyddol am y Castell, Perai Rhiw'r Perrai a jam gellyg.
Dewiswch nifer y tocynnau sydd eu hangen arnoch i gynnwys nifer y bobl sy'n dod gyda chi. Bydd y ddwy daith yn cychwyn ac yn gorffen yn Ruperra Home Farm:
• Taith gerdded fer am 12:00 a 15:00 – bydd y daith hon yn para tua 50 munud ar hyd tir gweddol lefel ond anwastad a bydd yn cynnwys golygfeydd o’r Castell.
• Taith hir am 11:00 a 14:00 - bydd y daith hon yn cymryd awr ac 20 munud ac yn cynnwys golygfeydd o'r Castell, yn ogystal â cherdded i ben bryngaer a mwnt Oes yr Haearn ar Goed Craig Rhiw'r Perrai i fwynhau’r golygfeydd syfrdanol dros sianel Bryste. Dylai cerddwyr fod yn ddigon ffit i gerdded esgyniad o 100m.
Helpwch Ymddiriedolaeth Cadwraeth Castell Rhiwperra i achub Castell Rhiwperra a’r adeiladau a’r gerddi cyfagos trwy ymgyrchu i’w diogelu er mwyn eu defnyddio er budd y gymuned, ac i sicrhau gwell dyfodol ar gyfer ein treftadaeth leol werthfawr.
* Noder os gwelwch yn dda nad ydych yn gallu ymweld â’r Castell gan ei fod yn eiddo preifat ac yn adfail peryglus. Bydd y teithiau cerdded yn cynnwys golygfeydd o'r Castell.
Become a Trustee
We are keen to recruit additional Trustees to ensure effective direction and governance of our activities in line with the Trust’s charitable purposes and to help save Ruperra Castle and surrounding buildings and gardens and ensure a better future for our precious local heritage.
This is an opportunity to share your skills and experience to save important Welsh history and work with a team of experienced, committed and passionate Trustees. Find out more about our current Trustees
Ideally you should be based in South Wales and be able to offer up to 6 hours a month, including attending Trust meetings held on Zoom or in Caerphilly/Cardiff and other related meetings and events. This is a voluntary position and we are looking for Trustees that can bring lots of enthusiasm. Relevant interest and experience in the following areas would be of particular benefit:
Please send an expression of interest with a brief outline of relevant experience to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 7 November 2022. We are happy to have a chat to answer any questions you may have in advance.
Find out more about the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust
Next year - 2023 - will be the 400th anniversary of the knighting of Thomas Morgan of Machen by King James I.
Many Welsh gentry had been rewarded for their support of Henry Tudor when he became king in 1485. Amongst these were the powerful Herbert family, Earls of Pembroke. Thomas Morgan of Machen was a relative of theirs and later became Steward at their home at Wilton House. Although he was kept busy conducting important administrative tasks for the Herbert family in many parts of England, Thomas House he would have absorbed the atmosphere of the European Renaissance at Wilton.
Gathered at Wilton House were brilliant men and women of the age; astronomers, explorers, architects, playwrights, artists, and poets, including some sensitive people who were inclined to look back, as we all do, at the years of their youth, and sometimes to historical ancient or mediaeval times. During Thomas Morgan’s time at Wilton visitors included King James I and his Danish wife Anna and, no doubt, authors like Philip and Mary Sidney, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson, as well as Inigo Jones.
The father of Inigo Jones was a poverty stricken, unemployed Welsh cloth worker, who made his way from the beautiful mountains of Meirionydd to London to seek greater opportunities for himself and his family. Having been apprenticed as a carpenter, Inigo’s genius was recognised by the Herbert family, who probably financed his travels to Europe to learn about new Renaissance architecture. Inigo became the first British person to be called an ‘architect’ and was appointed Surveyor of Works to Henry, Prince of Wales in 1611.
Inigo and Ben Jonson would often write the scripts for the popular ‘Jacobean masques’ or ‘pageants’ that visitors to Wilton House loved to watch and sometimes take part in. In 1623 a special masque written by Ben and Inigo was held at Wilton House after King James I had knighted Thomas Morgan of Machen. There would probably also have been a banquet, a joust and dancing. Later the same masque was performed at the Royal Court.
It was Inigo who made the moveable scenery, which was painted on canvas sailcloth. Some of the scenery looked like mediaeval fancy castles. Unfortunately for us, it was often thrown away after the event, but Inigo’s ideas for the scenery made him famous. Although some rich people built imitation mediaeval ‘pageant’ castles, which were very fashionable at the time, today there are only four such buildings left in the whole of Britain, including Ruperra Castle.
Many Welsh gentry built other kinds of houses in England at this time, but Sir Thomas chose to build his in Wales. His wife Mary (who was related to the Lewis’ family of Y Fan, Caerphilly) had inherited her family’s medieval house and land at Ruperra. Sir Thomas decided to build a new home on the site, to a design in keeping with his newly acquired status as a Knight of the Realm. Ruperra Castle was completed in 1626 and there are many theories about its designer but in any case, the new castle embodied Inigo Jones’ modern ideas. As the times were more settled, Ruperra did not need to be defended from attack and the brick-built chimney blocks, the towers and the large windows of the beautiful friendly castle now reflected the soothing green countryside, gardens, and woodlands around.
A few weeks after Sir Thomas died in 1645, King James I and Anna’s son, King Charles I stayed at Ruperra Castle, known as the ‘only building fit for a king’ in South Wales. He came to South Wales while drumming up support from Royalists towards the end of the Civil War.
Our vision is to protect Ruperra Castle and the environmental surroundings of this historic site from inappropriate development. We urge everyone with an interest in securing the future of Ruperra Castle to work together so we have something to celebrate by the time of the 400th anniversary in 2026. Read our vision
Machen Show 2022
Thank you to everyone that came to see us at Machen Show on Saturday 2 July. It was wonderful to meet new people and hear about their support for Ruperra Castle.
We registered new members of the Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust. Find out more about membership which provides you with monthly updates about the work of the Trust and opportunities to get more involved with our campaign to save the Castle.
We also sold our historical books about the Castle.
The children were so creative in imagining a future for the Castle. Congratulations to Harley (aged 9) and Maxwell (aged 6) for their winning Lego entries (pictured).
Ruperra Castle for sale in 1935
The Morgan family put Ruperra Castle up for sale in 1935.
We love these photos from the time which show the Castle and grounds in all their glory. Five years later, with no buyer, the Castle was requisitioned for the training of soldiers.
Watch our film, Briars where once was greatness, which tells the story of the Castle from the mid-19th century until it was no longer lived in and up for sale, only being used for parties from 1909.