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Structural Repairs at Raglan Castle

Updated: Sep 26

In March this year, the Highlife team were in the privileged position of spending some time at Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire. Of the many castles we have worked on, the team were in agreement that this one was up there with the best. Built between the 15th and early 17th centuries, Raglan castle was a luxurious fortification, considered by many to be as fine as any other in the British Isles. The modern form of the castle was initially built by William Herbert, a local politician from a minor family who made his fortune through the Gascon wine trade, and the large cellars found around the site are testament to the liquid gold which allowed for such extravagance.


The view of Raglan castle from the top of the Great Tower

William Herbert was executed as Yorkist supporter in 1469, and through lines of marriage and succession possession of the castle fell into the hands of the Somersets, who continued to expand on the extravagant design. Henry Somerset inherited the castle in 1628, and continued to live a luxurious lifestyle, until the first English civil war broke out in 1642. A staunch Royalist, his support for King Charles I earned him the title of 1st Marquess of Worcester. This caused tensions with the local protestant population, but he held firm both against them and parliamentary forces, making significant improvements to the fortifications of the castle, until a siege commenced under the command of General Fairfax. Left in a hopeless position, Somerset was eventually forced to surrender, and he was arrested and sent to Windsor where he soon died. Fairfax ordered the destruction of the castle, but the fortifications were too strong, and so only a few of the walls were destroyed.


One of the destroyed walls was the south east wall of the moated keep, known as the Great Tower, and this is where we were set to work. At the south end of the ruined wall are two voussoir arches, their structure compromised and some of the voussoirs left in a perilous condition. To help support them we were asked to install several CINTEC anchors to tie the structure back into the wall, alongside several smaller stainless pins to ensure that none of the voussoirs themselves would fall. Alongside this we would consolidate the masonry on both sides of the ruined area, ensuring that it would remain unchanged for years to come.


For us, the appeal of this specification was to design a system for drilling the 2m CINTEC anchors without setting up a full scaffolding, which would have been a huge expense for what was really a small amount of work. Eventually, after much careful though, we settled on a way of mounting the drills on a suspended scaffolding which did not require any additional drilling of masonry anchors.


A member of the Highlife team core drilling the lower voussoirs.

The latter issue is for us a matter of ethics, and we pride ourselves on our ability to find solutions to complex problems, where other companies might just bang in a couple of bolts and go. These beautiful monuments deserve a careful and considered approach, and it is with this approach that we excel at Highlife. Ultimately, this was a perfect example of our desire to think outside the box, and the client at Cadw was satisfied, not only because we didn't cause unnecessary damage to the structure, but because our innovative solution came in at a third of the budgeted cost for the work.



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