The Ruperra Estate lies near the eastern boundary of Caerphilly in Glamorgan, marked by the Rhymney River which separates it from Newport in Monmouthshire and about two miles north of the M4 Motorway, between Newport and Cardiff. The castle is sheltered from the north by Coed Craig Ruperra.
Henry Skirne, traveller and writer remarked in the 1790s that “the commanding position of Ruperra gives it an air of consequence above all the other seats in this country.”
Ruperra Castle, built in 1626, is an outstanding example of the nostalgia for the mediaeval chivalric past felt by the learned and well travelled classes in the 17th century. However, one of these, the Welshman Inigo Jones, England’s first great architect, was not the designer of Ruperra Castle. His contribution was to design the wooden scenery for the mediaeval pageants and tournaments celebrated at Wilton House.
Given to the Welsh Earls of Pembroke as a reward for supporting Henry VII, Wilton House provided lucrative positions for other Welsh people like Thomas Morgan of Machen, near Caerphilly, who built Ruperra Castle. As steward and controller of the household for the 3rd Earl of Pembroke, Thomas was knighted by James I at Wilton House in 1623. He returned to Machen in 1626 and built Ruperra Castle in a Mediaeval pageant style.
At the entrance, the south porch, said to have been built of Bath stone, presents sculpted Coats of Arms; those of the Stuarts, the House of Pembroke and Sir Thomas’ own, acknowledging his descent from the kings of Deheubarth. The Ruperra Estate became the family home of various branches of the Morgan family until the early 1930s.
In 1645 Charles I stayed at Ruperra for four nights during the English Civil War – the only building ‘fit for a king’ in South Wales. In 1654 Constantin Huygens the Dutch Ambassador had come for a meeting with Lord Protector Cromwell in London. The Dutch born widow* of Sir Lewis Morgan of Ruperra arranged a visit to the new castle for the 20 year old son of the Dutch ambassador.
Lodewijck Huygens reported, “…Around noon we reached the very beautiful Rhiwperra House. The mansion is square with a round tower on each corner which adds a closet to almost every room. There is a large and lovely hall to the right of the entrance and a number of other fine rooms.
There is a very fine garden on the right with very attractive parterres and walks …and another garden with a large number of fruit trees. …laid out on the slope of a hill, which one climbs gradually by six or eight steps at a time, upon reaching the highest step, one would never guessed how charming the view is towards the Severn across this very beautiful and fertile valley.”
He then mentioned similar pleasant views over the valleys from the north side of the wooded mound. He noted the many stables behind the house and a park which although not very big had many trees and a hundred deer.
In 1804 Benjamin Malkin the Antiquary travelling from nearby Cefn Mably to Tredegar House in Newport commented “The walk from Cefn Mabley to Ruperrah through the meadows is singularly beautiful. From Ruperrah the gardener conducted me across the Park. The prospect was uncommonly attractive. The harvest-moon at the full was just risen. The effect of it shining on the Bristol Channel, with the bold hills of Somersetshire beyond, was in a high degree beautiful. The mountain-valley of Caerphilly, as you come upon the Newport Road, has a powerful effect on the mind, as seen by a bright moonlight.”
Today, by day or by night, Ruperra still has a powerful effect on the mind, even though still in ruins from an accidental fire which gutted it in December 1941 when British troops were stationed there.
* For more details about this please go to STORYTIME.
The first Trust to be set up was Ruperra Castle Conservation Trust in 1996. The word ‘castle’ was dropped from the name in 2000 at the suggestion of the Charity Commission, to enable the purchase of Coed Craig Ruperra and in view of a private person having bought the castle in 1998.
Six of the trustees of Ruperra Conservation Trust set up a new Trust in 2008 called Ruperra Castle Preservation Trust so as to concentrate on the immediate planning matters concerning the Castle. They are now trustees of both trusts. In open rolling countryside between Cardiff, Caerphilly and Newport the Castle was built in 1626 by Sir Thomas Morgan of Machen.
Burnt out in 1941, Ruperra Castle has remained a neglected ruin. In 1998, it was purchased by a developer along with 17 acres of land and listed outbuildings and famous glasshouse. Over the years, the castle and its outbuildings have deteriorated. In 1981 the SE tower fell. There are serious cracks in the others. An application to build houses on the site was rejected by Caerphilly County Council in 2008, a rejection upheld in December 2009 by the Welsh Assembly Government after a Public Inquiry.
The castle is privately owned so there is no access to the grounds but a view can be obtained from Public Footpaths and from Coed Craig Ruperra, the woodland to the north owned by the sister Trust, Ruperra Conservation Trust. Although vehicular access is for residents only, public footpath no.12 runs along the drive at the north of the castle grounds. Public footpath no.1, the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Footpath, can be accessed from the Hollybush Inn in Draethen. It goes through the woods to the Castle drive and down the side of the surrounding wall of the Castle grounds. Or you can walk from the car park entrance.
We are looking for new members to help achieve our aim of finding a solution to the demise of this important monument. Forms are available to download in the Membership Section.
The Castle is located not far from the village of Draethen. The Castle and outbuildings are in private ownership, therefore inaccessible to the public. However there are a number of view points from the neighbouring public footpaths and Coed Craig Ruperra woodland.
Photo by R Kenward (1996)
Welcome to the Ruperra countryside
Tel: 01656 741 622
Tel: 01656 741 622