Ruperra Study

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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