Ruperra Castle

Monday, November 26, 2007

The plight of Ruperra highlighted in 'Country Life' Magazine

A very welcome article in Country Life magazine on November 22 by Marcus Binney, a journalist specialising in historical architecture. Ruperra Castle has been chosen for the main frontispiece picture in the magazine's article. I have extracted the text and put it below.

"In Wales, indeed in Britain, nothing quite rivals the desperate plight of Ruperra Castle (Fig 1). Like Lulworth in Dorset, this perfectly embodies Elizabethan and Jacobean ideas of chivalry and romance. But one corner tower has collapsed, another is badly cracked. The cost of repair and reconstruction was recently costed at £7.5 million, considerably more than could be realised from the eight apartments it would neatly convert into. A determined local authority would have served a repairs order long ago. The present owner is seeking to raise funds by building what amounts to a village on 20 acres beside the house. Cadw, however, could not reasonably approve this development in the shadow of a Grade I listed building. It is hard to see how this tragic case can be resolved without a determined lead from the Welsh Assembly.

Ruperra is Grade II* not Grade I, but it seems very significant that the writer with his vast knowledge of houses in Britain, considers it to be in the Grade I category.

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 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 result is a house still marked by local tradition, a house that can be read as part of the Elizabethan and 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 Newport, 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.”

Further news soon.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Great Crested Newts

We now understand that it is unlikely that the archaeological survey required by Caerphilly Council to progress the Ruperra application can be carried out before the Spring because the site’s great crested newts are hibernating.

The owner had commissioned a survey to provide the extra archaeological information required by the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust, statutory advisory body to South East Wales’ local authorities. However his ecological advisers stopped the survey because of the presence of great crested newts.

The remark of one realistic observer that after they've hibernated, they'll be nesting, highlights the problems now facing the built heritage in the whole of the UK since the ‘windows’ for carrying out surveys, tree management and indeed archaeological work itself are being considerably reduced by the needs of certain species that are considered vital to the biodiversity of the world and are legally protected.

We understand that Caerphilly Council planners are hoping that the application can nevertheless be brought for determination at the Council meeting on December 5th, providing that the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust agrees to there being no archaeological survey at this stage.

Why has it taken the owner so long (nine years in fact) to realise that if he buys a grade 2* listed building and scheduled ancient monument, an archaeological survey will be needed before his application can be determined? Those of us who value the Renaissance architecture, the site’s medieval origins and the registered historic gardens will now be even more fearful of planning consent being given and work starting on site before vital archaeological findings are taken into account.

Let us hope that Caerphilly County Council planning committee will ensure that pressure for the long awaited determination of the application will not lead to the absence and hence the discounting of the important historical and architectural needs of this most at risk historical site in the County.

We will once again inform supporters if the planning application is to come before the Planning Committee on December 5th

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